Sabtu, 08 Oktober 2011

Strategi Pembelajaran B. Inggris

What is language?
Language is the most important aspect in the life of all beings.

We use language to express inner thoughts and emotions, make sense of complex and abstract thought, to learn to communicate with others, to fulfill our wants and needs, as well as to establish rules and maintain our culture.

Language can be defined as verbal, physical, biologically innate, and a basic form of communication.
Behaviorists often define language as a learned behavior involving a stimulus and a response.(Ormrod,1995)
Often times they will refer to language as verbal behavior, which is language that includes gestures and body movements as well as spoken word. (Pierce, & Eplin, 1999)
When we define language we have to be careful not to exclude symbols, gestures, or motions. This is because if we exclude these from our definition, we will be denying the language of the deaf community.

All human languages share basic characteristics, some of which are organizational rules and infinite generatively.
Infinite generatively is the ability to produce an infinite number of sentences using a limited set of rules and words. (Santrock,& Mitterer,2001)

Theories of Language Development
  • The Learning Perspective 
The Learning perspective argues that children imitate what they see and hear, and that children learn from punishment and reinforcement.(Shaffer,Wood,& Willoughby,2002).
The main theorist associated with the learning perspective is B.F. Skinner. Skinner argued that adults shape the speech of children by reinforcing the babbling of infants that sound most like words. (Skinner,1957,as cited in Shaffer,et.al,2002).  
  • The Nativist Perspective
The nativist perspective argues that humans are biologically programmed to gain knowledge. The main theorist associated with this perspective is Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky proposed that all humans have a language acquisition device (LAD). The LAD contains knowledge of grammatical rules common to all languages (Shaffer,et.al,2002).The LAD also allows children to understand the rules of whatever language they  are  listening to. Chomsky also developed the concepts of transformational grammar, surface structure, and deep structure.
Transformational grammar is grammar that transforms a sentence. Surface structures are words that are actually written. Deep structure is the underlying message or meaning of a sentence. (Matlin, 2005).   
 
  • Interactionist Theory    
Interactionists argue that language development is both biological and social. Interactionists argue that language learning is influenced by the desire of children to communicate with others.
The Interactionists argue that "children are born with a powerful brain that matures slowly and predisposes them to acquire new understandings that they are motivated to share with others" (Bates,1993;Tomasello,1995, as cited in shaffer,et al.,2002,p.362).
The main theorist associated with interactionist theory is Lev Vygotsky.Interactionists focus on Vygotsky's model of collaborative learning ( Shaffer,et al.,2002). Collaborative learning is the idea that conversations with older people can help children both cognitively and linguistically (Shaffer, et.al, 2002). 








Four Main Aspects of Language
What are the main aspects we are dealing with here?                                                                         
Phonology
Phonology is the study of sounds in a language.
Phoneme: the basic unit of sound.

 
Semantics
Semantics is the study of the meaning of language
Morpheme: The smallest unit of sound to carry meaning.

Pragmatics
 Pragmatics is the study of the use of language. Deals with the intentions behind the utterances.

Syntax
 Syntax is the study of the structure of language and how words can be formed to create grammatically correct sentences.


Competencies
Linguistic Competence

-Aquired when a person has achieved all four aspects of language (phonology, pragmatics, semantics, and syntax).

Communicative Competence

Aquired when they can apply this in their everyday speaking. When one can use L.C. appropriately in a variety of social situations.




Phonology
What's in a sound?
We define speech sounds in terms of their descriptive features and use these features to classify the sound according to the source of the sound in the vocal tract and the shape of the vocal tract.

Speech sounds can be classified as either vowels or consonants.
Consonants: The air does not flow freely
Vowels: Lets air flow freely, shape of vocal tract is altered to create different sounds.

Consonants are classified by:
1) Voicing
2) Manner of production
3) Place of articulation

1)  Voiced vs. Unvoiced

Voiced: A voiced sound is when the vocal folds vibrate which feels like a buzzing sensation in the throat. Such sounds could be 'v' and 'z'.  These sounds can be either hummed or sung.
Example: Put your fingers on the front of your throat and say 'v'.
Unvoiced: Unvoiced sounds do not cause the vocal folds to vibrate, instead, the unvoiced sounds are produced typically by turbulence also know as airstream friction. This friction produces a hissing sound and is produced when air is forced through a small gap such as between the teeth and tongue. Such sounds include 'f' and 's'.
Example: Put your fingers on the front of your throat and say 'F' and then compare it to 'V'.
Feel the difference??

Here are some pairs of voiced/unvoiced sounds:
b/p, v/f, d/t, g/k, z/s.

2)  Manner of production

stops- air flow stopped completely ex: p, k, d
fricatives: flow restricted but not stopped ex: f, v, s
affricates: stop then fricative ex: ch, dj
glides: w, j
liquids: r, l
nasals: n, m

3)  Place of articulation

Bilabial: lips together: b, p, m
Labiodental: lip to teeth: f, v
Interdental: tongue between teeth: 'th' in that and 'th' in thin
Alveolar: tip of tongue on alveolar ridge: z, t, d
Palatal: tongue on palate: r, dj, gh
Velar: roll tongue to back of throat: k, ng (sing), g
Glottal: back bottom of throat: h
  
For a more detailed description of phonology and sounds click the link below. You can click on the tables and click the symbols to hear how each sounds. It is neat!

Something very interesting is how children all share common phonological processes and errors. Ex: stopping, voicing, consonant cluster reduction, etc. To learn more about the errors and processes children go through, I highly encourage you to click the link below and take a look at a site by Caroline Bowen.


Semantics 

Morphemes

Morphemes carry the smallest units of meaning. They cannot be divided, yet they can be big such as with the word elephant, or small such as the 's' in dogs.
Ex:
ketchup = 1 morpheme
raced = 2 morphemes (race + past tense 'ed')
Mrs. Conner = 1 morpheme (to a child, a person's name is all one word)

Children are constantly developing new strategies for learning the meaning of words and relating them. This being said, It is important to point the probably obvious...
Every word has a referent. Every word refers to something. But, a referent isn't the meaning of the word mind you! No no, in fact, the relationship between a name and an object is quite arbitrary (Morris, 1946).

What is more, is that this relationship, however arbitrary, does carry symbolic meaning. For example, the word 'table'.
Think of a table. Go on and picture it!
Goood.. You see, everyone has a different mental image of a table, yet, if one of you saw a different table, one that did not match your mental image you just formed, that doesn't mean that the word 'table'  doesn't have meaning anymore. It still has meaning since the word table is a cognitive construct. Similarly, regardless if the table was different than your mental image, you would still know it was a table. This is because you have grasped the idea of categorical concepts.

********************I must add that it is possible for a word and it's referent to have a relationship that is not arbitrary. For example, like where the referent is what any English majors would call an onomatopoeia, meaning, the referent sounds like the word sound. IE: bark, thump, or buzz. (Berko Gleason, J., 2005)

So how are categorical concepts developed?

Semantic Feature View
Child forms a concept based on their view of the underlying features of the objects. Child learns the distinguishing features relevant to each categorical concept. Features are viewed first from general to specific, and there has to be common critical features (or chosen features) in order for an object to be included in the category. For example: dog- four legs, head, furry, then comes has a tail, barks, etc. Thus, it is an additive process. The focus here is on perceptual features.
(Clark, 1974)
Functional Core Hypothesis
Children form a concept by way of viewing objects in terms of instances, as the whole, not a sum of parts or features. Ex: the cocept of 'doll' consists of many objects. You play with a doll, cuddle it, feed it, etc. Objects are looked at for the function, not by perceptual features.
Prototype Theory
Core concepts called prototypes are obtained when they take on a meaning. The child picks the most average example of the category, the one that has the most common characteristics, and compares the novel object to this common example. For ex: what is a more typical bird? a robin? a penguin? You will more than likely say a robin since it has more of the typical features of a bird (it flies and chirps) where as a penguin does not. A child does not categorize other members of their category that do not resemble the prototypes until much later.
(Rosch, 1973)
Probablistic Strategy
Child forms a concept depending on whether the concept has similar features. If it does, then researchers say that the child will put it in the category because of the probability that it belongs. Ex: It looks enough like this, so it is this.


Pragmatics
Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature, talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, and linguistics.[1] It studies how the transmission of meaning depends not only on the linguistic knowledge (e.g. grammar, lexicon etc.) of the speaker and listener, but also on the context of the utterance, knowledge about the status of those involved, the inferred intent of the speaker, and so on.[2] In this respect, pragmatics explains how language users are able to overcome apparent ambiguity, since meaning relies on the manner, place, time etc. of an utterance.[1] The ability to understand another speaker's intended meaning is called pragmatic competence. So an utterance describing pragmatic function is described as metapragmatic. Pragmatic awareness is regarded as one of the most challenging aspects of language learning, and comes only through experience.[citation needed]


Structural ambiguity
The sentence "You have a green light" is ambiguous. Without knowing the context, the identity of the speaker, and their intent, it is not possible to infer the meaning with confidence. For example:
  • It could mean you have green ambient lighting.
  • Or that you have a green light while driving your car.
  • Or it could be indicating that you can go ahead with the project.
  • Or that your body has a green glow.
  • Or that you have in your possession a light bulb that is tinted green.
Similarly, the sentence "Sherlock saw the man with binoculars" could mean that Sherlock observed the man by using binoculars; or it could mean that Sherlock observed a man who was holding binoculars.[3] The meaning of the sentence depends on an understanding of the context and the speaker's intent. As defined in linguistics, a sentence is an abstract entity — a string of words divorced from non-linguistic context — as opposed to an utterance, which is a concrete example of a speech act in a specific context. The closer conscious subjects stick to common words, idioms, phrasings, and topics, the more easily others can surmise their meaning; the further they stray from common expressions and topics, the wider the variations in interpretations. This suggests that sentences do not have meaning intrinsically; there is not a meaning associated with a sentence or word, they can only symbolically represent an idea. The cat sat on the mat is a sentence of English; if you say to your sister on Tuesday afternoon: "The cat sat on the mat", this is an example of an utterance. Thus, there is no such thing as a sentence, term, expression or word symbolically representing a single true meaning; it is underspecified (which cat sat on which mat?) and potentially ambiguous. The meaning of an utterance, on the other hand, is inferred based on linguistic knowledge and knowledge of the non-linguistic context of the utterance (which may or may not be sufficient to resolve ambiguity). In mathematics with Berry's paradox there arose a systematic ambiguity with the word "definable". The ambiguity with words shows that the descriptive power of any human language is limited.

Origins
Pragmatics was a reaction to structuralist linguistics as outlined by Ferdinand de Saussure. In many cases, it expanded upon his idea that language has an analyzable structure, composed of parts that can be defined in relation to others. Pragmatics first engaged only in synchronic study, as opposed to examining the historical development of language. However, it rejected the notion that all meaning comes from signs existing purely in the abstract space of langue. Meanwhile, historical pragmatics has also come into being.
Areas of interest
  • The study of the speaker's meaning, not focusing on the phonetic or grammatical form of an utterance, but instead on what the speaker's intentions and beliefs are.
  • The study of the meaning in context, and the influence that a given context can have on the message. It requires knowledge of the speaker's identities, and the place and time of the utterance.
  • The study of implicatures, i.e. the things that are communicated even though they are not explicitly expressed.
  • The study of relative distance, both social and physical, between speakers in order to understand what determines the choice of what is said and what is not said.
  • The study of what is not meant, as opposed to the intended meaning, i.e. that which is unsaid and unintended, or unintentional.
  • Information Structure, the study of how utterances are marked in order to efficiently manage the common ground of referred entities between speaker and hearer
  • Formal Pragmatics, the study of those aspects of meaning and use, for which context of use is an important factor, by using the methods and goals of formal semantics.
 Referential uses of language


When we speak of the referential uses of language we are talking about how we use signs to refer to certain items. Below is an explanation of, first, what a sign is, second, how meanings are accomplished through its usage.
A sign is the link or relationship between a signified and the signifier as defined by Saussure and Huguenin. The signified is some entity or concept in the world. The signifier represents the signified. An example would be:
Signified: the concept cat
Signifier: the word "cat"
The relationship between the two gives the sign meaning. This relationship can be further explained by considering what we mean by "meaning." In pragmatics, there are two different types of meaning to consider: semantico-referential meaning and indexical meaning. Semantico-referential meaning refers to the aspect of meaning, which describes events in the world that are independent of the circumstance they are uttered in. An example would be propositions such as:
"Santa Claus eats cookies."
In this case, the proposition is describing that Santa Claus eats cookies. The meaning of this proposition does not rely on whether or not Santa Claus is eating cookies at the time of its utterance. Santa Claus could be eating cookies at any time and the meaning of the proposition would remain the same. The meaning is simply describing something that is the case in the world. In contrast, the proposition, "Santa Claus is eating a cookie right now," describes events that are happening at the time the proposition is uttered.
Semantico-referential meaning is also present in meta-semantical statements such as:

Tiger: omnivorous, a mammal

If someone were to say that a tiger is an omnivorous animal in one context and a mammal in another, the definition of tiger would still be the same. The meaning of the sign tiger is describing some animal in the world, which does not change in either circumstance.
Indexical meaning, on the other hand, is dependent on the context of the utterance and has rules of use. By rules of use, it is meant that indexicals can tell you when they are used, but not what they actually mean.

Example: "I"
Whom "I" refers to depends on the context and the person uttering it.
As mentioned, these meanings are brought about through the relationship between the signified and the signifier. One way to define the relationship is by placing signs in two categories: referential indexical signs, also called "shifters," and pure indexical signs.

Referential indexical signs are signs where the meaning shifts depending on the context hence the nickname "shifters." 'I' would be considered a referential indexical sign. The referential aspect of its meaning would be '1st person singular' while the indexical aspect would be the person who is speaking (refer above for definitions of semantico-referential and indexical meaning). Another example would be:
"This"
Referential: singular count
Indexical: Close by
A pure indexical sign does not contribute to the meaning of the propositions at all. It is an example of a ""non-referential use of language.""
A second way to define the signified and signifier relationship is C.S. Peirce's Peircean Trichotomy. The components of the trichotomy are the following:
1.      Icon: the signified resembles the signifier (signified: a dog's barking noise, signifier: bow-wow)
2.      Index: the signified and signifier are linked by proximity or the signifier has meaning only because it is pointing to the signified
3.      Symbol: the signified and signifier are arbitrarily linked (signified: a cat, signifier: the word cat)

These relationships allow us to use signs to convey what we want to say. If two people were in a room and one of them wanted to refer to a characteristic of a chair in the room he would say "this chair has four legs" instead of "a chair has four legs." The former relies on context (indexical and referential meaning) by referring to a chair specifically in the room at that moment while the latter is independent of the context (semantico-referential meaning), meaning the concept chair.

Non-referential uses of language
Silverstein's "pure" indexes
Michael Silverstein has argued that "nonreferential" or "pure" indices do not contribute to an utterance's referential meaning but instead "signal some particular value of one or more contextual variables."[4] Although nonreferential indexes are devoid of semantico-referential meaning, they do encode "pragmatic" meaning.
The sorts of contexts that such indexes can mark are varied. Examples include:
  • Sex indexes are affixes or inflections that index the sex of the speaker, e.g. the verb forms of female Koasati speakers take the suffix "-s".
  • Deference indexes are words that signal social differences (usually related to status or age) between the speaker and the addressee. The most common example of a deference index is the V form in a language with a T-V distinction, the widespread phenomenon in which there are multiple second-person pronouns that correspond to the addressee's relative status or familiarity to the speaker. Honorifics are another common form of deference index and demonstrate the speaker's respect or esteem for the addressee via special forms of address and/or self-humbling first-person pronouns.
  • An Affinal taboo index is an example of avoidance speech and produces and reinforces sociological distance, as seen in the Aboriginal Dyirbal language of Australia. In this language and some others, there is a social taboo against the use of the everyday lexicon in the presence of certain relatives (mother-in-law, child-in-law, paternal aunt's child, and maternal uncle's child). If any of those relatives are present, a Dyirbal speaker has to switch to a completely separate lexicon reserved for that purpose.
In all of these cases, the semantico-referential meaning of the utterances is unchanged from that of the other possible (but often impermissible) forms, but the pragmatic meaning is vastly different.

The performative
J.L. Austin introduced the concept of the performative, contrasted in his writing with "constative" (i.e. descriptive) utterances. According to Austin's original formulation, a performative is a type of utterance characterized by two distinctive features:
  • It is not truth-evaluable (i.e. it is neither true nor false)
  • Its uttering performs an action rather than simply describing one
However, a performative utterance must also conform to a set of felicity conditions.
Examples:
  • "I hereby pronounce you man and wife."
  • "I accept your apology."
  • "This meeting is now adjourned."
Jakobson's six functions of language

The six factors of an effective verbal communication. To each one corresponds a communication function (not displayed in this picture).[5]
Roman Jakobson, expanding on the work of Karl Bühler, described six "constitutive factors" of a speech event, each of which represents the privileging of a corresponding function, and only one of which is the referential (which corresponds to the context of the speech event). The six constitutive factors and their corresponding functions are diagrammed below.

The six constitutive factors of a speech event
Context
Message
Addresser---------------------Addressee
Contact
Code

The six functions of language
Referential
Poetic
Emotive-----------------------Conative
Phatic
Metalingual
  • The Referential Function corresponds to the factor of Context and describes a situation, object or mental state. The descriptive statements of the referential function can consist of both definite descriptions and deictic words, e.g. "The autumn leaves have all fallen now."
  • The Expressive (alternatively called "emotive" or "affective") Function relates to the Addresser and is best exemplified by interjections and other sound changes that do not alter the denotative meaning of an utterance but do add information about the Addresser's (speaker's) internal state, e.g. "Wow, what a view!"
  • The Conative Function engages the Addressee directly and is best illustrated by vocatives and imperatives, e.g. "Tom! Come inside and eat!"
  • The Poetic Function focuses on "the message for its own sake"[6] and is the operative function in poetry as well as slogans.
  • The Phatic Function is language for the sake of interaction and is therefore associated with the Contact factor. The Phatic Function can be observed in greetings and casual discussions of the weather, particularly with strangers.
  • The Metalingual (alternatively called "metalinguistic" or "reflexive") Function is the use of language (what Jakobson calls "Code") to discuss or describe itself.
Related fields
There is considerable overlap between pragmatics and sociolinguistics, since both share an interest in linguistic meaning as determined by usage in a speech community. However, sociolinguists tend to be more interested in variations in language within such communities.
Pragmatics helps anthropologists relate elements of language to broader social phenomena; it thus pervades the field of linguistic anthropology. Because pragmatics describes generally the forces in play for a given utterance, it includes the study of power, gender, race, identity, and their interactions with individual speech acts. For example, the study of code switching directly relates to pragmatics, since a switch in code effects a shift in pragmatic force.[6]
According to Charles W. Morris, pragmatics tries to understand the relationship between signs and their users, while semantics tends to focus on the actual objects or ideas to which a word refers, and syntax (or "syntactics") examines relationships among signs or symbols. Semantics is the literal meaning of an idea whereas pragmatics is the implied meaning of the given idea.
Speech Act Theory, pioneered by J.L. Austin and further developed by John Searle, centers around the idea of the performative, a type of utterance that performs the very action it describes. Speech Act Theory's examination of Illocutionary Acts has many of the same goals as pragmatics, as outlined above.

Pragmatics in philosophy
Pragmatics (more specifically, Speech Act Theory's notion of the performative) underpins Judith Butler's theory of gender performativity. In Gender Trouble, she claims that gender and sex are not natural categories, but socially constructed roles produced by "reiterative acting."
In Excitable Speech she extends her theory of performativity to hate speech and censorship, arguing that censorship necessarily strengthens any discourse it tries to suppress and therefore, since the state has sole power to define hate speech legally, it is the state that makes hate speech performative.
Jaques Derrida remarked that some work done under Pragmatics aligned well with the program he outlined in his book Of Grammatology.
Émile Benveniste argued that the pronouns "I" and "you" are fundamentally distinct from other pronouns because of their role in creating the subject.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari discuss linguistic pragmatics in the fourth chapter of A Thousand Plateaus ("November 20, 1923--Postulates of Linguistics"). They draw three conclusions from Austin: (1) A performative utterance does not communicate information about an act second-hand—it is the act; (2) Every aspect of language ("semantics, syntactics, or even phonematics") functionally interacts with pragmatics; (3) There is no distinction between language and speech. This last conclusion attempts to refute Saussure's division between langue and parole and Chomsky's distinction between surface structure and deep structure simultaneously. [7]



A Discussion of the Nature of Language TOK Essay

"One of the chief obstacles to intelligent
communication is the nature of language itself"

Theory of Knowledge Essay 2
A language is defined as "a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds gestures or marks having understood meanings." (Webster's, 654), and "is a tool for communication" (Emmet, 22). In most common use of language, these signs are the words which we employ in such a way that they may communicate ideas or feelings. Communication, that is, the conveyance of an idea or emotion from one to another, relies largely upon language, and rightly so, as it is a powerful tool when employed correctly. However, misunderstandings in communication occur when two people have a different understanding of their language, or they use language in such a way that it results in communication which is unclear or vague.
This last problem of communication which is unclear or vague is one which results from the use words for which the "range of application is not clear" (Hospers, 22). One could also say that something which is vague is that which lacks precision. This type of vagueness results from statements or words which are not quantifiable. For instance, the phrase "He is fairly heavy" does not communicate a precise weight or condition of the person. A person who weighs 240 lbs may be considered by some to be "fairly heavy", yet to another, or even to the same person, one who weighs 360 lbs may fit the same description. Similarly, the words "very" and "quite" are not precise enough to convey a clear image to the listener. A more precise description would be "He weighs 250 lbs" or "He is unhealthily heavy". One conveys a precise mass, the other, a condition. One could also say that words which are vague are those which have several criteria for application. In such a case, a word may be applied correctly (filling criterion A for instance), but yet the other criteria (B and C do not apply). For example, take the word 'books'. One could set several possible criteria: 1. Paper bound together; 2. A textual narrative and 3. A major division of a literary work. If one was to say to another: "She is coloring in one of the books," applying in this case criterion 1, they would be correct to do so, as there are bindings of paper, or books, intended for that purpose.. Yet, it was cause some surprise if one was to understand this as an application of either criterion 2 or 3. To be coloring in either of the other 'books' would seem absurd. Yet vagueness must not always be a problem - such words are often necessary. It is when words which are vague are used and understood as though they were precise that a problem arises. In these cases, this characteristic of language can indeed hinder effective communication.

Another similar problem arises in the use of words. It is known as ambiguity. This problem exploits the multiple definitions or meanings of words to cause a misunderstanding. Words often have both a descriptive and evaluative meaning which when confused; result in "an instance of the most common and most dangerous form of ambiguity." (Wilson, 37). If somebody says "That is a crooked man", it could be concluded that a) It is a man who has bad posture, such that it is not straight or b) It is a man of no morals. If one who uses the phrase intends the first meaning, but a listener understands the second, an unfortunate misunderstanding could take place. In cases of ambiguity, there is always confusion as to how the word is employed. However, words with multiple meanings do not always cause problems of communication - there isn't always confusion as to how the word has been employed. For instance, if one says it is "cold outside", one doesn't take the outdoors to be impersonal. Rather, most sensible people would comprehend that the temperature outside is low. Thus, ambiguity can cause problems of communication, but only when there is confusion about the use of the word.
Communication, which is the "system of verbal gestures by which a speaker points out a reality to a listener" (Church, 126), requires that the two parties involved have a similar understanding of the language. Such a problem arises when two people speak a different language, but the same thing can occur on a smaller scale if people have a slightly different understanding of the same language. This is because we "tacitly assume that the other person (the listener) is identical to us" (Chomsky, 21) in their use of language. This often is as a result of a speaker and a listener (or writer and reader) who use certain words in a different manner. It is necessary, for communication not to be impeded, that the second individual has the same understanding of a word as the first. When this is not the case, communicating an idea as intended can be quite difficult. For instance, if the speaker is from Canada, speaking to a listener from Jamaica, and says "It is warm today", the listener could be quite surprised at the exact temperature. This statement is not only vague; the two parties involved also have a different impression of how the word 'warm' is to be used. One will "not succeed in communicating . Unless (they) have first made it quite clear exactly how (they) intend to use the words." (Emmet, 23). If such a declaration of intent is not made, the communicated information may not be clear and the impression which a listener receives could indeed be false.

     One may ask why the meanings of words are so often left to question in communication. However, communication "does not require 'public meanings' any more than it requires 'public pronunciations'" (Chomsky, 21). This is known as the fallacy of essential meaning. It is not unusual for one to be concerned that they have not discovered the 'real' or 'essential' meaning of a word, and therefore have been using it improperly. They have not found it because none exists. The various ways in which a word is employed often have much in common, but that is not to say that there is a real meaning, it simply says that there is a "job we can employ this word to perform" (Emmet, 25) and which would be likely to be understood if someone were to employ the word. To say that no essential meaning exists does not mean that there are no guidelines for use of a word. Among those speaking the same language, there is likely to be some general, unspoken consensus as to how a word is used. This is what is most important. A dictionary definition may seem more official, but in the interests of clearer communication, one should employ the word in a manner that their audience would be most likely to understand.

One must understand the context, or background, in which a word is used to have a grasp on the meaning of the word itself. "The background elements are not explicitly perceived, but they play a part in shaping our experience of the situation." (Church, 110). To cite an example: A woman, upon going outside on a cloudy afternoon, exclaims, "It is dark outside." This darkness is quite unlike that which one would encounter upon entering a windowless room, yet upon entering, one would say nearly the same thing. Understanding the context of a word is nearly as important as an understanding of the word itself, as the situation controls to a degree how the word will be used. All of these problems are contained within language. Yet, language is our most important tool in communication and thus must be employed. If it were not, communication would be hindered, or even blocked, to a far greater degree than it is due to the problems presented. It should be the goal of everyone to, when possible, avoids these problems. The result would be language which is far more clear, precise, and less misleading, or bewitching. Language free of most problems would make it an even greater tool, effectively improving the communication between persons and developing better understanding and knowledge through this communication.

Works Cited

Emmet, E.R., Learning to Philosophize
Chomsky, N., Language and Thought
Church, J., Language and the Discovery of Reality
Hospers, J., An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis: Fourth Edition
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: Tenth Edition
Wilson, J., Language and the Pursuit of Truth



Source: www.wikipedia.org

 

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