Silence is not merely the absence of sound but it communicates something different according to when and where the silence takes place. Though many people have negative feeling or attitude towards silence but this is to create a clear understanding about silence as a mode of communication. Silence can signify something quite different in different contexts. It is a statement in itself and conveys meaning in communication. There are two types of communication, that is verbal communication and non-verbal communication. Silence is a non-verbal communication. The method used is questionnaire, which is used to view various people’s mind-set or thinking about silence and the views are described in various contexts. Some have very good feeling and some have bad feeling. The bad feeling can be corrected if people tend to know the role silence plays. Silence, most times, is relevant in human society. This work describes the relevance, importance and uses of the role silence plays in communication. Some of the roles are: for better understanding, to show maturity, respect and humility and so on. The research work has five chapters (i) General Introduction (ii) Literature Review (iii) Research Methodology (iv) Data Presentation and Analysis (v) Summary and Conclusion

TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                          Page 

Title page






Table of Contents


1.0 Introduction - - - - - - - - 1

1.1   Background to the Study - - - - - - 1

1.2 Statement of the Problems- - - - - - - 1

1.3 Aims and Objectives- - - - - - - - 1

1.4 Significance of the Study- - - - - - - 2

1.5 Scope and Limitation- - - - - - - 2

1.6 Definition of Terms- - - - - - - - 2

1.6.1 The Concept of Sociolinguistics- - - - - 2

1.6.2 The Concept of Silence- - - - - - - 3

1.6.3 The Concept of Communication- - - - - 4

1.6.4 Importance of Communication- - - - - - 4

1.6.5 Importance of Silence in Communication- - - - 4


2.0 Introduction- - - - - - - - - 5

2.1 Theoretical/ conceptual framework- - - - - 5 

 2.1.1 Silence- - - - - - - - - 6

2.2 Literature review - - - - - - - 7

2.3 Summary of review- - - - - - - - 13


3.0 Introduction - - - - - - - - 16

3.1 Study Area- - - - - - - - - 16

3.2 Method of Data Collection-- - - - - - 16

3.2.1 Primary Data - - - - - - - 16 Questionnaire - - - - - - - 17 Observation- - - - - - - - 17

3.2.2 Secondary Data- - - - - - - - 17

3.3 Method of Data Analysis- - - - - - - 18


4.0 Introduction - - - - - - - - 19

4.1 Data Presentation and Analysis - - - - - 20

4.2 Data Interpretation- - - - - - - - 38

4.2.1 Silence in Interaction between Persons - - - - 38

4.2.2 Silence in Natural Phenomenon - - - - - 39

4.2.3 Role of Silence in Cultures - - - - - 41

4.2.4 Role of Silence in Communication - - - - 42


5.0 Introduction- - - - - - - - - 43

5.1 Summary of Findings- - - - - - - 43

5.2 Conclusion- - - - - - - - - 43




3.0 Introduction

The study focuses on the sociolinguistic aspect of communication which is silence. Silence is not merely the absence of sound, it communicates something different according to when and where the silence takes place.

1.1Background to the Study

To make clear understanding about silence as a mode of communication, silence in communication can be taken for agreement. Silence can signify something quite different in another contest. We can find many instances in which silence denotes anger, disagreement, an attempt at self-control, fear and a wide variety of other emotions. Silence communicates something different according to when and where the silence takes place. Silence is a statement in itself and conveys meaning in communication. There are two types of communication:(a) silence as a non-verbal communication is extremely important in mode of communication. Silence helps to define the distinction between personal expressive and standard communicative actions in the entire process of communication.

1.2 Statement of the Problems

The research work is used to evaluate the norms and tradition attached to silence in the society. It is also to find out the meaning and interpretation of silence by the people of a particular place, and to investigate the purpose of silence to the society.

1.3 Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study is to clear people’s misunderstanding about silence. Sociologically, silence is not regarded as non-communication but may be regarded as a negative response to communication. It is to clear people’s misconception about silence as a tool for communication. There are two ways of communication, verbal and non-verbal communication. Silence is non-verbal communication.

This research work will be used to clear misunderstanding among people of different ethnic groups or different tribes, because silence, most times, is relevant in human society.

1.4 Significance of the Study

This research work is used to describe the relevance, importance and uses of the role of silence in communication. Many have different meanings to silence as a means of communication.  This work will contribute to academics in linguistics field and for further theoretical work.

1.5 Scope and Limitation

The scope of this study is to illustrate the way people view silencein communication. This research work is centred on silence in communication.

1.6 Definition of Terms

The following key terms will be defined:

1.6.1 The Concept of Sociolinguistics

Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used, and the effects of language use on society. Sociolinguistics focuses on the society’s effect on language. ( wiki/sociolinguistics)

( 1984 Concept of linguistics supports that:Sociolinguistics is that part of linguistics which is concerned with language as a social and cultural phenomenon (Peter Trudgill, 1983).

Sociolinguistics is concerned with investigating the relationship between language and society, with the goal of a better understanding of the structure of language, and how language functions in communication (Ronald Wardaugh, 1986).

Sociolinguistics is any study of language in relation to society (Peter Matthew, 1997).

Sociolinguistics is the field that studies the relation between language and society, between the uses of language and the social structure in which the users of language live (BernaldSpolsky, 1998).

Sociolinguistics is the study of language in relation to social factors (Sylvia Chalker and Edmund Weiner, 1998).

Also, sociolinguistics is the field which studies the relationship between language and society, including cultural norms, expectations and context on the way language is used. While language is a means of communication, it is used to communicate meaning, as it is used to maintain and establish social relationship ( Definition- And- Basic concepts- 1328551. html).

1.6.2 The Concept of Silence

Silence is a non- verbal communication which can be used to disseminate information which spoken words cannot. Silence can mean different things to different people at the same time.

Silence is the lack of audible sound or presence of sounds of very low intensity. By analogy, the words silence can also refer to any absence of communication or hearing, including the media other than speech and music. Silence is also used as total communication, in reference to non- verbal communication.According to cultural norms, silence can be positive or negative.

1.6.3 The Concept of Communication

Communication involves transmission of verbal and non- verbal messages. It consists of a sender, a receiver and channel of communication. Communication conveys complex, sensitive and controversial information. ( content/ 23/3/369.full).

According to Merriam- Webster dictionary, communication is the act or process of using words, sounds, signs or behaviours to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings etc., to someone else.

1.6.4 Importance of Communication

Prevent Misunderstanding: When you clearly communicate your wants, yourneeds, and your intentions, there will be no misunderstanding.

Strengthen Relationship: We get to know each other by talking and listening.

Relieve Stress: Talking about your problems and stresses actually helps to

relieve the stress and anxiety. You feel as if some of the burden has been lifted

from you when a friend listens and shows that she cares.

Increase Confidence: When you communication well, people respond positively to you. And that helps to increase your confidence.

1.6.5 Importance of Silence in Communication

1. Silence can be signal for agreement among peer groups.

2. Silence keeps your reputation and stakes guarded.

3. Silence is used to show your level of maturity among people.

4. Silence can create a listening space, study emotional intelligence.


2.0   Introduction

This chapter reviews the literature on some of the key features of silence: its ambiguous nature and definition, and the various approaches to it, both positive and negative aspects, its role in intercultural communication and its variety of functions.  

2.1 Theoretical/ conceptual framework 

The analysis of a communication event begins with a description of components which are likely to be silent to members of the speech community within which the event occurs, and which may affect the choice of linguistic form that is used as well as its meaning. Each component that can call for a different form of speech can also permit silence (Saville-Troike 1982:12)

“A principal concern in the ethnography of communication is the discovery of the regular pattern and constraints (i.e. rule) that operate at different levels of communication”

      At a societal level, this patterning generally occurs along dimensions of social organization, community attitude, and such macro-functions as social control, ritual interaction with the supernatural, and establishment or reinforcement of group identity. At the level of individuals and small interacting groups within a society, this patterning occurs in expression and interpretation of personality, and in micro-functions related to participants’ purposes and needs (Saville-Troike 1982:24).

Societal level functions are illustrated by the use of silence to differentiate groups within a society according to rank, role, or age. When participants are taking part in a speech event, their identity, which includes such factors as their status and their role-relationships, effects appropriate patterns of speech acts, includes turn-taking and overlap phenomena and thus particularly involves the patterning of silence on the prosodic dimension.

 2.1.1 Silence

             Silence is the lack of audible sound or presence of sounds of very low intensity. By analogy, the word ‘silence’ can also refer to any absence of communication or hearing, including in media other than speech and music. Silence also refers to no sounds uttered by anybody in a room or area. Silence is an important factor in many cultural spectacles as in rituals.

In discourse analysis, speakers use brief absences of speech to mark the boundaries of prosodic units. Silence in speech can be due to hesitation, stutters, self-correction or a deliberate slowing of speech to clarify or aid the processing of ideas. These are short silences. Longer pauses in language occur in interactive roles, reactive tokens or turn taking (mhtml: file://H:\silence_ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.mht).

Within the field of linguistics, the vital communicative role of conversational silence has long been ignored. For the longest time, it was believed that silence only had a boundary marking, prosodic function, and accordingly, silence was defined as an absence of speech or as “periods of non-speech or non-vocalization in conversation” (Zuo, 2002, p. 4; Tannen &

Saville-Troike, 1985). Whereas words were normally considered the prototypical communicators, silence was believed to be a prototypical non-communicator, in other words, the background against which talk was perceived (Tannen & Saville-Troike, 1985).

However, some scholars argued that silence was, in fact, communicative. As cited by Basso (1970, p. 213), “It is not the case that a man who is silent says nothing" (Anonymous); in fact, by ignoring silence, researchers risked overlooking a bulk of communication, because, as Samarin (1965, p. 115) suggested, "Silence can have meaning. Like the zero in mathematics, it is an absence with a function."

Once people started to recognize the communicative value of silence, scholars argued that “silence warrants further research attention than it has received in the past 30 years” (Sharpley, 1997, p. 244). As interest in silence was revived, the nature of inquiry in the field shifted (Sobkowiak, 1997), and not a moment too soon, as silence exists in almost every human interaction (Sharpley, 1997) and it is pervasive in conversation. As a matter of fact, it constitutes 5-65% of total conversational time because an average conversationalist is silent 40-50 % of the time (Zuo, 2002). Today, the majority of linguists agree that silence is not a void, but a linguistic category with its own structures, meanings, and functions, which jointly contribute to the organization and operation of conversation. Some researchers even argue that it can be considered as a form of speech (Jaworski, 1993; Saville-Troike, 1985). Notably, Matarazzo, Hess, and Saslow (1962b) found that speech and silence behaviours have similar distribution curves.



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