| Home Page | Site Map | Contacts|


2007 г.

 01 - 06      07 - 09

2006 г.

 01 - 08      09 - 12

2005 г.

 01     02     03 - 05  06 -  07     08  - 12

2004 г.

 01     02     03 - 04   05     06     07 - 12 

2003 г.

 10 - 12


Роль молчания в современной культуре

Nikitina Ye.S.
(Moscow, Russia)

Статья опубликована: Социальная коммуникация в современном мире. Modern Social Communication / Сборник материалов российско-американской научной школы-семинара, 14-18 июня, 2004. - М.:ООО "Принт-Медиа", 2004. - 58 с. - С. 42-47.

    Автор статьи с сожалением пишет о том, что в современной культуре недооценивается роль молчания, позволяющего обдумать свой ответ, сформулировать новые идеи, погрузиться в размышления. В моде лозунг "Время - деньги", сформировавшийся, очевидно, под влиянием средств массовой информации. Молчание в общении расценивается как нерешительность, вызывает нетерпение и раздражение.

There was a time when "let us wait and see" or "I will need to reflect further on that" or even "I do not know" was regarded as an acceptable, indeed prudent, response. There was a time when our silence alarms permitted us a little time before the bells began to ring (time to speak). Now under the whip, perhaps, of mass broadcasting, where time is money, we are beginning to associate silence with losing control. We are losing our tolerance for hesitation. The slightest pause before the leader of one party answers another brings jeers from the opposite benches. Hesitation is thought to betray indecision. We are intolerant too of those who decline to comment. Public relations consultants have a vested interest in the idea that no answer is always a bad answer. In the run-up to general election, parties had a whole department devoted to avoiding it, the "Rapid Rebuttal Unit" - the whole vocabulary carries the implication that to pause is fatal. What stand the pause and more - silence - in communication for? This problem I will discuss in my paper.

I. Silence is a kind of communicative action. Unlike stillness silence is possible only in the human world and only for a human being. A bird can't help singing. A human being could not start speaking. That's why the choice between silence and speech belongs to the first and last human freedom. "At first the WORD was", "the WORD" which was born out of SILENCE. Nobody speaks in silence or someone doesn't speak. Breaking of silence is a willed and mental act of the communicative action although stillness and silence are always relative according to M.M. Bahtin. The primary choice between mentioning and keeping silent continues at every stage in measuring a degree of expressing. "A bear" is a way both to name an awful beast and keep silence about him. "The Ministry of Defence" is a way to name a well-known establishment and to keep the track away from many things, which is really involved. The language is full of names where we half name things or half hide them. How and what we say in its turn depends on how and about what we keep silence. Each culture keeps silence about its problems in its own way. And it does not mean absence of the communication. The silence of anything may also be meaningful as well as speaking. This is a speaking silence or a message about silence zone (all kinds of taboos, rules of speech etiquette, the state of consciousness etc.). The complementary character of these worlds is determined by the culture as continual and discrete, visual and verbal, beginning and end. Silence is a moment of a comprehending sound, its other side (like the "inner side of the wind"). Different roles are given to silence in the spheres of communication. Within the structure of communication itself between the man and God, the believer and the pastor, not speech but the listening is a condition, which is psychologically necessary and ideologically sufficient. Silence is not only a condition of confessional obedience but also a feature that evidences for the divine elite of the silent person: it's not t he man who forms the word but it's the divine word that forms the man. ("Before the world was created, the Word already existed; he was with God, and he was the same as God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out"). Within such a communication, the man's main task is not how to say but how to hear.

Any speaking is plunged into silence. There are links between passages of the text, which can't be defined either in linguistic or even in semiotic aspects. From the earliest age a child learns to decipher a double meaning of what he is told, which is hidden on one side in the words themselves and on the other side in the way these words were told. Otherwise the expression at the moment of its birth is immersed into inner sociability of silence. Silence is a moment of the meaningful sound, it's another side. It is not a break in speaking, but a readiness to the unique answer (sense). The range of all-sided reasons of silence is multi-sided and symmetric to reasons of speaking. So, a participant of a dialogue can be silent if:

  • he does not know what say or how to reply;
  • wants to express contempt or anger;
  • lost interest to the dialogue;
  • he is astounded of his interlocutor's replica ("interrogative silence");
  • wants to make fun of his collocutor, put him into the awkward position ("ironical silence");
  • does not like to express his opinion (failing to mention);
  • disagrees with a partner, but does not like to express it ("polite silence");
  • agrees with a partner ("affirmative silence") etc.

In principle all communicative intention may be expressed with silence. The human speech is interconnected with silence in each phrase, in each word, in every sound. The meaning of the speech stands behind the silence. Without depths of silence all words are shallow and boring. Children usually keep silence just in case when they are asked about something well known to them. But silence is difficult to stay stillness - it speaks up in any case. A defiant silence is louder than a shout. The prolonged silence will inevitably be interpreted. If a person doesn't speak up, another one will do that for him. A person who doesn't care to speak up himself, faces a danger to speak in a strange voice. Silence can be reliably kept only by a word. There is a space between an idea and a word and this space is filled with silence. Once Priest d'Ars, a French Saint of the XIX century, asked an old peasant what he was doing sitting by hours in the church, probably even not praying at all. The peasant answered: "I look at Him, He looks at me, and we are having a good time together". This man learnt to speak to God, not breaking the silence of intimacy by any words. If we can do it, says Antonio, Archbishop of Surozh, we can use any kind of prayers. And how inspiring can the words be when silence stands behind them.

If we conceptually divide the time of the communicative action into external (speaking for others) and inner (understanding for yourself), we may point out that the modern culture has cut down that inner component. We live in a society of all-out speaking. Everybody speaks always and everywhere. A "one minute's silence" is intended for general importance events. Modern communication means allow to transmit information in any amount to any point of the planet and even outside it. Due to an unprecedented growth of communication capacities, problems of determining the limits of the human capabilities of getting, perceiving and understanding messages in the conditions of the communication time getting longer and longer, become very sharp. Psychologists believe that people are always in communication, even when sleeping, as sleep is also communication with their inner "I". It is characteristic that the component called "understanding" has been more and more often falling out of the whole act of communication, especially from its inner part. We "run short" of time to ponder an answer. Connected speech leaves the mass media and is replaced by odds and ends of thought strictly limited by the speaking time. "We have very little time, you have 10 seconds left". Experts are "domiciled" in the mass media that juggle with commonplaces and are ready to quickly retell a generally accepted myth and to apply it to the situation. Pierre Bourdieu calls them "fast-thinkers", by analogy with fast food. But a fast-thinker, unlike the fast food, does not think at all (does not "feed" the consciousness) but reproduces what was invented before. The media field gradually begins to dominate other cultural fields while depending on the economic field at the same time. Market trends formed to a great extent by decisions of the state and economic elite, conquer the spiritual culture with the help of the mass media where time is money, creating a total homogeneity of the modern world. Non-convertible currency becomes a standard of measuring the communication time. "How much is your time?" is a measure of the human value and human dignity.


  1. Бахтин М.М. Эстетика словесного творчества. - М.: "Искусство", 1979.
  2. Бибихин В.В. Язык философии. - М.: 1993.
  3. Богданов К.А. Очерки по антропологии молчания. Homo Tacens. - Изд. Русского Христианского гуманитарного института. Санкт-Петербург. 1998.
  4. Бурдье Пьер. О телевидении и журналистике. М.: 2003. Кибрик А.А. Молчание как коммуникативный акт./Действия: лингвистические и логические модели. - М.: 1991.
  5. Хоружий С.С. Диптих Безмолвия. - М.: Центр психологии и психотерапии, 1991.
  6. Good News Bible. John 1. The Word of Life. 1.1- 18 Prologue.

Text it word Text in Word

    Information about author:

    Nikitina Ye.S.
    APR, Russian State Social University, Moscow, Russia

    Никитина Е.С.
    к.фил.н., доцент, Российский государственный социальный университет,
    Москва, Россия


Copyright © 2002-2013, Russian Communication Association. All rights reserved.
The hyperlink on www.russcomm.ru is obligatory.   Webeditor
::Yamato web-design group::