In linguistics, prosody (from Greek προσῳδία, prosōidía) is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of connected speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the emotional state of a speaker; whether an utterance is a statement, a question, or a command; whether the speaker is being ironic or sarcastic; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of language that may not be encoded by grammar or choice of vocabulary.
The study of linguistics is, at its core, the reconstruction of a base set of building blocks. When carefully deconstructed, approximately 95.6% of known languages consist of the same twenty to sixty phonemes. These pieces are then carefully arranged into a far larger variety of morphemes, but any given language is still simply a variation of any other at the most basic level of comprehension. Accepting this essential fact is the first step in becoming a master of xenolinguistics. Without such a calm reassurance that one is simply relearning previously understood concepts in a slightly different order, a cadet would drown in the vast ocean of linguistic variety after only the first month.
Cadet Uhura had long since taken a more aggressive stance than most regarding this golden rule of linguistics, making it a core principle of her life in general. She simply could find no reason not to. Everything concerning a species, from its language to its culture, could be broken down to its core components and, with the right amount of dedication and creativity, rearranged to become the words and rituals of an utterly different race. One only had to be willing to search for those phonemes, those base components, and patient enough to align them to a different morphology to understand the whole. And Nyota Uhura is nothing if not patient.
There is, for instance, the near universal language of unspoken communication. She has qualified merely standing as a phoneme of body language: a basic distinctive unit of communication shared by all bipedal races. Uhura classifies physical proximity to a conversation partner as full blown morpheme, a meaningful part of single word. Then, when the two items are combined, they at last create a meaningful word in this often neglected language. As additional components are added, the presence or absence of eye contact, the duration and frequency of the interaction, syntax can be applied to these lone pieces of language, giving rise to full sentences complete with their own meaning and morphology. Through her years at the Academy, Uhura has become nearly fluent in the more subtle languages formed by such seemingly meaningless phonemes.
She is consistently amused, therefore, when her fellow students insist Commander Spock is too quiet for their taste. Too withdrawn. They wonder how she can tolerate spending so many additional hours in his presence as she serves as his assistant. Isn't the silence suffocating? Doesn't it make you panic when he just stares at you like that? She can only chalk up their ignorance to laziness, in the end. How they expected to be skilled xenolinguists without understanding how to recognize the basic components of language in the world around them was simply beyond her. In the end she supposes that sort of dedication is what divides the top student from the rest of the class.
At the moment he is wordlessly contemplating why she is watching his hands. The Romulan text scrolling across the screen laid on the table before them should be the focus of them both, but for the past four seconds she has paid far more attention to how his finger follows a line of script rather than the words themselves. She feels no concern over her inattention. Uhura had naturally already translated the document in its entirety before meeting with him to discuss its appropriateness for the following months lecture. She could answer any question regarding the piece without refreshment.
He does not look up from the item, his right hand planted firmly on the table and bearing his weight as he speaks. He doesn't truly move as her attention shifts to him, but she can see the thought. He is wondering through the culmination of a dozen unspoken morphemes why she is staring at his skin and for a moment she can only smile to herself. For all his brilliance, Spock is a scientist, not a linguist. He can observe the signs, analyze the individual components, but without her grasp of syntax he cannot combine the pieces to decipher the meaning of the whole.
His movements speak to her in sentences as they continue their review of the text. She could fill novels with the amount of communication he manages through only posture and shifting. But her understanding isn't perfect. It irks her incessantly that, for all her grasp of his private syntax and morphology, she cannot yet completely understand the tone and inflection. There are motivations behind his communications that she can guess at, at times hope for, but cannot be certain of. Though it does not drive her to distraction as they speak of the more subtle meanings in the text before them, it does continue to occupy a small section of her mind.
She has her theories. Uhura is fairly certain that, statistically speaking, she is the commander's preferred company. While she had not done anything as desperate as run her calculations through an analysis of variance, her rough estimations indicated the difference in the percentage of his time spent with her compared to any other student or officer borders on being significant. Even when the mandatory office hours between and instructor and assistant are taken into account and removed from the equation, the sheer amount of time they spent in each others company can not easily be discounted. Nor could the fact that despite his consistent unspoken pondering regarding why she was there, or watching him, or simply sitting with him, he had never once requested that she stop. Though she does not yet have a thorough understanding of his language's various features outside the normal syntax, by now Uhura is confident that one day she will.
They had determined nearly half an hour ago that the text was utterly unsuitable for his introductory course. It was far too complicated and subtle to force upon students still adjusting to academy life; they would need to find another item to replace it in the syllabus. Their conversation regarding the piece showed no sign of relenting, however. As he once more leans forward to point to a particular line in support of his argument, an interpretation of the meaning Uhura primarily agrees with save for a few minor points, the cadet acknowledges that perhaps the best way to determine the validity of her theories on meaning is to test her hypothesis. The best way to discover the correct translation of an item is to present it to a native speaker, after all.
His hand returns from indicating the text to rest on the table once more and she offers her unspoken hypothesis. She leans forward to direct his attention to the paragraph which supports her position with her left hand, placing the other on the table so the edges of their smallest fingers press against each other. It's a far cry from holding hands, but given what she does know about the Vulcan, Uhura is sure even that level of contact will be significant enough.
He makes a rather elegant rebuttal of her last point regarding the text. All his posture tells her is How curious.
When he next gestures to the text, however, he uses his other hand. Even as she shakes her head at his translation of the line, Uhura smiles slightly at the continued warmth from his hand along the side of hers. It would seem her hypothesis concerning his prosody was indeed correct. She may not yet be fluent, but for now knowing he will not mind her being so is enough.
AN: Well, I didn't think it would be possible to write a story even less fluffy than 'Silence,' but I managed it. These two really just make the most wonderful, atypically romantic couple to me and I simply can't write anything that even borders classic romance for them. Thank you to those who have suffered though.