Oral tradition

Introduction

The father tells his daughter his adventures of youth, minimal stories that are not written anywhere but that will be part of the girl's personal story anyways. The grandmother entrusts her grandson the exact recipe of that dessert that her immigrant ancestors had brought from across the seas, and that he likes so much. The old man sitting in the park tells to whoever wants to hear his own version of a revolutionary story in which he participated as a young man ― a story that the official texts tell according to their convenience and far from the facts. The healer conveys to his apprentice the exact combination of bark and medicinal leaves necessary to make a medicine, a formula passed down through the generations and not recorded anywhere.

They are tiny fragments of a tradition that is (re)produced throughout the world, among indigenous peasants and university teachers, among housewives and political leaders: the oral tradition, the transmission of knowledge through the spoken word, the first –and sometimes the only– way we have to manage our language and to be able to express and receive ideas and knowledge.

Oral tradition has often been considered as a subjective (and therefore unreliable) mode of codifying information. However, if we consider that all written content depends on the (personal, ideological, socio-economic, political, ethnic) framework from which the writer writes... where is the objectivity? Beyond this type of considerations, orality has an intrinsic value: serving as a channel for the perpetuation of a knowledge that would otherwise be lost in silence.

This site is intended to rescue ideas and experiences serving as a basis for both reflection and implementation of instruments and techniques for the collection and management of oral tradition. It recovers, in particular, much of the direct experience of the author, but also the valuable work of many experts in the field. Although the contents have been elaborated from a LIS (Library & Information Sciences) framework, they can be used by anyone interested in the subject.

May the concepts and techniques included in the paragraphs presented here allow the recovery of some small piece of knowledge or of a past life. If so, writing them will have been worth it.


This website includes parts of several academic works written by the author on traditional knowledge and the management of endangered languages and other sounds (specially of the article "Aprender sin olvidar"). It can be used following the usual conventions for bibliography reference, and its distribution is regulated by a Creative Commons license that emphasizes the recognition of its authorship. See "Copyright" in the sidebar for recommendations on use and quotation.