WNPR

Beyond Words

Dec 1, 2016

Imagine if you couldn't speak and had no capacity for learning language as we know it. You couldn't choose words to communicate your feelings and desires and needs. You wouldn't know words that help others understand the world in which you live.

This isn't like vacationing in a country that speaks a different language where the words are different but still convey universal concepts. It's so difficult to understand a world without words, that we block the signals sending us non-verbal cues every day. This is completely foreign to most of us. What would you do? How would you communicate? How would you survive? 

This hour, hear about people who don't speak language as we know it, but who developed a language completely independent from the spoken language of the surrounding hearing culture. You'll be stunned to realize how deeply we depend on language to communicate. It's so difficult to understand a world without words, that we block the signals sending us massive amounts of non-verbal communication every day. 

GUESTS:

  • Eli Horowitz - Co-author of The Silent History with Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett; former managing editor and publisher of McSweeney’s
  • Marie Coppola - Assistant professor of psychology and linguistics at the University of Connecticut; founder and executive director of Manos Unidas
  • Bill Bowers - World-renowned mime and actor who studied under Marcel Marceau; performed at the Kennedy Center, the White House, and on Broadway in “The Lion King” and “The Scarlet Pimpernel”

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. 

Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired on September 5, 2014.