it’s like trying to catch a cloud…

… you think it’s real but in reality when you reach out, there’s nothing to touch.

‘In oral discourse, …there is nothing to backlog into outside the mind, for the oral utterance has vanished as soon as it is uttered.’ 1 When you stand to speak, unlike text on a page, nothing remains of the expression of the idea, because ideas expressed orally are sound-based, and ‘sound exits only when it is going out of existence.’  Your awareness of or your relationship with the sound of the idea is after the sound of the idea has gone. It is like trying to catch a cloud. You think it’s real but in reality when you reach out, there is nothing to touch.

Where writing establishes in the text a ‘line’ of continuity outside the mind… [where] the context can be retrieved by glancing back over the text selectively… always available piece meal on the inscribed page. In oral discourse this situation is different. There is nothing to backlog into outside the mind, for the oral utterance has vanished as soon as it is uttered.

Literally no tangible deposit exists of the thought or idea uttered live and orally. The minute it’s spoken, the oral expression of the idea has vanished, unlike text-based ideas which remain permanently on the page. The oral expression is  immediate and transient. It has no presence beyond the sound of its expression and only at the moment it is expressed. 

There is no way of retracing your steps back over the ideas communicated the first time they were uttered because there is nothing left of them – they have gone.

Whatever it was you said has ceased to exist. Indeed, it started to vanish as you started to say it. ‘Sound exits only when it is going out of existence.’ As you uttered the idea, whatever came after obliterates in real time whatever came before. And, if your audience is not listening or present in the moment, they will miss whatever it was you said. The utterance or expression of your idea simply has no tenure.

And it is this quality that makes oral ideas both in their origin and in their expression unique. The oral demands that a very particular idea is uttered and the oral demands that it be uttered in a very particular way.  

Where does this leave your audience and importantly your live oral message?

The magic of an oral communication performance – it’s sound; what therefore do you say about what you know, why and how do you say it when communicating ideas orally?

© 2016 Pamela Neil all rights reserved. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela Neil with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

  1. Walter J. Ong,  Orality and Literacy, (Routledge, 2002),  p. 39.

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