Language that’s spoken, language that’s written

People talking in a library café

Any given language has words you can say speaking but not write them at all, or words that you write but don’t usually say because no conversation would have them in. Think about words like “gotta”, a contraction for “have got to”. Speaking the “have got to” may become “gotta”. ut you wouldn’t write gotta because it’s just not right. It’s not part of English’s written language.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. As language is any method of human communication, either verbal or nonverbal, one can see clear differences between spoken language and written language.

If someone texted you right now, with “You’re terrible!”, without you knowing whose number is that, what would you think? Is it some random acquaintance insulting you for something you did (terrible in a bad way), or a friend joking around about something you else did (terrible in a good way)? Think about right now. Of course, you might choose one or another, you can’t choose both; but you still can’t know who that is or the reason for the text. Not knowing about the context of that statement, you can’t actually know the meaning of it. But you could, if you heard the person.

People being heard and seen, words being read.

The way anybody speaks tells you about the aim of the message: to chat, to enjoy, to insult, to provoke doubt, to… And so many others… In some cases, you don’t know the person. That’s when you lose “context” in a spoken conversation. Because you don’t know the person, you can’t really know the way he or she talks. As so you can’t really distinguish emotions from static states…

In a written conversation, words have to fill context, emotions, sentiment. In a spoken conversation, words become superfluous. Why? Maybe with time people have developed a way to understand each other better. I can’t know how people spoked in the XVII century, and I can’t base that knowledge on writings, precisely because those were written. We, while writing, have to add words to the actual words, to make sure the reader gets the idea (or doesn’t, if that’s the point).

Wordless concepts, lacking of…

At the end, the written language was the “second” one (we talked first, I believe, then we wrote), and so it has evolved a lot, but it’s still needing words to communicate wordless concepts. But personally I don’t think it’s the written language that has “superfluous” elements, but the spoken language, that needs the transmitter of the message use its own set of skills to somehow by wordless actions send a wordless message “attached” to the original words.

I know most people disagrees, but I find it to be true: some times that “wordless actions” betray us, or other people, and send others wrong messages. I hate when that happens. I’m sure you do, too.

To be fair, I can accept to say spoken language lacks of enough words, while written language lacks of those “wordless actions”. None is truly “complete”, but both fulfills each’s needs. What do you think? I wrote this while angry, happy, anxious?

Photo by _Lev_

Have some thoughts about this? Share them!