Bakker observes that linguistic studies have typically compared ideas to a package of information and the expression of the ideas as a conduit, used primarily as a method to transmit the ideas to others, in a process by which the sender delivers ideas to a receiver. He finds this concept to have inadequacies, which he sets out to demonstrate using several examples (Bakker 1993, 5). He further suggests that the inadequacies may be rooted in a presupposition of written communication rather than oral communication.
One of the challenges in our analysis of communication is the fact that the simple, most basic function of written text is to transmit information (Bakker 1993, 6). In writing, then, there is a sense in which Bakker would argue that there is no need to repeat information which may already be known. For this reason we tend to prize originality in writing. On the other hand, it is frequently useful to build context with “old” information so the “new” can be understood (Bakker 1993, 7).
When Bakker considers speech events, he observes that the information may not need to be new. “In fact, effective speech is transmitted to a hearer. Speakers do much more than just transmit new information to one another, and the speaker whose conversational skills do not go beyond the ‘informative’ level is the ultimate bore” (Bakker 1993, 8). The work of speaking and listening is normally more concerned with interpersonal involvement than with delivery of information. Speech, then, according to Bakker, is “an instance of human behavior” (Bakker 1993, 9). The proper analysis, then, may be the relationships between active concepts which may be new or may merely be inactive.
To consider this thesis, Bakker directs our attention to epic poetry. Epic poetry, as a re-enactment and re-activation of a known story or event serves as an example of the involvement described above (Bakker 1993, 10). The epic re-enactment is simultaneously old and new. The performance is not created from nothing, but it is an expression of something already known to most, if not all, listeners (Bakker 1993, 11). For instance, the death of Patroklos in the Iliad is known and expected. Yet it remains both meaningful and moving (Bakker 1993, 12).
Bakker notes that the moving nature of a poetic account of a death is one thing, but that the mention of a hero by name or epithet is also an important feature of the reactivation of an idea (Bakker 1993, 13). In this way, a heroic reputation is preserved. Bakkereven notes that etymologically the Greek word for “true” means “free from forgetfulness (ἀ Λήθης) (Bakker 1993, 14).
How, then, does written text fit in with the ideas enunciated in performance? Bakker observes that writing, in archaic Greece, was a codification of that which was known. It fixes an oral account in a definitive form (Bakker 1993, 16). In this way Bakker takes the writing of epic poetry as an attempt to preserve the message, not to create literature (Bakker 1993, 17). A reason for codifying the Iliad remains elusive, but Bakker concludes it was not in the interest of making the text literary rather than oral.