Rainbow over Galileo Lane, Tucson

Friday, October 18, 2013

Connecting through language

In my most recent work I've been using the term connecting rather than communicating as a more inclusive term for what language does for children.

Babies begin connecting from the very moment of birth with that first cry. Then they begin to be aware that people make noise when they come together and they participate in the noise making- sometimes quite loudly. They know that language is social before they know that it is meaning making.

Much of the early  language between parent and child is more interpersonal than ideational  if you think about it. I would guess babies hear "I love you" a lot more often than any attempt to actually tell the child something. They hear lullabies and soothing sounds directed at them , though the other forms of language surround them. So they come fairly early to the sense that language is the way people connect with each other.

Eventually the connection begins to differentiate into other functions- understanding and following directions,, expressing their needs, commenting on their environment, and eventually engaging in conversation.

As I find myself saying often what makes language possible is our ability to think symbolically and what makes  it necessary is the need to connect. And the connection is in the fullest sense: emotionally, physically, expressively, and comunicationally.

And this generation of digital natives has new ways of connecting. and by adolescence by far the most important form is texting. So important that it happens when walking, driving, and almost any other times. And I would guess that much of the content is more just being together- connecting= than communicating.

And here I am connecting with you through the ether.

Isn't it amazing?


  1. Just found your blog, Professor Goodman. I've had a one-sided connection to you and your work since the '80s. Glad to be able to make a two-sided connection and say, "thank you so much!"

  2. This is very well put. I like the contrast between communicating and connecting and the way you characterize connection as of equal, or, possibly even greater importance than communication. This should be a relief to those who feel pressure to communicate well in a language they are learning: "it's okay, just relax, at least you're connecting and that's, in a way, even more important."