Sunday, June 24, 2012

Body Language

The Spring 2012 edition of Lapham's Quarterly, themed "Means of Communication," includes an article on body language. The author offers an introduction to various approaches to the study of body language and includes many anecdotes about what these studies have revealed. A favorite excerpt:
The greater the burden of communication gestures have to carry, the more languagelike they become. But if we already have a full language to communicate, then why do we gesture? Clearly it’s useful for cases where we can’t or don’t want to speak. With gestures, baseball players exchange secrets on the open field, stock traders make deals in the noisy hubbub of the pit, scuba divers communicate through the barrier of water, and drivers make their frustration known to other drivers through the barrier of car windows.

These special cases don’t represent the bulk of gesturing we do. Most of our gestures happen while we can speak or are speaking. But the act of using language is ephemeral; words disappear as they are spoken. Of course, we’ve had the ability to preserve the words of the past ever since the invention of writing. But the solid, linear permanence of written language encourages the illusion that language is just an object, a container for thought. In fact, language is also a behavior, a laboratory for thought creation and negotiation. Gestures are thoughts, ideas, speech acts made tangible in the air....
Anyone who works with young adults on a regular basis knows how important gestures are; adolescents pay close attention to the body language of their peers and of adults. Although educators most often focus on helping students develop their written and spoken language skills, body language serves as a substantial and important means of communication.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful blog! I saw it at Google and I must say that entries are well thought of. I will be coming back to see more posts soon.