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Shannon Bleakney

on 12 January 2014

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Transcript of Language

Language as a Way of Knowing
Gender Language
A stereotype is a negative effect of labels. It happens when certain traits become a constant association with a certain group of people.
Rule Governed, Intended and Open Ended
These are the three "rules" to distinguish language from non language.
"Does Language Shape how you think?"
Whorf v Jakobson
Nachbar v Nachbarin
Egocentric v Geocentric
War-speak & Weasel Words
1. Grammar and vocabulary are two examples of rules. Grammar helps determine the meaning of a sentence by organizing the words in a certain order. Vocabulary is which words connect with which objects.
2. Language must also be intended. Information can be communicated whether it is intended or not. Take body language for example, if you purposely make a yawning gesture while someone is speaking, it communicates that you are bored. If you unintentionally yawn while trying to look interested, this may also convey disinterest, however cannot be considered language because it was not intended.
3. Language is open ended as well. It must be able to develop, and express thoughts and feelings and be able to create multiple ideas, not just simple questions, answers and warnings. For example, birds may have the ability to warn others of danger, but not specify what and where, which defines it as a non language.
An example of this is with nationalities, like all Americans are obnoxious, while all Canadians are annoyingly polite.
However, not all generalizations are stereotypes. A stereotype can be distinguished as a negative assumption applied to ALL members of a group. It is an example of prejudice and it is an opinion that can not often be changed.
In English, when we speak, we often do not have two words, describing the same thing, differing only in gender. In many other languages, there are gender specific words.
In German, nachbar is the word to describe a male neighbour, while nacharbin describes a female neighbour.
Another example is in French, with the word dog. Chein is masculine while chienne is feminine.
It is also the case with adjectives, again, using French as an example, excité is for masculine nouns while excitée is for feminine nouns.
Another thing absent in the English Language are gender associations.
In french, a forche (fork) has a feminine connotation.
A bridge is another example. In German, a bridge is feminine, and when asked to describe a bridge, they would use words with feminine connotations, such as beautiful. In Spanish, a bridge is masculin, and they would use words with masculin connotation, such as strong.
Definition, Denotation and Image Theories
these are the two different ways of interpreting directions, egocentric is thinking of directions and how they relate to you (left, right, around the corner) while geocentric is North, South, East and West
in certain areas, people are brought up thinking using geocentric directions, and they are continuously aware of where they are in relation to the world
they are consistently able to recognize where they are not just in the present, but also in the past, and their directions always match up with one anothers memories
these are two ways of manipulating language to influence and persuade people
war-speak is used in times of war to manipulate the way we see things, it is a way of covering up the truth about the cruel bloodiness of war by using coded language, for example, neutralize means kill
weasel words are a non committal way to give a way out, examples are many, should and probably, they give people an escape from saying anything absolute
Language is one of the main ways of knowing.
The definition theory is that all word must defined by a commonly accepted meaning, like a dictionary. However, not all words can be properly defined, for example, love or purple.
The denotation theory states that words must have meaning by referring to something that exists, that can be seen. The problem with this is that it excludes words that are emotional and philosophical, like freedom.
The image theory is the idea that the meaning of a word is the image it creates in your mind. But how can we be sure everyone has the same image in our minds.
The two theories surrounding languages and how language shapes how you think.
Whorf claimed that if the word didn't exist in your own language, you simply didn't understand what it meant.
The problem with Whorf's theory is that even though there may not be words for certain things in one language, you can still describe it with other words, and you still know what something means even if you don't have a word for it.
Jakobson claims that language does shape how you think, but not to the extent Whorf thought it did. He thought gender languages and laguages that reveal gender and egocentric/geocentric languages were proof of his theory.
An article that discusses both Whorf and Jakobson theories, as well as evidence that what lanuage you speak shapes how you think, like how in some languages you use different words for different genders and how certain words are feminine in some languages but masculin in others and thinking of directions in relation to you vs in relation to the world.
Ambiguity can cause a problem in language
Ambiguity is when certain words can have a double meaning or the meaning is vague and unclear.
Ambiguity can then be used to manipulate our ability to understand language, and impair the reliability of using language as a way of knowing.
Connotations are the emotional ties or connections to a word. There is a root word, which is neutral, and then other other words, which mean the same thing, yet they have an implication tied to them, for example, negative or positive connotations.
An example of this is the root word thin, with no connotations. When you think of a word that means the same thing, except with a positive connotation, you think of slender, however a word with a negative connotation would be skinny.
Connotations manipulate our own ability to infer meaning and emotion from words, which in turn, can affect the reliability of using language as a way of knowing.
It is how we communicate with and learn from one another, which means it is an important WOK. It also means that its manipulation is also important to the way we understand things.
Ambiguity, connotations, stereotypes, war speak and weasel words all manipulate our minds into thinking about things in a certain way, in some cases in the way the user of these devices thinks.
In a certain way, it takes away our ability to think for ourselves, by putting preconceived interpretations in our head.
It gives us a reason to be somewhat skeptical about what we learn through language, and think critically about what we hear and gives us the opportunity to strip away these divices and interpret things for your self.
Language is unique to the human species.
Language is a unique feature to humans. Because of language must be rule governed, intended, creative and open ended, animals cannot speak a language.
Although other animals communicate, it doesn't go much farther than to warn others of danger.
Language has its own problems as a WOK.
On top of problems posed by vagueness, ambiguity, metaphors (used for a meaning under the literal meaning), and secondary meanings, two other problems are that it can't be confirmed that everyone has the same meaning for certain words, and that ideas can be lost in translation.
La Fin!
Not everyone has the same grasp of what words mean. Although the definition, denotation and image theories attempt to synchronize a universal meaning, not all words can be defined, not all words can be concrete things and not all words can hold the exact same image for everyone.
Language shapes how we think.
The second of the two problems is that meaning can be lost in translation. When we look at translating gender languages and languages with gender distinction, meaning is lost when translated to a language without those two attributes.
Kanzi is a bonobo chimpanzee who was taught by his trainer to use a lexicon.
Some could argue that his ability to respond to verbal cues could be proof that animals can understand language.
However, due to the three distinguishing factors or language, Kanzi's ability to use a lexicon is not language because it does not have grammar nor is it creative and open ended.
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