Early Christian Creeds and Controversies in the Light of the Orality-Literacy Hypothesis
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The orality-literacy hypothesis developed in the largely complementary works of Walter J. Ong, S.J., and Eric A. Havelock grows out of the field research of Milman Parry (1971). Better than half a century ago, Parry initiated the investigation into the composing practices of completely non-literate Yugoslav singers of stories that culminated in the landmark publication of The Singer of Tales by Albert B. Lord (1960).1 One of the central claims Ong and Havelock make in their formulation of the orality-literacy hypothesis is that the primary oral mentality is characterized by concrete thinking, while the literate mentality is characterized by abstract thinking. Coincidentally, the field research conducted by A. R. Luria (1976) better than half a century ago concerning the cognitive development of completely nonliterate peasants and peasants who had participated in a literacy program corroborates this claim of the orality-literacy hypothesis. In Ong's formulation of the orality-literacy hypothesis, he also notes that the primary oral mentality, and even the residually oral mentality of people who have acquired but who have not yet fully interiorized literacy and literate modes of thought, are characterized by formulary expressions.
Oral Tradition, 2/1 (1987): 132-49.