Literacy and Orality

Studies in the technology of communication

Non-Fiction - Cultural
448 Pages
Reviewed on 02/17/2016
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tracy Slowiak for Readers' Favorite

In an excellently written and highly researched group of essays that is very convincing in its aim, Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication by Ruth Finnegan, readers will certainly gain a worthwhile education in the evolution of the very fabric of human communication. Author Finnegan is clearly an expert in this field, and the essays that she has written over time do a wonderful job of providing her readers, even those who might be novices in the fields of linguistics or language, with a background in the evolution of human speech and literacy, even including updated information on how our means of communication have changed with the advent of information technology.

I very much enjoyed Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication. Author Ruth Finnegan has a professor's gift of presenting information that might seem too technical or foreign in such a way that it is easy to follow and understand, and is even quite fascinating. Readers will learn a great day about the way we have learned to communicate with each other, and how our modes and means of communication continue to evolve and change. Written in a format that contains many essays, readers will find that they are able to digest each little piece individually before moving on to the next, which is extremely helpful. Any reader who loves to learn while reading should absolutely read this book. I highly recommend Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication, and I hope that I am able to read and learn more from author Ruth Finnegan in the future!

Romuald Dzemo

Ruth Finnegan’s Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication is a classic work, a masterpiece that takes a unique look at “communication and its implications for human thought and action in a comparative and historical framework.” Drawing inspiration from social anthropology and history, the author unveils facts about oral literature and how it contributes to thought formation, human interaction, and the formation of cultural identities. In the heart of this thought stimulating work, she raises a powerful debate on how information technology could affect human development and the quality of human communication in its most natural form — the oral form. It is fascinating to see how the author brings in tangible examples from diverse cultures to score powerful points on the place of literacy and oral literature in human civilization — West Africa, the Pacific Isles, and the South Pacific.

Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication is, undoubtedly, one of the reference books that students and researchers of social anthropology will find most valuable. Finnegan brings into her work long years of research and teaching experience, and talks with authority on issues that could be taken for granted, but that ultimately stare humanity in the face. Her writing is highly academic, but the language is so accessible that even the ordinary reader can easily understand her message. Finnegan’s works are revolutionary, thought provoking, and rooted in the cultural and historical realities of our time. This one is a pearl, a powerful reflection on the place of oral literature in human communication and culture, a work that will add meaning to the way we relate to others.

Chris Fischer

The esteemed author and expert in languages, Ruth Finnegan, has done a marvelous job in providing a interesting and creatively written educational treatise on the history of literacy and orality in human culture, including the introduction of the use of technology in communication. Literacy and Orality is a highly worthwhile read. I am certain that her readers will be able to gain a great deal from this book, and it will make them think about how they communicate with others on a daily basis. Written in an engaging essay-like style, this book takes what could be a very complicated and high level topic and puts it into a framework that most will be able to understand and learn from.

I learned so much from reading Ruth Finnegan's book, and I am certain that other readers will as well. Reading this well researched, well argued book is simply time well spent, and will make people look at how we communicate both critically and with interest. Ruth Finnegan has done an amazing thing by writing this book in a way that anyone can understand it and gain useful insights from it. Readers who love to learn, especially those with an interest in language, will especially enjoy Literacy and Orality. I highly recommend this book, and hope that readers will give it a chance. Ruth Finnegan certainly deserves a place among the highest experts in her field, and I hope that enough people read and learn from her book to give her a rightful spot there.

Maria Beltran

Orality and Literacy: Studies in the Technology of Communication is written by Ruth Finnegan, a visiting research professor and emeritus professor in the faculty of social sciences at the Open University in the U.K, and a leading voice on the topic. Starting off with subjects like Technology and the Great Divide, Speech, Language and Literacy, and Literature in ‘Oral’ Cultures, Finnegan draws us into a scholarly discussion that is both fascinating and daunting. This work is a study of human communications based on ethnographic details and a theoretical analysis of the relationship between the different mediums of communication. It could be intimidating to the normal reader because it is obviously designed for scholars and historians, but the book offers valuable and relevant information that makes it a must-read for all.

Orality and Literacy: Studies in the Technology of Communication is an updated edition of one of Ruth Finnegan's favorite topics, having written about this subject consistently from 1969 to 1988. A respected scholar, she based her work on anthropological field works and a keen sense of comparative and theoretical observations. Focusing on continuities, choices and human ingenuity, the book expounds on the relationship between orality and literacy, two different channels of communication that largely define human history. Then it goes on to talk about the ongoing technological revolution, information technology and its impact on human civilization. Suggesting that any further study of information technology should concentrate on the nature and relationship of oral and literate studies, Finnegan presents an interesting idea. This is definitely not an easy book to read, but I highly recommend it to the general readers to help us make sense of what is going on around us. Having said that, this book is particularly valuable to historians and other scholars, coming from one of the field’s preeminent exponents.

Mamta Madhavan

Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication by Ruth Finnegan covers the fascinating topics of literacy and orality. The author's comparative and theoretical fieldwork and informal observation throw light on this complex subject of written and oral forms of communication. The author covers the diversity of their origins and deonstrates a consistent but developing perspective on the key issues. The book does not exaggerate the importance of the medium of communication, but highlights the various themes revolving around literacy and orality. The book also offers extended reflections on the topics that speak about the development of human beings and the constitution of human society, thought, and artistry.

I found the book insightful and thought-provoking and the author covers the topic extensively, stretching to the most important types of communication that are prevalent. Readers are made to think more about the writing revolution and oral communication and comprehend their effects on modern civilization. The effects of literacy and its far-reaching influences help readers to understand the complexity and significance of any form of communication. The remarkable achievements of electronic communication that is emerging as a main form of communication in the twenty-first century cannot be ignored and the author discusses that too. The book made me ponder on the various forms of communication and how we have excellent resources to connect with the words and voices of others because of all the enhanced technology around us. The book stresses the skill of writing which, unlike reading, is restricted to a minority.