Language and Broadcast Media
A segment of the Discovery Nanny 911, which is the introduction of a particular episode was a comical presentation narrated by a voice-over. The whole clip presents a problem of raising kids; this shows two parents were so desperate in disciplining their kids as well to restore the peace and order in the home. The kid were out of control and disrespectful of their parents as shown in their gestures, while their behaviour was unacceptable in the norm of the society.
The play started having the eldest child bullying her two siblings and after their parents came to rescue the two boys, the kids went wild. Different scenes were presented where only yelling and shouting of both parents and children could be heard. Children yelled most of the time as an expression of wild behaviours and excitement for what they were doing. Meanwhile the parents shouted back at the kids questioning them of their actuations.
The entrance of the male nannies in the scene appeared to be the answer to the problem as shown in their non-verbal dialogues and appearance. Few sentences could be heard; the parents were hopeful of the possible miracle that could take place to their kids after one day with the nannies. The clip showed nannies discussing with the parents the parenting styles through gestures or nonverbal communication with the voice-over narrating the scenario. The nannies while with the kids did not utter words; instead, they all used non-verbal communication in disciplining the kids through intimidating and tempting, and taunting. The parents left the house as implied in the waving of hands of the nannies and children while facing the window.
Again, at the last part of the play, the kids were so behaved as shown through their non-verbal gestures; and the only words that could be heard were, “mommy, daddy, I am sorry” and “Our job here is done.” Children had developed a different behaviour because of the disciplining session. Parents looked amused and confused as expressed in their eyes for what they had observed after returning home. However, a trauma in one of the kids was also noticeable, which was portrayed by another nonverbal communication.
The play is best described in the context of non-verbal communication and semiotics, through speech acts in the exchange of dialogue between the characters. The narrator helped in the explanation of the whole scenario. Non-verbal communication through eye contact, facial expressions, and yelling elicited some set of behaviours from the different characters. Winfried Noth described non-verbal communication as “the semiotic function of the human body in time and space” and those non-verbal communications “become signs” that represents messages from the person (p. 387). This form of communication as he further stated is “restricted to behaviour, which is concomitant of verbal communication” that involves gestures, kinetics, body language, facial signals, gaze, tactile, bodily appearance and clothing, and proxemics (p. 388). Similarly, the scenes in this clip have combinations of signs that signify some messages.
Children’s laughing, yelling, smiling while throwing something on parents, running across the house, and fighting with other siblings indicated a wild, out-of-control behaviours, and spoiled children, which according to the narration that are something unacceptable.
The parents’ desperation over the behaviour of their children was seen through small dialogues usually turn-takings in form of shouting. However, most messages were delivered to intended recipients using non-verbal communication. Semiotics or NVC portrayed were facial expressions and bodily actions.
The nannies did not speak any words all throughout the drama except the last part, which they said, “Our job here is done.” The part where the three nannies were lecturing the parents as well as dealing with kids was presented through semiotics. The methodology seemed effective because the recipients understood what went on. As the nannies were walking to the place in robust body in a plain white T-shirt and short pants in straight vertical line, the male nannies appeared to be well experienced to help the couple. They came out as people the kids would look up for respect. They controlled the kids using their bodily strength by putting a rope around them. The kids were behaved and looked helpless after a tiring struggle with the men who managed to control their behaviour by intimidation and punishment. Fear was in the eyes of the kids, but after seeing their parents arrived, security engulfed their emotion through facial expression. At least, realization is made after a long-day struggle with the nannies.
Similarly, the conversation between the couple clearly manifested hopelessness and desperation without exactly expecting to receive appropriate answers from each other. Usually the father asked, “What are you doing?” which was directed to the kids; or “You know what, I can’t take it anymore! I give up! “You know, I don’t know what I suppose to do with these kids of ours.” ” which was addressed to his wife as an expression of disappointment. The wife out of the same emotional fatigue would respond, “There is nothing we can’t do since we’ve done everything we can!” This particular conversation is an example of turn taking, which is illustrated using Grice’s maxim of quantity and relevance. Francesca Pridham explained that although the four types of maxim (quality, quantity, relevance, and manner) are present in a given conversation, yet a maxim is “deliberately broken to create certain effect and communicate its own meaning” (p. 38). The conversation presented above illustrates the maxim of relevance because despite the exchange of responses is unintentional since both focuses on certain situation, yet the answer is closely related to the statement of the first speaker.
The man then initiated another response related to the previous discussion. He shouted, “So who are we gonna call?” Presumably, the man might be thinking of outside help, so the wife responded, “We are calling Discovery Nanny 911.” Maybe, the man found a little help with that response so he told the wife, “So, you better make a call!” This conversation is simultaneous so, possible solution was conceptualized in a speedy manner, because each participant in the conversation provides adequate answer to the intended message.
The husband uttered the statement, “What are you doing?” twice in the clip, which was an indication of maxim of quantity. This particular maxim appeared because the intended audience did not pay attention to him, instead they continued with what they are doing. Answers were simply laughing and yelling. Jay David Atlas explained that Grice’s maxim of relevance is the opposite of maxim of quantity. He stated,
“The second maxim of quantity amount to violations of cooperativeness at all… inclined to think that overinformativeness can be misleading to an addressee and thus uncooperative, in that the addressee will think that there is some point in the speaker’s discursiveness” (p. 63).
Maxim of quantity is apparent in stating the statement simply because there was no cooperation went on between the father and the kids. The father used to ask the kids, “What are you doing?” is the maxim of quantity in the clip. Because of the excessive questioning of the father regarding the action and behaviour of the kids, the addressees (the kids) connoted the statement as an expression of anger and disappointment. The children did not understand the question as to clarify something. Perhaps the father did not intend to illicit relevant response to the kids. Thus, the maxim of relevance is not applicable in the communication process between the parents and children. The utterances became purely expression of emotion.
Furthermore, though two Grice’s maxims were involved, yet there was no violation indeed, because the messages were addressed to different hearers. As noted by Hoff and Shatz, violations of maxims necessarily occur, when one maxim is violated (p. 305). Hoff and Shatz explained that if a certain message is understood by the hearer despite the incompleteness of information (maxim of quantity therefore is essential), the hearer applied the pragmatic inferences (for Grice it is called “conversational implicatures”). In the clip presented, it is noted that two maxims are used: quantity and relevance, yet there was no violation. This is because the messages were directed to different hearers. Talking with kids needed the use of maxim of quantity while talking between husband and wife used the maxim of relevance.
Speech acts are also observed in some conversations. Speech acts according to Kent Bach of Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is “really the performance of several acts at once, distinguished by different aspects of the speaker’s intention… such as requesting, or promising, and how one is trying to affect one’s audience” (par. 1). Thus, if an audience understood the message that intended by the speaker the speech acts are successful. For instance, the husband uttered the statement, “you know what, I can’t take it anymore, I give up!” expresses annoyance, disappointment, and regret. The wife understood the message as something that expressed a help from another people. Upon the suggestion given by the wife, the husband readily agreed to avail the help from other people.
Moreover, the most obvious yelling and shouting of the kids implies some message, which is to catch attention. This is an attention-getting device of children according to Paul Simpson. He further stated that shouting though common for children is “plainly socially proscribed in spoken interaction between adults” (p. 168). Yelling is even classified as non-verbal behaviour that is associated with the hostile cluster of vocalic cues usually common to people with a variety of aggressive behaviour (Guerrero & Floyd, p. 16, 17). Though, yelling is always associated with aggressive behaviour, the yelling of children in the clip is coupled with laughing that makes children seemed happy contrary to negative emotions such as anger and jealousy. In addition, yelling along with crying, muttering, laughing and others are paralinguistic features that reveal “personality traits, personal qualities and emotional states” (Language and Silence). Thus, the yelling of the children in the clip is closely connected to messages because of aggressive behaviour; it is then a form of nonverbal communication.
Yelling then as a nonverbal communication could be classified as Grice’s maxim of quantity because it is repeated throughout the clip. Perhaps, yelling, laughing, and shouting are the ways of communicating their feelings to their parents as what they have been used to. The message is given to parents though they are unconscious about their behaviour. The means of sending a message becomes acceptable in their perception.
The clip is generally a scripted production using very few verbal communications and a lot of nonverbal communication and semiotics. The overall presentation of the story is best illustrated using body movements, facial expression, yelling, bodily appearance, and clothing. The purpose of portraying the manifestation of uncontrolled behaviour in the children is well illustrated by the gestures even with no words involved. Similarly, the communication between the different characters in the story is effective since they all understood the messages through nonverbal and nonverbal communication with the help of voice over.
In conclusion, the presentation of a comical script of a family problem presenting unacceptable behaviour of children is done using nonverbal communication, turn-takings, speech acts, semiotics, and Grice’s maxim of relevance and maxim of quantity.
Atlas, Jay David. Logic, Meaning, and Conversation: Semantical Underdeterminacy, Implicature, and their Interface. UK: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Guerrero, Laura & Kory Floyd. Nonverbal Communication in Close Relationship. USA: Routledge, 2005.
Hoff, Erika & Shatz, Marilyn. Blackwell Handbook of Language Development. USA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
Noth, Winfried. Handbook of Semiotics. USA: Indiana University Press, 1990.
Pridham, Francesca. The Language of Conversation. UK: Routledge, 2001.
Simpson, Paul. Language Through Literature: An Introduction. USA: Routledge, 1997.
Bach, Kent. Speech Acts. http://online.sfsu.edu/~kbach/spchacts.html
Language and Silence. http://cache.search.yahoo-ht2.akadns.net/search/cache?ei=UTF-8&p=yelling+and+Grice%27s+maxim+of+quantity&fr=yfp-t-501&fp_ip=PH&u=www.ciil-ebooks.net/html/silent/ch4.htm&w=yelling+yell+yells+grice%27s+grice+maxim+maxims+quantity+quantities&d=eO8jCS72Q9cl&icp=1&.intl=us