In my writing of this I felt that my hands were bound. Or rather, I felt that by writing this out it was a of dis-service to Ong and his beliefs surrounding orality and writing. Writing “a speech” does have a sort of hypocritical feel to it. Speeches are meant to be spoken aloud and received through hearing, writing on the other hand, is intended to be read (at least initially that was the intention). Nowadays speeches are written out by speech writers who know what things to have someone say in a given scenario. The improvisatory that accompanied traditional oratory is often lost and so we, the general public, are left listening to speeches, that, regardless of their authenticity, feel calculated and that don’t arise out of the moment. True “orality” is, today, in Ong’s view, nonexistent. Literacy and modern-day “orality” are interlinked to such and extent that it seems one cannot exist without the other. Certain languages are so focused on the literary aspects that they place the written text–the representation of phonetics and sounds found in the language itself–over the actual oral and aural experience. These languages, English chief among them, Ong refers to as Grapholects. While it may seem difficult to imagine, there was a time when writing was nonexistent and as a result language functioned on a very different level. For one, my writing this out would’ve obviously been an impossibility, the vernacular implemented was far more limited, and regarding the performative aspects–characteristics such as those found in metric poetry were, in fact, intrinsic in typical, that is, daily lingual interaction. I suppose that’s the equivalent of composing an entire speech out of modern-day clichés, but the “cliché” part of it wouldn’t have been seen as trivializing, in fact, the “trivial” and banal qualities are what made the phrases possibilities for integration into the greater works (we’re talking Homeric epics here). My reading this speech, off of this sheet of paper (hold page up) serves the same function that the clichéd language in Homer’s times served. The method of delivery for orations has shifted given the reliance on the written word. Ong himself said that written language has enabled man to “produce beautiful and powerful creations.” I’d like to suggest that the art of speech making today is on of these “powerful creations.” While there can be a calculatedness to speeches, they also open up the possibility of craft (as well as rhetoric), that can maximize emotional impact. Writing today is no longer intended solely for reading–it has enabled all sorts of new mediums for language to be delivered (movies, speeches, slam poetry, television shows, news, etc.) While orality as it initially existed is no longer a possibility, language and its delivery via writing and speaking together is undoubtedly enabled an increased capacity for the manipulation of language on the whole.


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