Orality pp 12-42 | Cite as

The Oral Communicative Moment



In the flow of daily life, each one of us lives in an ever-changing chain of experience in which thought, memory and perception interact with our immediate environment of other people and material conditions. Beyond the physical environment of our lives there lies the world of ‘social’ reality — people who have defined roles in relation to our freedom of action: parents, teachers, policemen, judges, tax collectors … In all of these relationships, it is the nature of the interchanges between them and us that give reality to the social roles they play and the imagined structure that lies behind them — behind the policeman lies the idea of the laws and regulations that we must not break or we will be punished. The manifestation of these constructs is in the concrete utterances and behaviour of these categories of individuals; it is when the teacher says, ‘Open your books’ that you are inclined both to do what you are told and to understand something of the institution they represent. The flow of daily life is the succession of such moments of experiential interactions, manifested in words. In contrast with the words lying at rest and undiscovered between the covers of the book, or the relative permanence and immutability of objects, the spoken words in which we swim are always gone as soon as they arrive. The linearity of speech in time obviates the possibility of the constant gaze; while we can contemplate the crystal bowl from above or below, from front or back, the spoken word cannot be viewed from another perspective — it may be repeatable (play it again, Sam!), but in contrast to the written words on the page you cannot read them backwards or upwards; the paradigm can be ‘read’ upwards or downwards on the page, but the living syntagm of the flow of speech cannot be stilled, as no one can still the flow of the river from standing within it.


Prime Minister Hand Gesture Oral Communication European Policy Speech Event 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Graham Furniss 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Oriental and African StudiesUniversity of LondonUK

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