Got You: On Language and Personal Identity

By Beth Gerber

October 7, 2010

If you’re intrigued by the ways we reveal (or don’t reveal) ourselves in speech, check out this 6-minute video featuring actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith. She talks about the ways our individuality lie in the sounds and movements we make when speaking—rather than the bare semantic content of our speech. Smith looks for the heart of character in those times when we abandon our set ways of speaking and start to “sing” rhythmically. And she reveals the three magic questions that can get anyone to “sing”—even a seasoned politician like President Clinton.

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