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The Silent Language (Anchor Books) Paperback – July 3, 1973

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Editorial Reviews

Review

?This intent, intermittently fascinating, sometimes jumpy book is a direct reflection of the life that Dr. Hall has lived for the last twenty years as a field worker among primitive people, a teacher and trainer of men bound for overseas, an analyst of perplexing cross-cultural failures and a pursuer of an individual system of scientific analysis of culture.?-Margaret Mead --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Publisher

Leading anthropologist Hall analyzes the many aspects of non-verbal communication and considers the concepts of space and time as tools for transmission of messages. His stimulating work is of interest to both the intelligent general reader and the sophisticated social scientist.
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Product Details

  • Series: Anchor Books
  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reissue edition (August 1, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385055498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385055499
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 78 people found the following review helpful By J. G. Heiser on March 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you only read one Edward Hall book, I think that "Beyond Culture" is a better read, and more lucid. Although the two texts overlap somewhat, there are many concepts in this book that do not appear in the other (the idea of "High Context" vs "Low Context" cultures is only hinted at in this text).
The basic concept of "Silent Language" is that much of our communication is non-verbal, but that it consistently follows cultural and linguistic patterns, just as spoken and written communication does. The major difference in non-verbal communication is that it is mostly subconscious.
The book revolves around the idea that all cultural conventions can be classified as either formal, informal, or technical. Although he spends an entire chapter introducing this concept, I personally found the distinctions a bit confusing, although I do believe that the author has an important insight.
One of my favorite concepts was the idea of 'spacial accent,' which describes the size of and culturally-specific behaviors associated with that invisible zone we all carry around with us. This concept helps explain why Europeans (outside of the British) generally don't queue, and why this so aggravates Americans (and presumably Brits). The concept of 'order' also helps explain different behaviors in forming lines (American belief in 'first come, first serve, is culturally relative). Besides speaking about space, he also discusses the cultural aspects of time, which he also describes in terms of an 'accent'. (He deals with both space and time more fully in two of his other books.)
Hall makes quite a number of connections between cultural behavior, these three types of cultural convention, and specific forms of expression.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By BookIndexZ@aol.com on December 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
In 1962 this book was provided to all Peace Corps Volunteers as part of their preparation for working abroad in non-U.S. cultures. Hall describes categories of communication which can be used to compare any two cultures. He discusses not only conversation but a number of non-verbal communication areas, with good illustrative scenarios, for the variety of attitudes toward personal space, use of time, interaction with authorities and the law, etc. His ideas seem congruent with Marshall McLuhan's famous concept of "the medium as the message." For me, --as a very verbal person, an artist, and a world traveler-- this book provided new and useful insights about inter- and intracultural communication. It is clearly organized, well written, fascinating, and as relevant to today's global communication as when it was written.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By C. Davis VINE VOICE on August 20, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Hall expounds a couple of key thesis. First, culture is not just the medium of communication. It is a method of communication all on its own. Second, if one "maps" cultural characteristics in ten "primary messaging systems", one can gain insight into the formal, informal, and technical aspects of that culture. Those ten primary messaging systems are: (1) Interaction, (2) association, (3) subsistence, (4) bisexuality, (5) territoriality, (6) temporality, (7) learning, (8) play, (9) defense, and (10) exploitation.

This book is indeed somewhat dated, but one can certainly see that the use of this monograph is that it provides a systematic way of analyzing culture. This can be useful when traveling or working abroad. Likewise, one could use these templates to improve ones understanding of his own culture. It is this latter purpose that makes this book relevant today.

The Silent Language is short enough to be easily read. However, for the sake of brevity, it sacrifices a more systemic or detailed analysis. As such, the author resorts to a limited amount of anecdotal information to support his framework. Anecdotal information is useful, but some more statistical analysis might be worthwhile. Indeed, one could argue that defining each primary messaging system as a collection of "sets", it would be possible to apply set theory from mathematics to anthropology.

While I have trouble believing that culture is a form of communication vice a medium of communication, I will probably use Mr. Hall's framework to analyze the "culture" each job and workplace that I deal with in the future. Likewise, I think anyone who works in management or leadership jobs would find this book useful.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
Hall delves into most of the possible modes of non-verbal communication. You will learn consciously what you have been doing unconsciously and will learn much about reading others' emotions and thoughts by their behavior. A real winner! Also a good companion volume to Morris's "The Naked Ape."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Taylor Ellwood VINE VOICE on October 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book, Hall explores the intricacies of time and space from a cultural studies perspective. Although this book is a bit dated, the information is still very relevant, and what Hell offers is an examination of how much our perception of time influences our cultural and everyday interactions. For example, learning just how tightly time is wound for Americans as opposed to other cultures is quite insightful to the workaholicism that pervades American culture. Hall touches on some aspects of space as well, though you'll find more of his thoughts on it, in the hidden dimension. What I most enjoyed about this book is an exploration of time from a social science perspective as opposed to a hard science perspective. I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in understanding concepts of space and time.
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