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Jag, you should consider how long humans, homo sapiens, have been around to how long written language has been around.  Hundreds of thousands of years compared to thousands of years, no matter how you look at it.   That's important, especially when you consider the additional fact that until writing was invented, we had nothing except direct communication to work with.

I'm not denying the importance of words here.  But when you get right down to it, they're just sounds; they need a shared meaning before they can be used to communicate.  But humans can develop that shared meaning even with no words in common - this is how we end up with pidgin languages.  I'm sure you already know that so I won't lecture.

But here's the thing.  We have literally hundreds of thousands of years where the only way to communicate would have been to do it face to face, or at least close enough to see the other person.  Which means that words developed in tandem with nonverbal communication[1].  You said that body language requires cultural referents, and that's true.  But spoken words do too.  Yeah, you can learn a language without ever talking or listening to a native speaker, but it's rather tough to make yourself understood in that case; you're going to be missing both the way the words are pronounced and the referents that help glue the language together.

This is just a hypothetical on my part; I could easily be wrong.  But I think that we fill in the blanks in text-only conversation by imagining how the person we're conversing with would have looked and sounded when saying it, possibly by substituting in people we actually know who act similarly.  Again, I don't know if that's the case, but I think it's at least going to be in the ballpark.
 1. I don't know how they balance out, but I am pretty sure that nonverbal/subverbal is going to outweigh verbal, simply because of the fact that we start out with no language at all and have to pick it up from listening, and still manage to pick up enough to be able to talk within 2-3 years.
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junebug72 Keeping it interesting August 13, 2017, 04:44:41 PM