Edward T. Hall in The Silent Language examines the many influences we face each day, influences that are silent in that they are not verbal but that are quite loud in terms of the effects they have on our development, our relationships, and so on. Hall finds that many of these influences are cultural, attitudes and behaviors we inherit from our surroundings and that decide out behavior even when we may not consciously see the source of the prescription or even that there is one. What Hall presents in this book is a comprehensive view of how we relate to our environment, how we are shaped by the experience, and how we may shape others through the same silent language.
Hall further makes the observation that formal training in language, history, government, and customs is only the beginning of an understanding of how culture shapes us and how we shape culture. And he rightly points out that the silent language, the nonverbal language of the country, is a major influence that needs to be analyzed, studied, and understood. This is a language we use every day, and yet we have only a dim awareness of it. Indeed, Hall sees the silent language in many situations as more real and more truthful than verbal language, as he notes when he writes: "In addition to our verbal language, we are constantly communicating our real feelings in the language of behavior" (xiii).
While Hall talks about American culture in this book, his conception of the silent language applies to any culture, though the norms communicated and the behaviors involved would be different in a different cultural setting. Hall understands his own culture and the meanings ascribed to behaviors and actions, and he describes these in this book. A commentator from another culture would find similar processes with different behaviors and actions as well as different messages, but the underlying concept would be the same.
Hall identifies a number of different dimensio...