“Spoken language allows access to an individual’s idiolect, their prosodic features and their paralinguistic features, which in turn provides a more thorough interpretation of their meaning behind words; this portrayal comes through stronger through dialogue than texting or online messages.”
We have all heard our grandparent’s croak, “Back in my day, we had to actually be face-to-face with the person we wanted to talk to.” I, like many teenagers, am guilty of brushing off this grumble, dismissing it as old-fashioned and out of touch. However, as time has increased and technology has developed faster than we can learn how to use it, the prospect of having an attentive conversation with another individual, or even picking up the phone to talk to somebody, is a novelty reserved for when interacting with older generations. We are in a constant rush, eager to be ready for the future, determined to miss out on nothing, and therefore neglectful enough to not elaborate on our reasonings. I affirm that through this, society has lost their ability to communicate raw emotions. Are we destined to oppress our feelings to fit into a tiny screen, loosely supported by a stream of emoticons?
Through spoken language, we can portray so much more emotion than simple words permit, by allowing our prosodic and paralinguistic features to take over. We can pick up on a person’s idiolect, gathering an understanding of their personality and heritage through a simple greeting, and we can pause to allocate time to ensure that whatever we are saying is being completely understood.
Spoken language opens the door to prosodic and paralinguistic features, I contend that we can not translate emotions in text anywhere near as strongly as we can through the means of spoken language. This is proven through the use of text language. Messaging somebody saying: “Skool sux … i hve 2 much hw, kms :(” informs the receiver that the sender believes he is overworked, not enjoying school. However, we have no idea how seriously bad they feel. Are they simply being over-dramatic and joking, or is there more to it than the chilled out vibe of the words? The use of the sad face really confuses things even more as today many use the sad face ironically, an intentional hyperbole. The time it takes to dissect the meaning behind a text, or to try to put across your raw feelings without any confusion, does not seem worth it when one can just call another. Through spoken language, we can judge how a person is feeling simply through their tone, intonation and facials. A person saying: “School sucks … I have too much homework,” with a whine in their words and roll of their eyes tells us that the person is over school but not to the point of stress, they are simply being lazy. However, another person uttering the exact same phrase but in a quiet voice, with depressed eyes on the ground, scuffing their shoe against the asphalt and a long pause between their statements, informs us that this particular individual is struggling. Their voice being low and the lack of eye contact are indicators of embarrassment while the scuffing of the shoe can portray restlessness, that this person is tired of being out of control, and the drawn out pause tells us that they are having difficulty putting their emotions into words.
This is further proof of Albert Mehrabian’s idea: that the portrayal of emotions is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% actual words. Words are empty of meaning without prosodic and paralinguistic features.
An individual’s idiolect can inform a listener of where they are from and what kind of personality type they are; this is impossible to gather from messaging. The usual greeting for when one individual meets another, both in person and online, is: “Hey” or “Hi.” Through texting, all we are informed of is that this person wants to talk, but when the greeting is verbalised we can gather where they are from through the accent, and even get a sense of their personality through their paralinguistic features. We can relate to this by thinking back on a time when we were first introduced to a person. Imagine somebody strutting right up to you with their hand sticking out to shake yours, a smile on their face and eyes making contact with yours, before letting out a “Hiya,” accompanied by a thick American drawl. Through this brief encounter you know that this particular individual is American and, through the eye contact and strong smile, is probably quite confident and sure of themself. Only one word has been uttered but we are still provided with a significant amount of information, information that could not be as strongly translated through text where all we see is a word and can only make weakly supported assumptions.
The power of pause, or silence, is strong enough to completely alter the emotion behind words. Sometimes what hasn’t been said, but is instead implied through paralinguistic and prosodic features, extracts the strongest emotion. An insult accompanied by a high-pitch, giggle and shake of the head, gives the idea that the person is joking, is being sarcastic, even though they haven’t needed to say so. When pausing in spoken language it can add emphasis and allow time for the other person to digest what is being said. Often in text we skip over ellipsis and never actually pause, or stop to gather our thoughts, whereas in spoken language you have no option but to think about what is being said when the person in front of you is saying nothing. These are examples of how spoken language counteracts the confusion of text interpretation.
Too often in this day and age, conflict is caused by a misunderstanding online or through text. Some people believe that the popular emojis, with a range of faces, are sufficient replacements for spoken language however, they are usually used for exaggeration and the interpretation of these emojis easily differ depending on the individuals. For example, the grimacing face emoji: “???? ” is often used as a smiley face and read as a grimace, or vice-versa. A grimace and a smile are polar-opposite feelings and proves how easy it is to confuse emotions through text when there are no visible/real-life paralinguistic or prosodic features.
Spoken language is powerful enough to connect people and we must learn to communication important topics properly in order for our emotions to be properly heard. Through spoken language, and the use of paralinguistic and prosodic features, we can translate emotions through a little amount of words. We can instantly hear a person’s idiolect and be aware of their heritage and personality through a basic greeting. We can utilise the power of pause, for emphasis, and to allow the receiver a better chance of understanding. These powerful human traits are weakened through text and messaging as our emotions are not as rudimentary as a little emoji with heart eyes, they have depth and they should be properly comprehended.