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The Nature Of Language

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posted on Sep, 8 2008 @ 11:54 AM
As far as the properties of language are concerned, I think we can all agree that a language is a system of symbols which must be defined by a set of rules, such as spelling and grammar.

For the purpose of this thread, I am more interested in variations in a common language, and variances thereof.

The ATS common language is English (I accept that it is not the first language of some members), and one would think that with a common language, mistakes and misinterpretation would be less common than they are.

However, colloquial variations mean this is often not the case - a word which someone in a region of America or Australia may not find offensive, may be regarded as offensive by someone in the UK.

A term commonly used in Scotland, may be considered differently in southern England, or a term in one part of the US considered differently in another etc

So, how does this fit in with ATS and the philosophical discussion forum?

In many ways it's difficult to pinpoint something which has been misinterpreted, simply because of the way our brains work - I'm sure many have seen the puzzle in which the first and last letters of a word are kept, and then the rest of the letters jumbled up.
The words can still be read vrey elsilay and rigsenoced for what they are, but for a split second, sometimes it's just a jumble.

And this is how I believe our brains respond to colloquial terms used in ways we are not familiar with, except it takes longer to figure out - of course by that time, a person may be on the warpath, and not take the time out to re-read and make sure they understood the intent behind the written words, something which is particularly difficult online, as most of our communication when face to face is nonverbal - in fact as little as 7% of what we say can be directly attributed to the words we use according to some studies.

Another grey area is profanity, and what actually constitutes profanity, especially online.

The use of a word in one country or region may be totally acceptable, whilst in another region it may be considered offensive - of course there are some words which are considered to be universally offensive, but some of the milder profanity is difficult to quantify in this sense.

I would again argue that in many cases, it is the overall picture painted by the language used which shows the intent of the language, the colloquialisms and the profanity.

BUT again, with so much of our everyday interaction being nonverbal, how do we guage intent online?

The saying about countries separated by a common language is very true, and could also be broken down to include different regions, cities and even towns in the same county.

Even on a site like ATS there are different forums where different language (buzzwords) is used, and an outsider simply would not understand.

Management-speak is another example of people mangling language to create an environment where only insiders understand what is being said, and as humans, this is in our nature - to want to belong, and to feel "special" because we are part of a culture that people outside the culture don't understand.

In other words, insiderspeak.

With all these limitations and rules, it's a wonder any of us understand each other!

I'd like to get a feel for how other people percieve language, profanity, intent and misunderstandings which are due to variations in a common language.

All idea's welcome

posted on Sep, 8 2008 @ 12:23 PM
reply to post by budski

Yeah well the nonverbal online is those little smiley faces or emoticons or what they call...but yeah, I've had someone on here think I was being insulting when I was just semi-incomprehensible, whereas in person body language would presumably have prevented that mistake...

posted on Sep, 8 2008 @ 12:37 PM
This topic has interested me since i started taking anthropology classes.

I'm sure you've heard of this.... click lang...

could you imagine being an English speaker only and going over to Africa and starting to click your tongue just cause you were bored and offending someone?

I dont really use a whole lot of profanity myself just when I'm mad or just messing around with my friends, never to try and prove any kinda point. My high school English teacher always told us that only ignorant people with a small vocabulary had to resort to swearing to get a point across. That offended a few people since a went to school in West Virginia and over half my class dropped out.

But you dont have to swear to offend someone see.... Liverpool's a crappy team... kidding ; ]

or am i?

Chelsea all the way : )

great thread

posted on Sep, 8 2008 @ 01:01 PM
I've been offended by this post!

Wigan Athletic of course! Liverpool? Chelsea? Both run by foreign 'rich people' who couldn't care less except making lots and lots of money...

at least in Wigan its still about the game!

Back on topic.. I know what you mean. I hate talking to people from London, the words they tend to use aren't ones I can't understand... it just gives me nasty visions of them being set on fire whilst hanging to death......

no offence intended to anyone. That seems perfectly reasonable and logical to me

posted on Sep, 8 2008 @ 01:03 PM

Originally posted by ...and justice for some

But you dont have to swear to offend someone see.... Liverpool's a crappy team... kidding ; ]

or am i?

Chelsea all the way : )

This though is where I try and separate opinion from fact - to say we are "crappy" is an opinion given that we have consistently finished in the top 4, and have won some trophies.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say "at the moment we are crappier than chelsea"

A small point, but one which illustrates some of my points

posted on Sep, 8 2008 @ 02:16 PM

Originally posted by selfisolated
I've been offended by this post!
Wigan Athletic of course! Liverpool? Chelsea? Both run by foreign 'rich people' who couldn't care less except making lots and lots of money...
at least in Wigan its still about the game!

Well yeah they are kinda money hungry i guess i could go arsenal even though they kinda are too so maybe west ham....

and I just love offending people I new Chelsea would get someone ; ]

posted on Sep, 10 2008 @ 06:51 PM
reply to post by budski

I've wondered a lot of the same

but not so much about profanity as just simple misunderstandings using basic English

humor doesn't always translate well here - which is why all the smileys

I even use them - and I've always hated them

but they are a nice little preemptive peace offering sometimes

sometimes people read too fast - and if they're already loaded for bear - they misunderstand and overreact

is "loaded for bear" just used in the U.S. - or do you guys use it over there? :-)

there are times when people from countries where english isn't their first language rub people the wrong way - even when they haven't said anything wrong

this always surprises me - because most of the time their english is very good

maybe it's too good, and that's the problem - none of the subtleties that come with a shared culture

I'm also interested in how language - and the culture it comes from - contributes to the way people receive information - form opinions based on that information - and of course - how they express those opinions

I haven't been keeping track of any of it - but I do notice differences

though, most of the time you can't know where people are from unless they actually say - or list it in their profile

humor doesn't always come across - and slang can offend - but I also see people missing some really great info or concepts because language gets in the way

posted on Sep, 15 2008 @ 06:39 PM
Great thread. This is my kinda stuff.

The highlighting of the small portion of what we communicate, resides in the actual words we speak is a key concept. There is more to it. What was not mentioned is that what we are communicating at any given time has two active components - a conscious transmission and an unconscious transmission. The words we speak make up a majority portion of what we consciously transmit. What many don't realize is the massive quantity of information we continuously transmit unconsciously.

I'm starving. I'll get back into this later.

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