Maybe I have misinterpreted linguistics?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by pljames, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. pljames Registered Member

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    If a writer changes a core word to another word, either ambiguous or synonymic, have they taken away the original meaning of that word and created in its place an interpreted word, meaning something else they understand other than what the writer meant? Is this the true meaning and understanding of linguistics? Paul/pljames
     
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    * * * * NOTE FROM THE MODERATOR * * * *

    Paul: I finally figured it out. When you write "linguists," you mean "linguistics."

    Linguistics is the study of spoken and written language in general, and of individual languages and language families in particular.

    A linguist is a person who studies language in general and/or languages and language families in particular.

    This was very confusing. I have edited your post and the title of this thread so they make sense. Please note the correct usage of the words in the future. In the Linguistics subforum I like to make sure that language is used correctly.

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    Thanks
    --F.R., Moderator
     
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  5. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    @pj james. You seem to be working on the basis that words have a fixed, concrete meaning, or - at least - you would prefer this was the case. Is this so? Have I understood you correctly?

    If that is your thinking I suggest you are mistaken. Words do not exist in isolation. They are placed within a grammatical structure and within a context. The meaning assigned to a word can change significantly based upon these. This seems to me to give lanaguage much of its richness and value. It is to be welcomed, even embraced rather than seen as an obstacle to communication, which is how I suspect you see it.

    Comments?
     
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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    You couldn't have written that, with the expectation that someone would read it and comprehend it, if you wouldn't believe that "words have a fixed, concrete meaning, or - at least - you would prefer this was the case."
     
  8. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    I think you're talking about literature, or politics.
     
  9. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    Clearly you did not read, or having read failed to understand, the vital caveat that the words will acquire a meaning through grammar and context. But, I forgot...you were not so much disagreeing as following your penchant for being disagreeable.
     
  10. pljames Registered Member

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    Ophiolite,

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    Well said! That's my problem I take every word (literally), therefore I have reading and writing disability. I think in one dimension read and write in one dimension. You are the only person who hit the nail on the head with my question and your answer. After saying that, I wonder if My disability of being one dimensional can be fixed? I am late in life about writing. My argument is if I edit my post to be understood, why would anyone interpret what they thought I said?

    Maybe I am writing in abstract grammar structure instead of grammar structure? I feel hopelessly lost trying to write in two dimensions instead of literally. What must I do to remedy this? And thanks for your patience. Paul


     
  11. pljames Registered Member

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    83
    Ophiolite,
    I just realized I might be writing as interpreting what I think the other person might say and not writing literally? Oh my God! Help! Paul
     
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Does this only occur with written language? You don't have the problem in spoken language?

    My best friend's boyfriend has dyslexia, and I was astounded to learn that it does not only affect reading and writing. He has significant problems with oral communication too. Nonetheless, he has learned to not let his handicap ruin his life. He earns a very good income at a law firm, working with documents every day.

    I was also surprised to learn that the old joke about a child seeing the word "dog" and reading "God" is not the most common manifestaion of dyslexia. He's more likely to read "puppy" or even "cat." He doesn't mix up the letters so much, as the concepts the words represent.

    In any case, I hope you will be inspired by this fellow's success. The human brain contains many circuits. If one doesn't function properly, it's often possible to find another one that can accomplish the desired goal in an unusual but perfectly satisfactory way. But you're probably not going to find it on an internet discussion board populated almost entirely by science students, amateurs and wannabees. You need to consult with a professional who deals with these kinds of problems for a living, and has met dozens of people with problems that are vaguely similar to yours, although not identical. I've never even met the dyslexic fellow I mentioned personally, except for two minutes at his girlfriend's mom's funeral.

    After reading all your posts I'm still not quite sure what you mean by "thinking in one dimension," much less "writing in one dimension." Frankly I'd say that you seem to be using the technique of metaphor, which implies that your cognitive skills are well-developed! A huge percentage of the human population cannot understand the concept of metaphors: to them everything is either truth or a lie.

    Well for starters, let's drop the "one-dimensional" description and see what a professional calls it. For all we know, thousands of people may have had this problem and there's a technique for treating it.

    Personally I have found the Emotional Freedom Technique or "EFT" to be very helpful in solving my problems: it's a not-very-rigorous combination of accupressure and chanting. But its purpose is to help you focus, and I think maybe your problem is that your focus is already too narrow and you need to learn to broaden it. So EFT is probably not the best tool for you.

    In any case, as I said, you need to leave the silicon world and go out into the carbon world to find help. You need to be able to sit down with somebody and have a real-time conversation while he watches you and listens to you. He'll catch your facial expressions and body language, and he'll hear the cadence, pitch, tone and speed of your speech. We don't get any of that here, and it takes you two days to have a conversation that would take ten minutes in real life. With several other people helpfully adding their own ideas and then talking to each other, so it isn't even really a conversation so much as a bunch of people chattering in the lunch room.

    I assume you're American. Most Americans don't write much. They think that condensing their side of a conversation into 140 characters that are mostly abbreviations and symbols is "writing."

    Because no matter how well you edit your post, there is always room for ambiguity in the interpretation of it. Everyone has taken a different path through life, and the things we experience along the way can't help but affect the subtleties in the meanings of words and phrases. If you give the same two-minute discourse to ten people and then ask them to write it down, you'll get ten different transcriptions. Some of the differences will be trivial, but many will not.

    This is one of the things that makes a writer good. His language is so straightforward that there's not much room for misunderstanding. (This only applies to the kind of writing we're doing here... and business writing, journalism, scientific papers, etc. If you're writing a novel or the lyrics to a song you want the reader/listener to inject some of himself into it, so it resonates with him.)

    Once again I can't imagine what you mean by that. "Abstract grammar structure" means nothing to me. But I find your grammar to be perfectly standard. It's not burdened with errors or idiosyncrasies that slow me down when I'm reading it. Your spelling and punctuation could use some work, but you already know that. Whatever you think you might be doing, you're not. So don't worry about it.

    The only way you're "lost" is by using really odd figures of speech like "writing in one dimension." Do you feel that you talk in one dimension too? As I said, I haven't got a clue about what you're referring to so I can't help.

    Here's a plan:
    • Make an appointment with your family doctor.
    • Tell him about your problem.
    • See if he even knows what you're talking about. If it turns out that this problem only occurs in writing and never in speech, then it's a much different kind of problem than if it affects all of your use of language.
    • Listen to his advice. He may recommend you to a language therapist or another type of professional, such as a generic psychotherapist.
    • If he doesn't give you a recommendation, listen very carefully to his explanation for why not. Don't leave his office until you really understand what he's saying. Is he telling you that you can solve this problem by yourself, with some exercises and a couple of books? Or is he telling you that you don't have a problem?
    • If he tells you to buy the books and do the exercises, do it.
    • If he tells you you don't have a problem, then find another doctor. Or perhaps just make an appointment with a good psychotherapist one of your friends recommends. They're much better at dealing with problems of all types than an M.D. (Don't go to an actual psychiatrist: They are M.D.'s and they love to write prescriptions.)
    • By all means, keep in touch here because we all care about you and want to help you identify and solve your problem. But please don't expect us to give you any substantial help in solving it. I'm probably the oldest guy in this discussion (69), and I've been to psychotherapists, and I've had a lot of problems of my own to solve. But I can't solve yours by simply trading messages on an internet board. Heck, I still don't understand it!
    What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean that you're trying to write something the way the other person would write it, instead of your own way? You keep using words in non-standard ways. What does "writing literally" mean?

    Usually, "writing/speaking literally" means to give an accurate account of whatever you're trying to express, whereas to do it "figuratively" instead means to exaggerate or use metaphors.

    "I'm really hungry and it's impairing my ability to concentrate on the lecture." -- That's writing literally.

    "I'm starving to death and if I don't get a hamburger in the next five minutes I'm going to faint." -- That's exaggeration.

    "This must be how people felt when they were taken to Auschwitz." -- That's metaphor.

    You do tend to exaggerate. Whatever your problem is, it's apparently not causing you trouble with your wife, children, friends, manager, co-workers, auto mechanic, police, supermarket clerks, etc.

    Do you have a job that requires a lot of writing? I think you would have told us by now! So your communication ability seems to be adequate to get you through life.

    If you don't have any probem with spoken language, then you're fine. If you'd just like to learn to write better, then that's fine too, but it's not a crisis of Biblical proportions so you don't have to wring your hands and ask God for help with two exclamation points.

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    What you need to do is seek the right resources to work on this problem. You're not going to find them here. It's very unlikely that you'll find them anywhere on the internet, unless this problem is common enough that it has a name and the folks who help people who have it have a website where they give out their advice for free. If that sounds pretty unlikely, it is. But you might find a directory that will help you get in touch with somebody who can help.

    Frankly, if you don't have any better clues, I'd suggest looking for professionals who help patients with dyslexia. Your problem has a little in common with it, so they'd probably be as good a place to start as any.

    Good luck, and keep in touch. But please start looking for real help that you can't get here!
     
  13. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    Writing, literally, is very important if you are doing technical writing. The audience is not looking for clever, entertaining or romantic, but prefers what you are saying is literal, casual and accurate, like the data you are presenting. If one is trying to add subjectivity, to dress up an analysis, then literal cause and effect needs to become more nebulous. If you were writing fiction, which is not real, changing meaning can come in handy to create ambiguity for a murder mystery.

    If you use language to lie, cheat and deceive, 2-D is a prerequisite since literal makes it too easy to fact check. The used car salesman might say this used car is race track ready, to the teen boy who is looking for a fast car. In this case, race car ready has to be interpreted in the context of the used car lot lingo, to mean, this car is a junk. If the salesman said it literally, this car is a junk, he would not be able to use deception quite as easy.

    Someone who is too trusting can be manipulated with the 2-D. They will take you for your literal words, the trick is to use words that are two-faced so you can take advantage of the situation.

    If you were picking us chicks, the 2-D is very useful since this allows you to butter the break on 6 sides, without even using butter. You might say you are the girl of my dreams and then smile with dreamy eyes. She will interpret that as she is the object of a conscious fantasy, not a nightmare. You on the inside, can mean this gal is a nightmare, but if you say girl of my dreams with a smile, you can lure her toward the daydream. Literal would make it harder to pick up chicks, since it does not make as much room for blowing smoke over the mirrors.

    If you ever listen to politicians avoiding answering questions they use the 2-D skill. You may ask if they knew about X. The answer you want is yes or no. But sometimes no can mean a long winded response that seems evasive in taken literally. But to an expert at the linguistic two-step, that long drone is a fancy way to say, yes.
     
  14. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    Consider this simple sentence: I generally don't like having a large meal before a long journey.

    Now say it to yourself out loud with emphasis on the emboldened word.

    I generally don't like having a large meal before a long journey.

    I generally don't like having a large meal before a long journey.

    I generally don't like having a large meal before a long journey.

    I generally don't like having a large meal before a long journey.

    Do you see that the emphasis changes the meaning of the sentences?
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    This is why good writing is not merely transcribed speech. This example was chosen because the emphasis of the key word in each sentence, which in speech is expressed by tone, pitch, longer duration, a longer pause after it, and other techniques, can be pretty well approximated by using a bold face font. But many other non-rhetorical devices cannot be represented so easily. For example, as I've mentioned before, sarcasm is damnably hard to express in writing.

    With the pitifully few exceptions provided by punctuation, in writing you have to express yourself almost exclusively in words. You don't have the non-verbal components of spoken language for help.

    Speaking and writing are two different skills. Almost everyone gets far more (and earlier!) training and practice at talking than writing, so most of us are much better speakers than writers. But there are some surprising exceptions. I once heard a lecture by Nobel-prize winning novelist Saul Bellow, and it was so bad I had to turn it off. He was accustomed to being able to turn every word over in his head before writing it, and then going back and changing it later, so his speech had more uh's than words.

    BTW, you could have changed the emphasis in two more legitimate ways by bolding don't and then before!
     
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    No no no - words have precisely that meaning that Ophiolite gives them! And people have precisely those intentions that Ophiolite claims they have.

    I understand that very well, always have, always will.
     
  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    Uh. You have let the wannabes of education cloud your reason and esp. your confidence in your linguistic ability. Which, in turn, may have indeed negatively affected your linguistic competence.

    But there is probably nothing wrong with you. You might simply not be interested enough to keep up with the jargon of the official elite, but some other people managed to make you feel bad and deficient about that.
     
  18. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    Ah, progress.

     
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    The pot calling the kettle "pushy"!
     
  20. LaurieAG Registered Senior Member

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    Ambiguity often goes hand in hand with written sarcasm and satire.

    In a similar way more than a few of the science fiction stories contained in magazines like "Amazing Stories", between the 50's and the 60's, are ambiguous enough for the authors to avoid direct repercussions in the McCarthy era but are unmistakable satires on the excesses of the era itself.

    George Orwell's "Animal Farm", "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" are other good examples of this genre that retain their relevance.
     
  21. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

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    Lols, Fraggle. If you stray into an Indian forum, you will be horrified to death. In such places, members mingle lots of Hindi words with English. Even a sentence might be partly in Hindi!!
     
  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    We call that "Hinglish." Like Spanglish, Chinglish, etc.

    Almost everyone on my software project team is Indian, but they speak Telugu.
     
  23. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

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    Just inquire more deeply but discretely. Most will be found to be Brahmins too.

    Should set you thinking.
     

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