Oral history and oral tradition

  1. Folklore is the body of expressive culture, including tales, music, dance, legends, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, customs, material culture, and so forth, common to a particular population, comprising the traditions (including oral traditions) of that culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The academic and usually ethnographic study of folklore is sometimes called folkloristics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folklore (August 06)
  2. Sitton and others on the development of materials (Designed specifically for in-service and pre-service teachers, assimilating personal and collective experience into a practical guide to aid others.  Grew out of the Foxfire series and experience of staff members.)

Categories of oral history to investigate:

    • An oral autobiography
    • A living history from community informants
    • An oral history of the home neighborhood
    • A memory book
    • Research on the origins of local place names
    • Oral history of schools
    • Oral histories of local buildings [or land]
    • Oral life history in general (it may come from anywhere)
    • Topical focus
    • Chronological focus
    • Family life focus
    • Folk and popular artists
    • Family genealogies [See: http://genealogy.about.com/lr/genealogy_for_beginners/173276/3/]
    • Family archives
    • Mainstreet oral history
    • Local industry history
    • Immigrant oral history
    • Environmental history
    • Trades and professions
    • Significant local events
    • Institutional or organizational histories
    • Traditional crafts
    • Political structures, meanings, folklore

3. Technical matters:

    • Recording devices
    • Planning: topic and background information
    • Interview guide (questions and topics that are relevant)
    • Photography
    • Field notes
    • Data sheets
    • Legal releases
    • Storage and accessing data

4. A model for fieldwork in oral history

    • Pre-interview research
    • First interview strategies and tactics
    • Analysis and re-interview
    • Evaluation forms for interviews
    • Beyond the interview:
  1.                                                     i.     Publications
  2.                                                   ii.     Media production
  3.                                                  iii.     Community curriculum materials
  4. Indonesian Handbook: Why study oral literature?  See table on developing the project through the analysis of oral literature.

6.     Terminology used in describing oral literature

  • Cognitive apprenticeship
  • Oral history interviews
  • Historical chronology
  • Historical context
  • Historical inquiry
  • Historical terrain
  • Active learning
  • Interviewing skills
  • Audio technology
  • Interview contextualization
  • Pre-interview
  • Biographical data
  • Harvest community learning
  • Classroom learning
  • Student learning outcomes
  • Community responsibility orientation
  • Document creation, interpretation and presentation
  • Classroom community

7. Contributions of oral literature/history:

7.1 Oral literature’s potential contribution to anthropological investigation

Literature, both oral and material, is a manifestation of culture accessible to ear and eye, recordable on tape and film, and thereafter accessible for analysis and interpretation. To collect or study it does not require anything but good observation, recording, and analytical techniques by the investigator. But other important parts of oral literature can only be discovered when there is voluntary and conscious cooperation of members of the culture in enacting or reporting. Therefore it is of paramount importance to establish and maintain good relationships with the members of the other culture.

Like any other search for scientific information it involves a spiral process of gathering data, analyzing the most understandable part of it, making a hypothesis based on the findings, checking the hypothesis, building further hypotheses on the knowledge thus gained and so on up the investigative spiral.

7.2 Oral literature’s potential contribution to linguistic analysis

The oral traditions of a people tend to be preserved in the most acceptable and time-tested linguistic patterns for their language. Some archaisms will be preserved, but these are valuable keys to the trends of linguistic change in the language and can help in the solving of very difficult phonological, morphological, syntactical and semantic problems.

7.3 Oral literature’s potential contribution to translation excellence

The anthropological and linguistic analyses which can profit so much from oral literature data, feed directly into translation by providing an understanding of cultural equivalencies, of vocabulary alternatives, of idioms, of imagery used and how used, of the best in linguistic styles, and of narrative episodes congruous or near-congruous to those of the material to be translated. These episodes can be drawn upon for vocabulary, syntactical arrangements, or for illustrations to clarify some truth for the speaker of the receptor language in terms of his own culture.

The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”

He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. (The Message Matt. 13:10-13)] Inserted by JKS.

7.4 Oral literature’s potential contribution to literacy program development

A study of the way the educational system of a society works to pass acceptable new information on to its members through its oral literature channels and how the traditional system can be used to support the educational system will enable the literacy worker to develop his materials in digestible format. It may also possibly program self-validation into the new literacy system by following their culturally approved methods of teaching, thus “proving” that this is material to be learned well.

7.5 Oral literature’s potential contribution to community development programs

By studying the educational system of a society and also its system of checks and balances and close tie-ins with the religious and ethical system, one could choose the most likely ways to achieve acceptance for a new idea, anticipate built-in mental blocks from world view and weed out or modify programs that would be rejected by the society.

8. The Biblical Pattern

Powlison has assimilated Propp’s functions with those of 4 other analysts and added Biblical elements to show the connections between typical OL structure and God’s plan for history. He devised a Biblical hero pattern with 50 motifemes and incorporating most, if not all, of the points from the secular analysts. He feels this is God’s original pattern on which all others are based. This demonstrates the importance of discovering which motifemes are present in the OL of a translation project, because similarities can be built upon and differences used for teaching.


[Karl Franklin, 2010]