Re: how reliable is the oral tradition ?

Jim Jewett (
21 Nov 1994 20:41:14 GMT

In article <>,
Lette Jean <lettej@ERE.UMontreal.CA> wrote:

>Societies which do not have writing rely mainly on "oral tradition" to pass
>knowledge from one generation to the next.

>Question: I would be curious to know if there are any studies published
>which looked at how reliable the oral tradition is in passing "teachings"
>from one generation to the next, and how much distortion occurs over the

Several years ago (before I even considered saving references) I
saw pointers to some work on this topic using the oral tales told
by Yugoslavian Bards. As I remember it, the memory was remarkable,
and the errors that they did find were almost always replacements
which left the meaning largely intact, while preserving the rhyme
and meter. (The difficulty of keeping both at once might help to
explain the low rate of change.)

I was particularly struck by the retention given the inaccuracy of
written manuscripts transmission.

_________ Have a favorite group or mailing list? Describe it to
jJ | Take only memories.
\__/ Leave not even footprints.