oral tradition


oral tradition

Cultural information passed on from one generation to the next by storytellers. The forms of oral tradition include poetry (often chanted or sung), folktales, and proverbs as well as magical spells, religious instruction, and recollections of the past. Music and rhyme commonly serve as both entertainment and aids to memory. Epic poems concerning the destiny of a society or summarizing its myths often begin as oral tradition and are later written down. In oral cultures, oral tradition is the only means of communicating knowledge. The prevalence of radio, television, and newspapers in Western culture has led to the decline of oral tradition, though it survives among old people and some minority groups as well as among children, whose games, counting rhymes, and songs are transmitted orally from generation to generation.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on oral tradition, visit Britannica.com.

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