2.2 Channels and Modes
Now that we understand language as a subset of communication, we can further
explore a few more ideas about language. To begin, let’s consider the three possible
language channels. Language Channels are the three basic ways of expressing language:
signed, spoken, and written. English can be expressed in two channels (written English
and spoken English) while American Sign Language is most commonly expressed in one
channel (signed ASL) but may also be expressed in one of several writing systems
proposed for ASL (although none are widely used at this time). Channels are distinct
In the previous section we explored the five primary modes of expressing
communication: image, odor, sound, taste, and texture. Only three expressive modalities
are used to express language: image, sound, and texture. These three expressive
modalities again match to our senses, which detect the elements of language. Languages
are generally perceived and understood through the senses of sight, hearing, or touch.
While it is clearly possible to communicate through food or perfume, we will exclude the
senses of taste and smell from our discussion of modalities related to language.
Channels and Modes are related, but not as a one-to-one match. Generally, a spoken
language is encoded through sound; written and signed languages are encoded through
images. But spoken languages can be written in phonetic alphabets or encoded visually ...
Expressive Modalities are not limited to language use. We saw in the previous
chapter that they are available for all forms of communication: music uses sound;
paintings use images (and some paintings of Elvis also use texture – velvet). It is quite
possible, even common, to use an encoding modality without using language. For
example, an infant’s random gestures, babbling, and occasional physical contact with a
caregiver would be examples of using all three encoding modalities (images, sounds, and
textures) but expressing no language at all through any of them. The child may certainly
communicate, but the requirements that define language (such as being rule-governed and
shared by a community) have not been met – at least, not yet.
In order to communicate, however, we must “express and ...
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