Consider the view that the spoken language is more important than the written word.

The written form of a language is considered it’s best form of representation, not only because is it the backbone of the language and serves to formalise many documents and ideas that society agrees upon. Countries are often formed based on their Constitutions, which must be written or typed out to be saved in its archives, legal contracts and decisions must be “in black and white”, as is commonly said, and both parties need to sign such documents to acknowledge their relation to them. The fact that the written word is often more influential, organised and vital makes it more significant and crucial than the spoken word, signifying its overwhelming importance.

Some argue that the spoken word is more applicable to everyday living, because it is efficient and conveys ideas more quickly. This means that the spoken word is always linked and related to society, in one manner or another. However, the medium that actually formalises these ideas, such that it can be acknowledged by the rest of the community and impact society, is the written word. Simply, it is the most convenient to refer to for people. The spoken word is often manipulated and misinterpreted, making it unreliable, especially in times where it does matter — in courts. Individuals are able to easily twist what had been said, because it is very difficult to verify the truth in his words. Even when his speech has been recorded, these recordings are easily tampered with and so, do not hold weight. This is exactly the reason why courts do not accept voice recordings as pieces of evidence, and a written will which was signed by the person in question easily triumphs a voice recording of the will. When we consider cases where words are needed to formalise documents, such as a lease contract, both parties must be present to ratify the contract by means of their signatures. Not only is this exponentially more difficult to replicate, the fact that both parties were present at the site of the agreement gives credibility to the document — now it is agreed upon that both sides agree to the contract. In the case of a lawsuit, then, judges or juries can easily refer to back to the document to understand whether the person has actually upheld his side of the contract.

Opponents of the significance of the written word assert that the spoken language is more convincing and are remembered more distinctly because it marries the language with one’s body language and emotion. Despite this claim, the written word remains to be more important by virtue of the fact that it is immortal. Religious scriptures like the Bible and the Koran have only survived the test of time due to the written word — obviously, these influential texts would have been badly passed down through generations if only the spoken word were to be used, considering the tendencies of humans to forget information and their inability to replicate the idea of another person in the exact, same manner. This truth extends to fiction and non-fictions works alike. Students can easily whip out their history notes and refer to them to ace a test, but under pressures of the test setting they are often unable to whip out the advice of their teachers from their minds. In fact, it is exactly because of the potency and the importance of the written word, that schools disallow students from bringing books and notes into examinations. Furthermore, even when we consider particularly rousing speeches such as the victory speech of Barack Obama, the current president of the United States of America, in 2008, we trace its origins to the written word. The only reason why he was able to speak with such conviction, composition and content was the fact that the speech was first typed out, then read and reread hundreds of times to perfect his delivery in the form of the spoken word. In the end, the foundation and basis of these influential spoken words is the written word. This signals the latter’s importance and continuous relevance in the world today. 

Supporters of the importance of the spoken word would then argue that the spoken word is more important to culture because many languages yet to have written forms. However, this only means that such languages without written forms are first to be forgotten by society. The written word remains to be the best way of preserving cultures, and is also important because of society’s culture. The ability of written words to convey meanings most concisely, and the characteristic of people being able to recall it most vividly are reasons for this. People are easily able to revisit parts of their culture, to see it written, recorded and remembered tangibly, providing a visceral understanding of it. Compare this to a spoken version of this cultural remembrance. First, as earlier established, it is often forgot and misunderstood. Second, and more importantly, there is a fundamental difference to the person trying to understand these two mediums. A person can listen to hundreds of sounds, be it people or their abiotic environments, but he can only read one text at a time, a word at a time. This is significant because it means people are much more likely to be inundated by what they hear, and forget it, often without another means of recalling the content of what they heard, than they are to be inundated by words, because they need to focus all brain function to read, digest and understand the words before their eyes. 

In addition, the culture and environment Man lived in for the past thousands of years make the written word much more important — its significance is grounded in language. A quick look at the English language tells us that tangibility means much more than intangibility, since we always want things to be formalised to be “printed in black and white”, and consider things that are here to stay to be “set in stone”. These cultural nuances make the written word more significant and important to the minds of society, even when they are unconscious of it. 

Being the medium which ideas can be immortalised, legitimised and accepted by society, the written word is the most important form of a language, more so than its spoken form. In many aspects, such as law, literature and culture, seeing words before one’s eyes is so much more endearing and convincing than it is to hear these words in one’s ear, competing with the buzzes, the chaos and the noise of the world. Ultimately, the written word is more influential and vital to societies, and the world at large. 


Unknown 17 April 2017 at 18:44  

this essay is informational! thanks for posting!

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.