Discourse and gibbons

Celso Alvarez Cáccamo lxalvarz at udc.es
Mon Nov 18 12:44:50 UTC 2002

At 12:02 16/11/02 -0500, P. Kerim Friedman wrote:

>Point well taken - and I think we are generally in agreement but I wish to
>clarify one point: I wasn't suggesting that this "pure expression of power"
>is always the case (that discourse can be reduced to power) - but pointing
>out that perhaps not all of our behavior is as "mediated" as we think. Do
>you think that "ALL" human behavior is mediated by discourse?

No, I personally don't think so.  In fact, one of the problems of discourse
analysis (I believe) is that the sources of discourse rest elsewhere -- in
economy, for example. The mediation of discourse is still there, but often
(as you point out) as a justificatory move.  Still, that mediation *is*
interesting for research, though studying discourse is not enough to
explain power, domination, and so on.

>That is, is it not possible that a certain percentage of the time we are
>acting in a way that is functionally equivalent to chimps? Even if we are
>using language
>while we do it!? How much do we listen to the content of what people say, as
>opposed to their tone of voice and their facial expressions? For that
>matter, how much is watching TV the functional equivalent of sitting around
>a fire gazing at the burning embers? Sure, there are words, advertisements,
>sex, and violence on TV - and I'm not saying those are unimportant - but
>simply that they may be less important than we often suppose.

I see those parallels, obviously, and they have been studied. What I am not
so sure about is, again, the little expression "functionally equivalent",
as it pressuposes two comparable behavioral and cultural systems. For what
I know, multimodality works quite differently in non-human primates and in
humans: we may disassociate verbal and non verbal signals, while most
primate signals are simultaneously multimodal (vocalization plus gesture,
expression, kinesics).


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