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Of, relating to, or being a culture not having a written language.
A person belonging to such a culture.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(Anthropology & Ethnology) relating to a society that has not developed a written language
preliteracy n
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(priˈlɪt ər ɪt)

1. lacking a written language; nonliterate: a preliterate culture.
2. occurring before the development or use of writing.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adj.1.preliterate - not yet having acquired the ability to read and write
illiterate - not able to read or write
2.preliterate - used of a society that has not developed writing
noncivilised, noncivilized - not having a high state of culture and social development
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Hmong Americans are originally a preliterate, seminomadic, and agrarian ethnic hill tribe from Southeast Asia and have now been in the United States for the last four decades.
It has been stated in some quarters that the greatest snag in researching African Religion is its preliterate nature.
Henderson [24] has identified five stages that he labeled preliterate, letter name, within-word, syllable juncture, and derivational constancy.
Which is why the preliterate cultures (which is a terrible thing to call anybody) are principally oral cultures.
As a result, the culture of preliterate peoples, which had initially changed dramatically with the invention of language, now became static, and changed very little.
In preliterate societies, the generation and reception of language happens at the same time and place, says Orton, but when writing appears, it dissolves that unity because the texts are usually read distant in time and place from where they are written.
2012: Scientists find that the brains of preliterate kids respond like a reader's brain when they write their ABCs, but not when they type or trace the letters; another research team reports that college students who transcribed lectures on their laptops recalled more information than those who took notes by hand.
His interest in the vernacular of silhouetted objects (rooted in a preliterate culture) and shadow was likewise evident in the photographer's later use of shape and form as descriptive tools.
(6) Among preliterate groups living a Stone Age way of life in New Guinea, 20% to 30% of men were killed by other men.
We are dealing, he writes, with a "preliterate age" that "deepens and sophisticates its communication by means of the activity of punning, something that a literate society judges to be the lowest form of wit." (10) This allows him to bring together the seemingly opposed entertainments of the playhouse and the bear garden by means of a pun on "baiting" / "bating." Both activities stage scenes of torment and persecution ("baiting") as well as provide an opportunity for rest and relaxation ("bating").
How do we reconcile the juxtaposition of violent, macabre, and politically charged subject matter for adult readers in the text with the employment of a physical form that is used for some of the most playful, didactic, and seemingly innocuous books for preliterate youth?
"Vernacularization," writes Roudometof, "blends religious universalism with specific languages, which are endowed with the privileged ability to offer communication with the sacred." Unlike Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy has historically been much more open to translating liturgy and other religious texts into various languages, though Roudometof admits that it was "far more common in premodern or preliterate cultures." Nevertheless there are modern examples as well.