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Language unit Review. Mr. James, Theory of Knowledge. What is language?. Language is … Rule governed Intended Creative Open-ended. The Problem of Meaning. Theories Definition Theory Dictionary definition of the word Denotation Theory

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language unit review

Language unit Review

Mr. James, Theory of Knowledge

what is language
What is language?

Language is …

  • Rule governed
  • Intended
  • Creative
  • Open-ended
the problem of meaning
The Problem of Meaning

Theories

  • Definition Theory
    • Dictionary definition of the word
  • Denotation Theory
    • Literal meaning of a word. Word was created to describe real-world object or concept. Example: Bird is the word for flying animal.
  • Image Theory
    • The mental image conjured when a word is produced. Each image varies from person to person. Example: Chocolate
meaning as know how
Meaning as Know-How
  • Problematic Meaning:
    • Robert Frost (1874-1963) “We rarely say exactly what we mean for ‘we like to talk in parables and in hints and in indirections – whether from diffidence or some other instinct.’
  • Meaning and Interpretation
    • We can summarize our discussion or problematic meaning in three words: language is ambiguous. The implication is that there is an element of interpretation built into communication. Although language is governed by rules, many of the rules are quite loose.
problematic meaning
Problematic Meaning
  • Vagueness
  • Ambiguity
  • Secondary Meaning
  • Metaphor
  • Irony
vagueness
Vagueness

Words such as fast and slow are intrinsically vague and their meaning depends on context.

  • Fast means something different to a long-distance runner and a F1 driver.
  • Vague words are still useful-they can’t “pin” things own, but can point us in the right direction.
  • Example: How little hair must one have to be bald?
ambiguity
Ambiguity

Many words and phrases are ambiguous: “The Duchess cannot bear children” can have different meanings

  • Ambiguity can be amusing, but it can also mislead people. Politicians deliberately exploit ambiguous sentences so that they can be understood in different ways by different listeners…
example
Example

“I am opposed to taxes which damage incentives” could be taken to mean, “I am opposed to all taxes because they damage incentives,” or “I am opposed only to those taxes which damage incentives.”

ambiguity1
Ambiguity

Many words and phrases are ambiguous: “The Duchess cannot bear children” can have different meanings

  • Ambiguity can be amusing, but it can also mislead people. Politicians deliberately exploit ambiguous sentences so that they can be understood in different ways by different listeners…
  • Context can help us determine the meaning of an ambiguous sentence:

“They saw Mrs. Jones and the dog sitting under the table.”

secondary meaning
Secondary Meaning

Connotation. The denotation of a word is what it refers to, the connotation is the web of associations that surround it. While the denotation is generally publicly known, connotations vary from person to person.

  • Euphemisms: Sometimes we use euphemisms for harsh words because they have more acceptable connotations
    • Passed away/died – passed away brings with it associations of peace and serenity
metaphor
Metaphor

We use language not only literally, but also metaphorically. You might say, “Mr. James has his head in the clouds” or “Ms. Mudren is a pillar of the community.” “Mr. Gronholm has deep roots in Chicago.”

  • Despite these sentences being literally false, each of them may be metaphorically true.
  • Ordinary language is riddle with “dead metaphors”, such as “nightfall” and “sharp tongue”. These phrases are so familiar that we have forgotten their metaphorical origin
irony
Irony

Saying one thing in order to mean the opposite.

“Nice weather, eh?” or “Any more bright ideas, Einstein?”

  • Irony is found in all cultures
  • Irony means that we cannot necessarily take a statement at face value.
meaning and interpretation
Meaning and Interpretation

Why should we care about the meaning of words? Does it really matter if we cannot pin down the meaning of a word?

  • In some cases it definitely does. What is the difference between “murder” and “manslaughter”
  • If you want to have a “war on terrorism” you must be clear about what you mean by “terrorist.”
  • Politicians manipulate the meaning of words: unemployment, taxes, death tax.
  • Tricksters, Carnies, and Con-Men also exploit vague language
language and translation
Language and Translation
  • Problems of Translation
    • Context
      • The meaning of a word in a language partly is partly determined by its relation to other words
    • Untranslatable Words
      • Every language contains words that have no equivalent in other languages
    • Idioms
      • Colloquial expression whose meaning cannot be worked out from the meanings of the words it contains
how would you translate
How would you translate…
  • …barking up the wrong tree?
  • …pulling your leg?
  • …resting on your laurels?
labels and stereotypes
Labels and Stereotypes
  • Labels
    • Short word or phrase descriptive of an object, person, group, etc. (golf clubs, IB students, gleeks)
  • Stereotypes
    • A simplified conception or image of a person, group, etc., rooted in perceived attributes of the label of the person, group, etc.
language and thought
Language and Thought
  • Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
    • Linguistic Determinism: The idea that language and its structures limit and determine human knowledge or thought(we can’t see things another way)
    • Linguistic Relativism: The idea that the language a person speaks influences that person’s cognition (learn a different language, see the world differently)
doctor story
Doctor Story

A father is driving in a car with his son. They get into an accident, the father is killed instantly, and the son is rushed to the hospital. The doctor comes in and says, “I cannot operate, this is my son.”

How can this be?

language and values
Language and Values
  • Using Language to Influence and Persuade
    • Emotionally laden language
    • Weasel Words