Without Words, and then with them
Posted May 17, 2012on:
If you had to communicate without written or spoken words, how would you do it?
Sign language is fine, music and sound is fine, body language, facial movements, whistling, grunting, mewling, crying out, tapping with your fingers and feet, creating different colors or shapes, wearing different colors or styling your hair a certain way or tattooing different images on different parts of your body all are fine. You can make noise, but you don’t have to. Just no actual words, and nothing that could be construed or translated as what we define as “word”.
A bit like how animals communicate, but upped to the cerebral level of humans.
what non-verbal and non-written methods of communication would you use?
How would our conversations change? How would communication change? Would we lose subtleties? Are subtleties and connotation a direct result of spoken language? But with no spoken or written language, communication would almost have to be done face to face (no books or signs or internet forums. no libraries.), so perhaps the subtleties would be even more complex? wow, that got badly circular!
would communication sans written or spoken words cause more or less misinterpretation?
on a similar note, but in a different key, how do different styles of written communication change your experience with a piece of writing? Here are some specific examples that got me thinking about this:
Gene Wolfe’s Shadow and Claw – this volume includes Shadow of the Torturer and Claw of the Conciliator, the first two books in Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. I really, really want to read these again, but the print in this edition is infamously small, to the point where it has affected my decision to reread these, as in, I haven’t. Although I did smarten up and purchased the 3rd and 4th books in the series in editions with normal sized print.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 – focusing on just a tiny bit of the story, gender has evolved, and part of that evolution is that if someone doesn’t make their chosen gender obvious, it is considered very rude to ask before you know them well. So the book is missing a lot of he’s and she’s, her’s and him’s. Twice I guessed someone’s gender incorrectly. It was a new way to experience characterization.
China Mieville’s Railsea – I’m not that far in, but he uses “&” instead of “and”. Other than making my eyes trip over the & a bit and using 2 fewer characters, what’s the point of using the ampersand? the visual effect was odd, almost a musical upswing as my eyes scanned each line.
three random little prose tricks, and they all affected my reading experience in different ways.
For one final random question – if we communicated in a non-word based fashion, would everyone experience all communication in same way, since we wouldn’t have any “prose tricks” like using & instead of “and”, skipping gender specific words, or different typefaces and font sizes?