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Chapter 5

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Ryerson University
Child and Youth Care
CYC 301
Hangama Ahmadzai

CHAPTER 5 • You are not in charge of the meaning others derive from your messages • You don't determine what other people think. Words don't have meaning; people create meaning • Words are symbols that represent something else.Aprinted word triggers an image, sound, concept or experience • Referents are the things the symbols (words) represent • Thought is the mental process of creating a category, idea, or image triggered by the referrent or the symbol • These three elements (words, referrents, and thoughts are inextricably linked) • Charles Hockett, a linguist (a person who studies the origin and nature of language), suggests that words are, for the most part, arbitrary • There's not an obvious reason why many words represent something else • The words we use have agreed-upon general meanings, but there is not typically a logical connection between a word and what it represents. Yes, some words ("snort" and "giggle") do recreate the sounds they represent, and many words can trace their origin to other languages • Unless we develop a common meaning for a word, misunderstanding and miscommunication may occur • Taking something out of context changes its meaning • The term "old man" could refer to a male over the age of 70, your father, your teacher, your principal, or your boss. We would need to know the context of the two symbols "old" and "man" to decipher their specific meaning • Culture consists of the rules, norms, values, and mores of a group of people, which have been learned and shaped from one generation to the next • The meaning of a symbol such as a word can change from culture to culture • The study of words and meaning is called semantics • Symbolic interaction suggests that as a society we are bound together because of our common use of symbols • Common symbols foster links in understanding and, therefore, lead to satisfying relationships • Of course, even within a given culture, we misunderstand each other's messages • However, the more similar the cultures of the communication partners, the greater the chance for a meeting of meanings • Deborah Tannen suggests that gender plays a major role in how we interpret certain verbal messages • Women tend to interpret messages based on how personally supportive they perceive the message to be • Men, according to Tannen, are more likely to interpret messages based on issues related to dominance and power • Research confirms that psychological gender is a better predictor than biological sex of the general framework we use to interpret messages • Messages convey both content and feelings • Our language conveys meaning on two levels: the denotative and the connotative • The denotative meaning of a word creates content; it's restrictive or literal meaning • The connotative meaning of a word conveys feelings • Words also have personal and subjective meanings for us (For example: The word "school" to you might mean a wonderful and exciting place where you meet your friends, have a good time, and occasionally take tests and perform other tasks that keep you from enjoying fellowship with your chums. To others, "school" could be a restrictive, burdensome obligation that stands in the way of making money and getting on with life). • Words can be placed along a continuum from abstract to concrete • We call a word concrete if we can experience it's referent with one of our sense; if we can see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, or hear it, then it's concrete • If we cannot do these things with the referent then the word is abstract • The more concrete the language, the easier it is for others to understand • There is evidence that you have the ability to control your emotions based on your ability to control what you think about, as well as the choice of words you use to describe your feelings • One study conducted over a 35-year period found that people who described the world in pessimistic terms when they were younger were in poorer health during middle age than those who had been optimistis (your words and corresponding outlook have the power to affect your health) • Words can distort how we view and evaluate others • Research suggests that the very way we use lanauge can communicate the amount of power we have in a conversation with others • We use language in ways that are both powerful and powerless • When we use powerless speech, we are less persuasive and have less influence on others. Powerless speech is characterised by more frequent use of hesitations and pauses, which may be filled with "umm," "ahhh," "you know," "I mean" • Linguistic determinism is a theory that claims language shapes the way we think • Lingustic relativity states that each language has unique elements embedded within it • Whorf hypothesis suggests that language shapes our culture and culture shapes our language • The fact that a certain type of behaviour is now labelledADHD is an example of how words can create a reality in a culture. Grandpa might argue that there weren't anyADHD kids in his day - some kids were just "rowdy" • Words not only reflect your culture; there is evidence that they mould it • World view: How we interpret what we experience • The words you use to describe your view of the world reflect and further shape your perspective, and you, in turn help to shape your culture's collective world view through your use of language • "Small talk:" Our everday, sometimes brief, responses and exchanges with others ("how's the weather") is important in establishing how we feel about others • Steve Duck suggests that we literally talk a relationship into being. Through talk, we establish relationships with other people • "Uh huh" is an example of backchannel talk • Acommunication barrier is "something that keeps meaning from meeting" • Bypassing occurs when the same words mean different things to different people • The English language is imprecise in many areas • One researcher estimated that the 500 words we use most often in our daily conversations with others have over 14,000 different dictionary definitions, and this number does not take into account personal connotations • Sometimes we respond to symbols the way Pavlov's dog did to the bell, forgetting that symbols (words) can have more than one meaning • Malaproprism: Aconfusion of one word or phrase for another that sounds similar to it • It is vital to remember that meanings are in people, not in words • We give symbols meaning; we do not receive inherent meaning from symbols • For most communication, the object is to be as specific and concrete as possible • Vague language creates confusion and frustration • Arestricted code involves the use of words that have a particular meaning to a subgroup or culture • Jargon: Another name for restricted code; specialised terms or abbreviations the meanings of which are known only to members of a specific group • When people have known one another for a long time, they also may use restricted codes for their exchanges • The tendency to use language to make unqualified, often untrue generalisations is called allness • Allness statements deny individual differences or variations ("all women are poor drivers," "people from theAmerican south love iced tea") • Reality rarely, if ever, provides evidence to support sweeping generalisations • Indexing your comments and remarks is another way to avoid generalising. To index is to acknowledge that each individual is unique. Ra
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