Total Physical Response is an idea that is observable as a baby game, but then become key to learning language because language is learned in both body and mind. Once it was thought language was the thing that separated humans from other mammals, but now we know there is NO separation, just a gradient and the evolution of a few bits here and there. We speak with our hands, we express with our faces. Our bodies are as eloquent as our voices.

The baby game is putting one’s finger on baby’s nose and saying, “This is your nose!” Then on the chin: “This is your chin!” Not just pointing but palpably touching. This is how the baby learns. So when I was taking Blackfeet lessons from Ed Little Plume, he said, “This is your head,” and we all put a hand on our heads. When we came into the Piegan Institute, Darrell gestured welcome and again gestured for us to take a seat, using the Blackfeet words.

“This is when you develop language learning through the use of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. The left side of your brain is normally the language learning center, but combining right and left, your students’ connections, imagery and logic can both be stimulated and used for optimal success.

“This is, in fact, based on a stimulus-response model taken from behavioral psychology, known as the Sv-R type learning. The (Sv) represents the verbal stimulus you give to your students during a TPR activity. The (R) represents your students’ responses to the stimulus (command) you provided. The behavioral psychology of the stimulus-response methods still stands strong. Stimulus-response remains a simple and effective way to elicit action from your students as they build the cognitive map essential for language retention.”

Trace theory is a psychological method used to connect memory with action. The idea behind the trace theory in language is to develop a more intense memory of a word or set of words, which in turn creates more intense imagery and is connected strongly to an action.:

These theories developed by observing behavior and learning. They have been confirmed and elaborated by the incredibly minute study of neurology on the cell molecule level. We know that gestures, contact, feeling, link with the shaped sounds we make or even the imagination of speaking when reading.

I once had a series in high school English that was about the particles that were the roots of words. I found the list of word “families”in a book called “Origins, Volume 2” by Sandra R. Robinson and Lindsay McAuliffe. The first one was “BHEL” (to swell) and was about blow/ball/billow/belly/bowl/bold/ball/bulge/boulder. It meant standing up and then acting out, rolling around, swelling up, and bursting — being balloons. Next was DHREU, to fall: drop/drip/drizzle/dreary/dribble/droop/drowsy. We collapsed in the aisles. This book was from Teachers and Writers Collective. It’s crammed with quotes, exercises and kids acting out words while they expand their vocabularies. The approach would work from 4th grade even to college if you could fire up the class properly

In a time when concepts are expanding faster than vocabulary, forcing us to make new words from old roots, this material is crucial. These roots arose from physical gestures and postures in the first place, so they come naturally and never go obsolete.

As far as I know, no one has written about the liturgical use of combined words/movements/concepts. The most obvious is that of kneeling and bending one’s forehead to the ground but I don’t understand the language in which the words are said. I trust they express much the same thing.

Even standing up in unison as a congregation strikes an internal note that means “important” or “something is going to happen.” Those people who raise an arm to fit their level of faith are affecting those around them as well as marking their response to whatever is happening to them.

It has been fascinating to watch the deaf sign-language interpreters for news persons and politicians. Some are emotional, passionate, and make wide gestures. Others are crisp, contained. In short, their physical gestures are are identity-related as if they were voices.

The point of this varied speculation is that the human individual is a composite of a myriad of forces, some in the body, some in the culture, some in circumstances, some in learned concepts and their expression. We certainly see recently how vulnerable and impermanent people can be, particularly when in a group. We see how useless rational logic is when confronted by waves of physically based emotion though with no evidence.

In college I had a roommate who was a synchronized swimmer, Esther Williams style, young women in a batch swimming with the same moves at the same time: legs up, arms waving, whole body diving — together. I guess it was considered more feminine than competition. One never saw teams of male synchronized swimmers, any more than there were male Rockefeller Center line dancers like CanCan dancers flirting skirts.. But think of military synchronized moves: marching, saluting.

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.