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Heath chapter 5: Oral traditions

In Roadville
• People always tell stories, especially at fancy occasions and
• With storytelling, there are “old-timers” and “newcomers”(p. 151)
o There is respect between these two social groups: newcomers
are generally not allowed to ask old-timers to tell a story (p.
• Stories are told as morals, and usually put someone down – but in a
good way. It tests people’s relationships
o Roadville stories need “to have a moral or summary message
which highlights the weakness admitted in the tale.” P. 153
o “Such stories test publicly the strength of relationships and
openly declare bonds of kinship and friendship.” P. 150
• The stories are very “similar to biblical parables” (p. 154) in that
they have a moral, and are based on real life
o “Often parables end with a summary statement . . . its
relevance to their own lives.” P. 154 (that whole quote)
• The bible is the main written literature that people read
o “Few written sources, other than the bible, seem to influence
either the content or the structure of oral stories in
Roadville.” P. 155
o People don’t like admitting that they don’t understand most
 “Roadville men and women do not like to read in public
and do not wish to admit their lack of understanding of
expository materials.” P. 156
• The people of Roadville “reject depersonalized written accounts
which come from unfamiliar sources” p. 156
o They don’t like it when children make up fictive stories that
aren’t true
 “Fictive stories . . . are not accepted as stories, but as
‘lies,’ without ‘a piece of truth.’” P. 158
o Stories told from before used as a type of warning to other
students, in case they make the same mistakes (p. 159)
 “…and the child is expected to register remorse and to
apologize for his or her misbehavior.” P. 159
• Lying, i.e. “telling stories”, is NOT tolerated.
o “To do so would shock the adults and cause them to accuse her
of “tellin’ a story”” p. 160
o “In general, only children and the worst scoundrels are ever
accused of lying.” P. 160
o “Don’t you ever tell me a story!” p. 160
• Children in Roadville “have had relatively little exposure to . . .
fictive or fanciful stories, either told or read to them.” P. 161
o They make up fictive stories during play: “Let’s make-believe,”
p. 162
o “Roadville adults usually do not intervene in their play; thus
even at home, children get away with using fanciful stories in
their play.” P. 162. In other words, they aren’t usually told off
for “telling stores,” until they tell it straight to an adult’s
• Because of this underexposure to creative elements, they have an
“insistence on adherence to reality” p. 165
o They are used to a single tem having a single name, due to the
way they were raised by their parents. “…carry their parents’
requirements for using language . . . maintain a single
consistent label for items and events,” p. 165

In Trackton
• Well told stories are those that can take a real-life concept, and
exaggerate it so that they can capture the attention of the audience
o “Talkin’ junk includes laying on highly exaggerated
compliments and making wildly exaggerated comparisons” p.
• The purpose of these stories would be to “intensify social
interactions” and also to spread “the humor of the wide-ranging
language play and imagination which embellish the narrative” p. 166
o “Stories exchanged among adults do not carry moral
summaries or admonitions about behavior” p. 167
• Children learn to tell these stories by slowly acquiring experience and
listening to “old-timers”
o If they tell it well, then they’ll get a positive response
 “They must be clever if they are to hold the audience’s
attention” p. 167
 “If they do not succeed in relating the first few lines of
their story to the on-going topic or otherwise exciting
the listeners’ interests, they are ignored.” P. 167
 “The audience laughed, nodded, and provided ‘yeah,’
you right,’ ‘you know it.’ P. 169
o “Children are not excluded from the audience, even if the
content refers to adult affairs, sexual exploits…etc. etc.” p.
• Children start out with story-poems, made out of “a series of verse-
like utterances” p.171
• With age, “verbal play and witty lighthearted exchanges between
child and adult become more and more rare” p. 177
o Children then turn to peers and friends to interact with
 “ School-age peers become the reinforcers for the use
of these insults” p. 177
o Also with age, verbal challenges function less as an action to
“establish and maintain status relations.”
 “Instead they use sports, direct challenges to a
particular display of skill . . .” p. 178
o “As children grow older . . . their insults, play-songs, and
stories carry . . . double entendre: harmless references on the
surface, but heavily suggestive – often of sexual references.” P.
• Good storytellers must have: (p. 181)
o Word play
o Gestures and sound effects
o Extensive use of metaphors and similes
o Suggestion of behavioral and social attributes (e.g. “pork and
beans” implies poverty)
o Involvement of public media figures (e.g. spider man)

Both societies
• Stories told for humor (although the perspectives of this are
• In each society, stories serve to recount an experience

For main summary: p. 184 – 188 (most is from 184 to 185)