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Focus Questions. What is the relationship between language and thought? How do labels affect meaning? What are the implications of recognizing that language is a process? How do rules guide communication? How does punctuation influence the meaning of communication?. Language and Meaning.

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focus questions
Focus Questions
  • What is the relationship between language and thought?
  • How do labels affect meaning?
  • What are the implications of recognizing that language is a process?
  • How do rules guide communication?
  • How does punctuation influence the meaning of communication?

Verbal Communication

language and meaning
Language and Meaning
  • Language (words) in the human world
  • Features of Language (Symbols)
    • Arbitrary
      • Not intrinsically connected to what is represented; no natural relationship
      • Commonly shared & used in a society; meaning changes over time
    • Ambiguous
      • No precise, clear-cut meanings; within a range of meaning but with degrees of uncertainty
      • Specific to contexts, individual experience; relationships
    • Abstract
      • Not concrete or tangible
      • Various abstractness (degrees away from external, objective phenomenon) e.g, “reading matter” 讀物

Verbal Communication

symbols and meaning
Symbols and Meaning
  • Ladder of Abstraction (Korzybski & Hayakawa)
    • Steps away from observed phenomenon
    • See Figure 4.1 (page 103)
  • Overgeneralization
    • General language to describe groups of people
    • Perceptions (recall) consistent with labels used
    • Labels predispose selective perception

Verbal Communication




Wealth: characteristics of

“Bessie” are left out.


Asset: all valuable things


Farm assets: in common with other

salable items on the farm


Livestock: referring to characteristics

in common with chicken, goats..


Cow: common characteristics;

not peculiar to specific ones


“Bessie”: the name we give to the object (cow)


Cow: not the word, but the object experience


Cow: consists of atoms, electronics…etc;

scientific reference

Verbal Communication

principles of communication
Principles of Communication
  • Interpretation creates meaning
    • Active, creative process of making sense
    • Process of constructing meaning
    • Brute facts vs. Institutional facts
      • Brute fact: objective, concrete phenomena (e.g., huddling in football)
      • Institutional fact: interpreted meaning of brute fact (players planning the next step)
  • Communication is guided by rules (p. 106: task-to-do)
    • Rule learning through socialization
    • Regulative rules: specify when, how, where…
    • Constitutive rules: define meaning

Verbal Communication

principles of communication continued
Principles of Communication (continued)
  • Punctuation affects meaning
    • Marks a flow of activity into meaning units
    • Determines initiation, interaction, invitation, participation…
    • In personal relationships: demand-withdraw pattern (Figure 4.2, p. 108)

Verbal Communication

symbolic abilities
Symbolic Abilities
  • Language defines phenomena
    • Totalizing: one label represents a person totally; ignoring other aspects
    • Totalizing: spotlighting an aspect; stereotyping: describing with group characteristics
  • Language evaluates phenomena (not neutral)
    • Symbols are loaded with ‘value’
    • Loaded language
  • Language organizes experiences
    • Categories that we place people

Verbal Communication

symbolic abilities 2
Symbolic Abilities (2)
  • Language allows hypothetical thinking
    • Visions of the future
  • Language allows self-reflection
    • I : spontaneous, creative self
    • Me: socially conscious self
    • 佛洛依德︰
      • id本我 – unconscious & instinctive
      • ego自我 – between id and superego
      • superego超我 – of moral and social rules

Verbal Communication

symbolic abilities 3
Symbolic Abilities (3)
  • Language defines relationships & interaction
    • Three dimensions of relationship-level meaning
      • Responsiveness: question & statements (responses, feedback)
      • Liking: When we say “I care about you.”
      • Power: Establishing control

Verbal Communication

guidelines for verbal comm
Guidelines for Verbal Comm.
  • Engage in person-centered communication
  • Be conscious of levels of abstraction
  • Qualify language
    • Avoid overgeneralization
    • Avoid static evaluation: She ‘is’ selfish
    • Indexing technique: evaluation only applies to specific times, circumstances
  • Own your feelings and thoughts: Claim feelings but not blame others for that
    • You vs. I language (p. 120) (Note: Chinese cultural & syntax differences)

Verbal Communication