How Much Of Language Is Made Up Of Non-Verbal Communication So What is Communication

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So What is Communication

In “Signature Event Context”, Derrida tackles a weighty question: what is communication? At the beginning of the chapter he offers his definition of communication, “I was forced to predetermine communication as a vehicle, a means of transport or a medium of transition of a meaning, in addition to a unified meaning.” (Derrida, 1) Recognizing the limitations of his definition, he proceeds to break down that definition into what he considers the two basic forms of communication: written language and spoken language.

He then tackles the merits of written and spoken language according to their value, how the idea of ​​absence affects each form and the intention of the author/speaker in relation to the message he conveys. seeks to communicate. The focus on written communication assumes that it is somehow more accurate, reliable, and accessible than the spoken word, an assumption that is in many ways inaccurate.

Moreover, while Derrida’s discussion seems complete, the solitary emphasis on spoken and written language as the only or main means of communication, fails to adequately answer the question he poses, eliminating the importance and the affect of non-verbal communication.

Derrida begins his discussion of written communication by saying that “[writing is] an especially powerful means of communication, which extends enormously, if not infinitely, the domain of oral or gestural communication. “(Derrida 3) Using the philosopher Condillac as a basis for most of his reasoning, Derrida claims that writing trumps other forms of communication because of the idea of ​​”thinking as representation”, (Derrida 4 ), the ability of man to create ideas or thoughts in his mind and to communicate to others through a written method, is a complex and necessary evolution on the part of man to accomplish such a feat. In addition, the value of the written word is reinforced by the idea of ​​absence, the ability of the written word to continue to communicate even when the origin of the message is no longer present.

On some levels, Derrida and Condillac’s argument is true: as a society, we value the written word over the spoken word. A civilization is determined to be advanced if it has a written language. We will mark the day that civilization created its alphabet or other form of written communication as the day it became civilized and left its primitive ways. We also, as a society, tend to believe that written communication is more valuable than spoken communication. How many times have we asked, “Can we get this in writing?” when you want to validate an information that someone has given us.

Written information and even better, containing a signature has more authority than someone telling us something.

The problem with this emphasis on the written word is that it does not account for oral traditions. The spoken word was as capable as the written word in its ability to communicate outside the presence of the original communicator and had the same weight as the written word before and even after the advent of the written language. For centuries, the bandits, the griots and the priests were the guardians and disseminators of information from fire stories to the history of a people.

These guardians of the information transmitted their responsibilities to others who gave the important and in many ways sacred duty to continue the traditions of a people or to be simply precise conservatives. The advent of the written word is in many ways like a new technology: it’s great if you know how to use it, but absolutely useless to you if you can’t understand how it works.

So, if you can’t read, then the fact that all this information is written is useless. Where before a person only had to speak the language to be informed, as civilizations began to rely more and more on the written word, those who could not break the code did not know what was going on. Think of the person who is computer illiterate. As the world relies more and more on this method of communication those who do not know how to use a computer will suffer.

And as Derrida did disservice to non-verbal communication in his discussion on communication, as I have since I ran out of space. To not give enough time to non-verbal communication is to not recognize that most of the way we communicate is without words in any form. From a glance to the posture can communicate a wealth of information and many ways to communicate more precisely that information then everything that is written or said. Derrida through his use of Austin’s writings, questions the role of intention and context and how important it is in what is communicated.

For Austin, intent and context are the main reason why he says that the spoken word is the only form of communication since intent and context are more difficult to establish in the written word. For Derrida the intention of the communicator or context in which something is said or written is secondary and ultimately not as important as the message itself. What non-verbal communication is to clarify that intention or context of a message or can only allow people to communicate when words are inappropriate or insufficient; think of military communications on a battlefield or a long look at a person across a crowded room.

Derrida begins an interesting discussion about the nature of communication, but in the end his discussion is only a beginning and more discussion is deserved to really get to the heart of the question: What is communication?

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