The Syntactic Style of Digital Orality

Another aspect of digital orality style takes into consideration how meaning is established and to what extent grammar and syntax play into that.

“Chirographic structures look more to syntactics (organization of the discourse itself)…. Written discourse develops more elaborate and fixed grammar than oral discourse does because to provide meaning it is more dependant upon linguistic structure, since it lacks the normal full existential contexts which surround oral discourse and help determine meaning in oral discourse somewhat independently of grammar.” (Orality and Literacy. 38).

Ong is referring to the context in which one would find a speaker presenting a given discourse. Whether it is a speech, a structured argument, a legal or political debate, or a more personal and individualized conversation, the listener is aware of the context of the communication. These points are rarely conveyed fully when one picks up a text, a written document. This is enhanced by the visual nature of oral discourse, that is the speaker’s location, appearance, and gestures.

With digital orality, the listener is more likely to have the context due to the active manner in which the file was located. The vodcast presents the user with the speaker’s location, appearance, and gestures. Granted, in a purely audio podcast, the visual aspects are removed, but much can be gleaned from the pure audio, including voice intonation and inflection.

Given these points, one can see that meaning is established syntactically, but it becomes less important in podcasting and increasingly less in vodcasting than it is in purely textual documents. That is, with the speaker’s personality coming through in digital orality more so than in print, meaning, emotion, and intent can come through closer to the manner they normally would in a live setting. The speaker can use various grammatical levels. Of course, these levels will affect the speaker’s ethos, including aspects of credibility, authority, and perceived persona.

Leave a Reply