Summary of “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Basso, K. H.

In the article “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture”, written by Keith H. Basso. The article’s primary focus is on the Western Apaches’ customs that how they have a different culture from the rest of society. In different societies, people have different norms and cultures that they follow. A person who enters a community with a different culture tends to be alienated by these norms. The author relies on the fact that it is often difficult for people to grasp where to speak in different contexts presented to them in social settings. The paper’s main argument is to discuss, with examples, why people of Western Apache society refrain from a speech in different settings and why it is relevant to other communities. The article demonstrates several ethnographic examples found in the Western Apache culture. The author elaborates that the people of this culture are bound by kinship, and they are socially linked with each other. It makes society very interwoven. Different examples are given to support the hypothesis. These examples include the cases when the Western Apaches refrain from talking, such as a new couple during court, when someone is angry when Apaches meet strangers, when children come home after being at boarding school, and when an individual is angry sad. These examples are supported by pieces of evidence that are short scriptures taken from different Apache informants. The evidence that is provided by the author is very accurate and up to the mark. It paints a clear picture of a lack of speech in Western Apaches in different contexts. The examples clarify how Apaches are others from the rest of the world when they refrain from talking in different social situations. It also makes the reader sure that the author’s argument is valid, and the absence of speech is an integral part of Western Apache’s culture. According to the author, a person doesn’t have to make a speech to communicate. Language is a complex system that includes mutual understanding and shared culture. It makes us understand that language is subjective, and it changes according to different social contexts. The article is surprising for us, as people in other societies have different cultures. They usually tend to use speech to communicate. In Western Apaches’ culture, they follow a lack of speech that can be shocking for people who study it for the first time. So the author’s main point is to tell how refraining from the speech is different in all the social settings. It depends upon the social norms of the society rather than in the context of the social background, which might differ. He intended to educate the world that language is the mean of communication that does not always require speech. People can communicate by remaining silent, just like Western Apaches do. This form of communication can be healthy and can lead to many benefits in different social settings. In the article, the author was persistent about his argument, and he successfully portrayed what he wanted the audience to know and learn.

Relevant to the article’s main argument, this image  portrays that speech is not a necessary concept to communicate. Silence is another form of communication. This image depicts that a person does not need to speak to communicate with others. There are the benefits of a lack of speech on certain occasions of life. The image explores that silence can be an advantageous mode of communication. It is about conveying a message, and sometimes silence can do better than words.

Basso, K. H. (1970). ‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology26(3), 213-230.

One thought on “Summary of “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Basso, K. H.

  1. Your summary identifies some of the more general or implied arguments from the reading, but doesn’t give the reader a good sense of what the article is specifically addressing, which is the features that all uses of silence in Apache culture have in common. You hint at this toward the beginning, but don’t elaborate on it thoroughly.

    You include a list of examples that the author uses as evidence, but more detail here would be helpful, especially in regards to what the examples you mention have in common and why that helps the author support his overall argument.

    In your discussion of the contribution of this article, you identify some of the more general implications of what’s being discussed, for example that language use differs among cultures. These are so general that they might apply to almost any reading, however, so your summary would benefit from going into more detail about what this article specifically is saying about language use.

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