2014 Student Research Conference:
27th Annual Student Research Conference

Speech and Nonsense in Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times
Drew Roberson
Dr. Monica Barron, Faculty Mentor

Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times bridges the gap between silent film and the "talkies" that he opposed. Though he believed pantomime was the best method of cinematic story telling, the film features instances of verbal sound. This essay examines the reasons Chaplin included these instances in his otherwise silent picture, focusing on the Tramp's nonsense song. After noticing the song's structure and rhymes, I examined the lyrics and analyzed the sound of the words in an attempt to interpret and translate them. In addition to completely invented words, the lyrics feature morphological blends and borrow from major Romance languages, but when pieced together remain meaningless. However, my analysis of the Tramp's complex and deliberate body language revealed that his pantomime tells a coherent story, not the lyrics. Thus, I concluded that pantomime is a universal language that is just as effective in telling a story as dialogue, if not more so.

Keywords: Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin, Speech, Film, Pantomime, Language, Sound, Silent

Topic(s):Interdisciplinary
English
Linguistics

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 311-3
Location: VH 1010
Time: 1:30

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