Silence is the absence of ambient audible sound, the emission of sounds of such low intensity that they do not draw attention to themselves, or the state of having ceased to produce sounds; this latter sense can be extended to apply to the cessation or absence of any form of communication, whether through speech or other medium.
Sometimes speakers fall silent when they hesitate in searching for a word, or interrupt themselves before correcting themselves.
Discourse analysis shows that people use brief silences to mark the boundaries of prosodic units, in turn-taking, or as reactive tokens, e.g., as a sign of displeasure, disagreement, embarrassment, desire to think, confusion, and the like.
Relatively prolonged intervals of silence can be used in rituals; in some religious disciplines, people maintain silence for protracted periods, or even for the rest of their lives, as an ascetic means of spiritual transformation.
Joseph Jordania has suggested that in social animals (including humans), silence can be a sign of danger.
Many social animals produce seemingly haphazard sounds which are known as contact calls. These are a mixture of various sounds, accompanying the group’s everyday business (for example, foraging, feeding), and they are used to maintain audio contact with the members of the group.
Some social animal species communicate the signal of potential danger by stopping contact calls and freezing, without the use of alarm calls, through silence.
Charles Darwin wrote about this in relation with wild horse and cattle. Jordania has further suggested that human humming could have been a contact method that early humans used to avoid silence. According to his suggestion, humans find prolonged silence distressing (suggesting danger to them).
This may help explain why lone humans in relative sonic isolation feel a sense of comfort from humming, whistling, talking to themselves, or having the TV or radio on.
- Anechoic chamber
- Awkward silence
- Background noise
- Blue Code of Silence
- Dead air
- List of silent musical compositions
- Murke’s Collected Silences
- Noble Silence
- Radio silence
- Silencer (disambiguation)
- Silent film
- Silent letter
- Spiral of silence
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