Study Guide

Room Language and Communication

By Emma Donoghue

Language and Communication

Jack and Ma don't have a lot to do inside Room. You can only run around an 11x11 room, or jump on the bed, or scream for help so many times before you get bored, you know?

One of the many activities Ma creates to pass the time in Room involves building Jack's vocabulary. Together, they make "word sandwiches," an easier to understand (and pronounce) way of saying portmanteau. Ma has Jack play Parrot, a game during which he recites back phrases people say on TV. (Do you think he can say, "I'd like to buy a vowel"?) They also rhyme words and come up with synonyms to pass the time.

So, Jack might have a huge vocabulary, but sometimes he doesn't quite know how to use it—he's still only five, after all. The quirky way he puts words together is all part of his charm and unique voice.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How does Jack's vocabulary allow him to better relate to the world? Does having such a large vocabulary ever cause problems for Jack?
  2. Jack tells Grandma at one point that he knows all the words. Are there words he doesn't know? Are there words he fundamentally misunderstands?
  3. What are some of your favorite "word sandwiches" created by Jack and Ma? Do you have others you particularly like? How many more can you come up with?

Chew on This

Ma carefully words things to shape Jack's worldview, and Jack's worldview in turn shapes his vocabulary. For example, Jack believes everything on TV is imaginary, so he starts using the word "TV" to mean "imaginary."

Jack's vocabulary keeps him from being a so-called feral child, the type of kid you sometimes see on the news who has been raised by wolves or something. Jack's vocabulary makes him civilized.