Academic journal article Journal of Asian Civilizations

Solipcism - vs - Interaction: The Dynamic Nature of Oral Literature

Academic journal article Journal of Asian Civilizations

Solipcism - vs - Interaction: The Dynamic Nature of Oral Literature

Article excerpt


With the modern over-concern with texts and their study, oral productions have come to lose their identity, of being a separate way of organizing experience and have started to be considered as variants of written products. Deep familiarity with literacy has made us oblivious to the resources and circumstances of an oral speaker. We evaluate oral art forms in relation to writing and not on their own terms. To appreciate correct communicative dynamics between speaker and audience inside oral traditions, we should not look at oral traditions in analogy with literacy, but rather with the frame of mind, when literacy was absent or negligible. An oral utterance conveys more meanings that are part of the real setting and total situation and of which only a nominal and partial segment can be represented by written words. In the act of writing, we do not have the rich context around that helps us convey a lot without depending too much on words, nor do we use our nonverbal and paralinguistic features to communicate ideas. It brings the speaker and listener out of face-to-face interaction and places them in the position of a writer and reader, who are chronologically and geographically distant from each other. In the face of these limitations writing has to grope more for correct words, grammatical devices and sentence constructions that convey meaning precisely.

For studying oral traditions, the researcher chose Pashto oral traditions. They came into existance at a time, when literacy was keeping a negligibly low profile. The researcher depends on Ong, for calling this stage as Primary Orality. According to Ong (1982), Primary Orality refers to the oral mode of expression, before writing or print came into practice and which is totally untouched by any knowledge of writing and print, whereas Literacy refers to the written mode of expression, coming in wake of the initial (primary) oral mode of expression.

The study of Pashto oral traditions was delimited to Badala, a Pashto oral form and a singing narrative; It was further delimited to a specific Badala, „Yousuf Khan Sherbano', various oral and written versions of which were chosen. By applying research about contrast between orality and literacy, the paper lets the reader appreciate the true worth of Pashto oral traditions, by sensitizing the reader, that the difference in the features of the products of orality is not due to crudity or lack of care, but rather due to the requirements of the medium of orality.

Theoretical framework

Until very recent times, Pashtun culture and society has remained thoroughly oral. The lives of the inhabitants of this culture were deeply permeated by orality. Tariq Rahman, referring to the nature of culture, existing in this part of the world, and the vital role played by orality here, writes,"We know that orality permeated the lives of these people. In the religious domain, people memorized the Holy Quran. They memorized tales in verse. ...In short, the indigenous tradition was historically oral and it was connected with the emotional and the sacred. It was not written tradition and it was not primarily connected with ratiocination and logical analysis". (Rahman, 2002: 12-13).

The nature of the oral tradition of singing narrative, called Badala, just like the English ballad and epic, is such that it is sung before a live audience. The extent of feedback varies, depending upon the nature of the tradition and upon the situation in hand. How much feedback is elicited, depends on the nature of tradition and then upon the situation, as observed by Finnegan (Finnegan, 1977). Compared to the rich feedback, when singing is performed in groups (Hunter, 1979) and the rich feedback received during works songs, there is almost no feedback when a shepherd is singing to his flock (Treitler, 1974). Unlike written works, which are normally written and read in seclusion, oral traditions are generally highly social in nature and in the oral version, we find participation and lack of distance between the singer and the audience, as compared to the high distance between the writer and the reader (Ali, 2013). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.