Language and Thinking 

Some Topics


Story telling is the social glue that keeps human groups together and focused on common goals. The story begins with an inner narrative, selftalk. When you are not busy doing tasks, you are usually talking to yourself in the privacy of your own mind. Selftalk is something like the voice-over commentary in a documentary movie.

Every day humans tell stories to each other. At the deepest level, story telling is sound communication that enhances group cohesion and social regulation. The progression from sound communication to language to social regulation with stories is seamless and continuous. Peer pressure is exerted by sound communication and stories.

Some stories are repeated often and become societal scripts that regulate the play of life. Each family has an implicit verbal script that is seldom written down or even acknowledged as a daily influence on how each member of the family thinks, feels and behaves. Each member of the family has a predetermined role. Children are taught their lines and parents repeat the slogans and beliefs that children must learn. Organized families tend to have coherent scripts and disorganized families have casual, eclectic scripts. Family scripts are derivatives of community scripts, determined by the local culture and the moral authority of political, educational and religious organizations.

Each adult person has a self-story that locates him or her in the larger story of the group. As human groups enlarge, a hierarchical assembly of stories emerges. A group story collects individuals into a larger assembly that give direction and purpose while placing limits on the possibilities that group members can entertain.

Story telling is important for survival. Stories provide examples of other humans who make mistakes and perish and humans who are flourish because they are skilful and wise. News is a professional version of story telling that emphasizes bad outcomes and warns against dangers. Story telling is spontaneous and involves an entire repertoire of sounds, grunts, gestures and some coherent language. The best storytellers are the most popular and successful humans. Body language, involving real or simulated emotions, is an essential aspect of story telling and audience response involves real or feigned emotion. A conversation is most successful when the participants laugh.

A listener will indicate involvement with the story by gesture, grunts, oohs and aahs and laughter. Humans will laugh when a story is truly funny but are more likely to laugh to relieve tension and as a gesture of group cohesion. The easiest path to group cohesion and laughter is to mock and ridicule a common scapegoat or enemy. Humans are mimics and storytelling often involves imitating the statements and gestures of others. Imitation is often used to mock and ridicule others. Funny stories are often critical of others and/or are self-aggrandizing.

An astute observer can notice both congruence and discrepancies in head movements and statements. Facial movements are part of emotional expressions and in speaking a story teller will often shown abbreviated and fleeting facial-emotional expressions to emphasis or replace linguistic content. Facial expressions, head movements, arm and other body movements are sometimes coordinated but at other times seem to be independent and not always congruent.

Facial expression is central to emotional expression, but in storytelling, facial expressions are exaggerated and often simulate an emotion rather than express a true emotion. Anger can be simulated in a second or two by facial grimacing and tense hand-arm gestures, followed by quizzical looks and open hand gestures as the story continues past the angry moment. Any serious study of human behavior requires the observation of gesturing associated with speech to get an idea of how the human mindbrain works. To understand the complete meaning, listen to what humans say and watch closely how they act as they are saying it.

Dr. Gislason wrote: In this brief refection, I describe some basic truths about languages that are aspects of human nature most likely to endure. I feature storytelling and selftalk as the two most important features of the human use of language. I consider how languages fit in the larger scheme of intelligence and human interactions. Interesting challenges emerge when language is used to describe itself. Spoken language is an innate ability of humans that emerges in all human groups. Spoken language is the key to interaction among humans. There are several thousand languages in human groups that enhance group cohesion and at the same time separate groups that cannot communicate. I trace the evolution of sound communication from animals who have lived on earth for hundreds of millions of years to computer programming that uses condensed forms of cryptic languages that are received and expressed by electronic circuits.

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