Carol Malatesta-Magai Bruce Dorval Long Island University
This chapter addresses the question of modularity in human communication systems from the perspective of affect theory and sociolinguistics. Two communication systems--the nonverbal, which has been traditionally linked with the affect system, and the linguistic, which is generally not linked with the affective--are considered. We argue that the kind of heuristic that guides contemporary theorizing about brain modularity is not sufficiently social to speak to the reality that both kinds of language are socially constitutive ( Bruner, 1983). This is true of Chomsky's theory of language in particular, because it emphasizes individual minds rather than communicating individuals.
Here we consider how reembedding language within the social context and relational system sheds light on how language and emotion subsystems operate in modular but essentially cooperative ways and what that cooperation looks like. We first present a brief exposition of Chomsky's position, contrast this with the sociolinguistic perspective, and then relate it to affect theory and nonverbal communication. Finally, we illustrate the points we wish to make with an affective and sociolinguistic analysis of communication, in this particular case using a portion of a videotaped conversation of three members of a family. We apply the more social view of language and affect to describe the conversation and to arrive at an integrated account of the cooperation of those systems of communication in that context.