Apart from "epic oral transmission" which is similar to the type of oral transmission ethnographically attested around the globe (and which values variations on a theme, improvisation, interaction with a public; except for Adluri and Bagchee most specialists agree this played an important role in the early transmission of the Indian epics and several Sanskrit texts, sorry George, not only for Tamil texts), India knew a fundamentally different "Vedic orality" aiming at a perfect transmission of words, phonemes, accents: see the summary and discussion of Frits Staal's position in this regard in
Jan Houben & Saraju Rath
“Manuscript Culture and its impact in ‘India’: Contours and Parameters.” In: Aspects of Manuscript Culture in South India, ed. by S. Rath: 1-53. Leiden: E.J. Brill. 2012. 
and in paragraph 3 of 
Jan Houben "From Fuzzy-Edged ‘Family-Veda’ to the Canonical Śākhas of the Catur-Veda: Structures and Tangible Traces.” In: Vedic Śākhās: Past, Present, Future. Proceedings of the Fifth International Vedic Workshop, Bucharest 2011, sous la dir. de J.E.M. Houben, J. Rotaru and M. Witzel, p. 159-192. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University, 2016.
Many references to relevant publications in the first article. See esp. also Scharfe 2002 Education in Ancient India. 
In the earliest Vedic texts no trace is found of the pada-plus-samhita technique of transmission. We find, on the contrary, familiarity with a relaxed "frog-style" transmission from fathers to their sons. Especially in the second article it is argued that the peculiar pada-plus-samhita technique (or pada-plus-krama-plus-samhita technique, if you like) developed in the 6th century B.C. when North-West India was confronted with another epoch-making innovation, alphabetic or near-alphabetic script which emphatically distinguished WORDS -- scribes of Persian cuneiform were hence confronted with "sandhi" problems, not relevant to scribes of syllabic or hieroglyphic scripts. These "sandhi" problems subsequently also passionated contemporary transmittors of the Veda. Summary: the Indian textual tradition testifies to an intensive interface between orality and writing over a period of around two millennia (relevant also to Sanskrit texts). 
Jan Houben



Directeur d’Études

Sources et histoire de la tradition sanskrite

Professor of South Asian History and Philology

École Pratique des Hautes Études

Sciences historiques et philologiques 

54, rue Saint-Jacques

CS 20525 – 75005 Paris




On 11 April 2017 at 16:13, George Hart via INDOLOGY <indology@list.indology.info> wrote:
I think you might find Stuart Blackburn’s book, Singing of Birth and Death: Texts in Performance, quite helpful. To look in Sanskrit for this sort of material is not likely to be productive. George Hart

On Apr 10, 2017, at 5:54 AM, Arlo Griffiths via INDOLOGY <indology@list.indology.info> wrote:


My friend Henri Chambert-Loir, specialist of classical Malay literature, who is currently working again on the Sulalat al-Salatin (a.k.a. Sejarah Melayu, or 'Malay Annals'), has asked me a question that I would like to relay to the learned assembly:

Ma question : pour comparaison avec le Sejarah Melayu, existe-t-il dans la tradition indienne (vedique ou epique p.ex.) des textes qui se sont transmis d’une part de facon ecrite (copies de manuscrit en manuscrit), d’autre part sans support ecrit (un scribe mettant pas ecrit un texte qu’il connait par coeur) ? Je pense que cela s’est produit pour le SM : certaines variantes (ex. le deplacement d’episodes) ne peuvent s’expliquer que par un stade de memoire. As-tu la reference d’un article sur le sujet, ou possedes-tu un livre qui en parle ?

Would anyone have potentially useful philogogical comparanda in mind, and references (preferably with pdfs) to share that I could transmit to Prof. Chambert-Loir?

Thank you!

Arlo Griffiths

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