Ruth Finnegan, "Communicating: the Multiple Modes of Human Communication" (Routledge, 2014)


The name of the New Books in Language channel might hint at a disciplinary bias towards "language". So in some sense Ruth Finnegan's Communicating: the Multiple Modes of Human Communication (2nd edition; Routledge, 2014) is a departure: central to her approach is the idea that, within a broader view of human communication, language (in the linguistic sense of the word) is over-emphasised. The book sets out many more ingredients to communication, spanning the gamut of sensory modalities (and hinting at what might lie beyond) as well as considering the role of artifacts. Although both the book and this interview ultimately take place in conventional language, Ruth Finnegan succeeds admirably in evoking the richness of multisensory experience, whether in the poetics of ancient Greece or in the storytelling practices of the Limba tribe of Sierra Leone. The book's illustrations offer some cross-modal enrichment of the experience, and I hope this interview does too. For a more direct impression, the World Oral Literature Project's homepage for Ruth Finnegan's Limba collection is here.

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