Language Review - Morgan Park High School

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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


Denotation Theory


Dictionary definition of the word
Literal meaning of a word. Word was created to describe realworld 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

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





Vagueness
Ambiguity
Secondary Meaning
Metaphor
Irony
Vagueness
Words such as fast and slow are intrinsically vague
and their meaning depends on context.
 Fast means something different to a longdistance 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
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
“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.”
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
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
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
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
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

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
Lost in Translation
How would you translate…



…barking up the wrong tree?
…pulling your leg?
…resting on your laurels?
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

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
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

Using Language to Influence and Persuade
 Emotionally
laden language
 Weasel Words
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