Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Different signs

Travelling quite often propels you into a very different semiotic context in which, at least in the first few days, you are unusually sensitive to what it is that you don't understand and those things which in theory, at least, should be completely obvious. You realise that it's far more than just language, or even one's ability to navigate the immediate environment. It is as if your whole communicative system has been derailed. My recent forays into the vocabulary of hands, gestures and pointing, and their place in everyday communicative encounters, has made me increasingly sensitive to the differences here in KL. There are, for instance, some very different ways of pointing and attracting attention. It's easy to be misinterpreted before one has even attempted verbal communication. Hands, arms and the rest also have deep historical, cultural and religious significance, as this Nataraj statue in the Batu caves illustrates.

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