Spoken language is such a fascinating topic. So much so that one can even achieve a PhD in language and communication. There are other such degrees in Speech/Language Pathology, Literature, Language Development and the like. Spoken language is the first form of communication we humans prefer and written language is the second. There are even some languages that have never been written down.
Many of the meanings in spoken language are situational. This is opposite from written language, where more of the essence is determined specifically by the words. In spoken language the truth of a suggestion is driven by reasonable hints to experience, when in fact written language places a stronger meaning on reasonable and understandable exchange. In the same way, spoken language usually expresses emotions, like the similarities between the speaker and the listener, where in contrast written language communicates targeted information 1.
The similarities between spoken and written language are very complicated. Inside the study of linguistics the ongoing agreement is that speech is a deep-seated human skill where written language is a creation by cultures 2. Most of the time, people refer to sign language as a spoken language as well because those who cannot audibly speak use sign-language as their means of verbal expression 3, 4, 5.
Words carry great meaning, whether they are spoken or written. Words can make people fall in or out of love; they can hurt or build up; they can communicate deep hurt or exuberant joy; they can communicate facts or tell a lie. Every decision in the world originally came from a spoken or written word.
Have you ever said something that you don’t mean to say but as you were saying it, you didn’t really think twice about what you were saying? Words are first formed in our minds as thoughts and you can probably recall a few times when you didn’t think before you spoke. I’ve noticed that in America today, people seem to be obsessed with death and mortality without really thinking about it. Have you ever said any of the following phrases: “It’s so hot out here that I could die,” or “Sometimes you just kill me,” or “It kills me when you tell me how much you love me,” or “I would die if I couldn’t go to that movie,” or “You’re killing me when you do that,” or you just fill in the blanks… Do you really mean that you will kill someone or that you would die if something didn’t happen? People who say the above phrases are simply communicating a deep feeling about something that is important to them. However, the words death, killing and dying seem to be very inappropriate words to use.
Ever since I lost someone in my immediate family, I’ve been very careful about what I say regarding death. Every time I hear someone say, “This is killing me,” or something to that effect, I always say, “Well, I hope not!” It usually brings them back to reality and causes them to really think about what they just said.
Instead of using the morbid words of death, use other words to replace them. “It’s really hot out here,” or “Sometimes you just drive me crazy,” or “I’m so amazed at how much you love me,” or “I just have to go see that movie,” or “You blow me away when you do that,”
It will be difficult at first to transition from what you’re used to saying into a new habit but a wise man once said, “Effort, if accompanied by perseverance, can turn into a daily habit,” Say what you mean and mean what you say. You’ll realize that it will really enrich your words and attach some real significance to your spoken communication.
- Tannen, D. (1982). Spoken and written language: exploring orality and literacy. Norwood, NJ: ABLEX Pub. Corp.
- Pinker, S., & Bloom, P. (1990). Natural language and natural selection. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, (13), 707-784.
- Nora Groce (1985) Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard
- Harry Hoemann (1986) Introduction to American sign language
- Brooks & Kempe (2012) Language Development