Modal Language Essay

1088 Words 5 Pages
Language and the Manual Modality : The Communicative Resilience of the Human Species by Susan Goldin-Meadow is an discussion of manual (motion based) communication amongst humans in both gestural and language-based terms, using an amalgamation of sources concerning both topics. The paper takes special care to draw distinctions between gestural modality which accompanies spoken and modal language, but has no segmental or hierarchical construction of its own, and therefore cannot be construed as a language, to proper modal languages, like sign language, which do have a segmental and hierarchical systems and therefore can be classified as true languages. The first thing that strikes me as odd about the paper is the way in which the author attempts …show more content…
She begins a paragraph by asking why oral languages are the modality of choice amongst humans. She claims that some think that the oral modality is “good at encoding messages in the segmented and combinatorial”, but then goes onto counter this assertion by claiming that “But as we have seen in our examination of sign language, the manual modality is just as good as the oral modality at segmented and combinatorial encoding.” She then claims that the “oral modality assumes the segmented and combinatorial format” to make up for its weaknesses. She never, however, directly addresses the issue of why the oral modality was chosen. Rather, she points out various strengths of the manual modality. She claims it is both as good at encoding information as the oral modality and that it is better than the oral modality at providing information …show more content…
It's as though she assumes that this is a beneficial thing. Is a language more effective at conveying information if it uses imagistic communication? Is imagistic communication naturally a good thing? I don’t know, but I have no reason to believe that imagistic languages are inherently better. Hence, I don’t understand why the author decides to mention it in her oral vs manual modal debate, without first substantiating that imagistic communication has merit.
In her conclusion, the author also doesn’t include any positive points as to why the oral modality may have been chosen over the manual one. I feel as though only mentioning positive points concerning manual modality in the argument between oral and manual modalities leaves only a half written debate. There are quite a few evolutionary benefits to the oral modality. For instance, humans are able to communicate and use their hands at the same time for things like hunting or gathering at the same time as speaking when they use an oral

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