Chapter 5

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LANGUAGE:
BARRIER AND BRIDGE
5
CHAPTER TOPICS
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Language is Symbolic
Understandings and Misunderstandings
The Impact of Language
Gender and Language
Culture and Language
Looking Out/Looking In
Thirteenth Edition
Language is Symbolic
• The Natural World
• Smoke means something is burning
• A fever means someone is ill
• Language is Symbolic
• Connection between words and the ideas or
things they represent is arbitrary
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Understanding and
Misunderstanding
• Understanding Words
• Semantic rules
• “Bikes” are for riding and “books” are for reading
• Equivocation
• Statements that have more then one commonly
accepted definition
• Newspaper Headlines:
• “Family catches fire just in time.”
• “20-year friendship ends at the altar.”
• “Trees can break wind.”
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Understanding and
Misunderstanding
• Relative Language
• Words that gain their meaning by comparison
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Do you attend a large or small school?
Fast and slow
Smart and stupid
Short and long
• Static Evaluation
• Statements that contain or imply the word is
lead to mistaken assumptions about people
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Understandings and
Misunderstandings
• Abstraction
• Is vague in nature
• Behavior language is specific
to things people do or say
• Abstraction Ladder
• Abstract language can lead
to miscommunication
Figure 5.1 Page 165
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Understandings and
Misunderstandings
• Syntactic Rules
• Govern the grammar of language
• Pragmatic Rules
• Govern the way speech works in everyday
interaction
• Consider the difference between:
• I love you
• I love ya
• I luv U
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Understandings and
Misunderstandings
• Pragmatic Rules
• What do infer by the following sentences?
• “Would you like a drink?”
• “Would you like something to drink?”
• Pragmatic Rules of Email
• When reading an email what do you think when
you come across CAPITAL LETTERS!
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The Impact of Language
• Naming and Identity
• Names are more than just a simple means of
identification
• They shape the way others think of us
• They shape the way we view ourselves
• 1900’s most popular names
• Bertha, Mildred and Ethel
• 2008’s most popular names
• Madison, Ava and Chloe
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The Impact of Language
• Affiliation
• Speech can build and demonstrate solidarity
with others
• Convergence
• The process of adapting one’s speech style to
match others
• Divergence
• Speaking in a way that emphasizes one’s
differences from others
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The Impact of Language
• Power
• Power difference between two statements:
• “Excuse me, sir. I hate to say this, but I . . .I . . .I
guess I won’t be able to turn in the assignment on
time. I had a personal emergency, and . . .well . . .it
was just impossible to finish it by today. I’ll have it
on your desk Monday, OK?”
• “I won’t be able to turn in the assignment on time. I
had a personal emergency, and it was impossible
to finish by today. I’ll have it on your desk Monday.”
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The Impact of Language
• Powerless Language
• Hedges:
• “I’m kinda disappointed . . .” “I think we should . . .” “I guess I’d
like to . . .”
• Hesitations:
• “Uh, can I have a minute of your time?”
• “Well, we could try this idea . . .”
• “I wish you would—er—try to be on time.”
• Tag questions:
• “It’s about time we got started, isn’t it?”
• “Don’t you think we should give it another try?”
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The Impact of Language
• Disruptive Language
• Three linguistic habits to avoid
• Fact-Opinion Confusion
Fact
Opinion
You forgot my birthday.
You keep interrupting me.
You tell a lot of ethnic jokes.
You don’t care about me.
You’re a control freak.
You’re a bigot.
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The Impact of Language
• Disruptive Language
• Fact-interference confusion
• A: Why are you mad at me?
• B: I’m not mad at you. Why have you been so
insecure lately?
• A: I’m not insecure. It’s just that you've been so
critical.
• B: What do you mean, “critical?” I haven’t been
critical. . . .
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The Impact of Language
• Disruptive Language
• Emotive Language
• Seems to describe something but actually announces
the speakers attitude toward it
If you approve, say
If you disapprove, say
Thrifty
Traditional
Extrovert
Cautious
Cheap
Old-fashioned
Loudmouth
Cowardly
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The Impact of Language
• Language of Responsibility
• “It” Statements
• Note the difference in each set of sentences:
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“It bothers me when you’re late.”
“I’m worried when you’re late.”
“It’s nice to see you.”
“I’m glad to see you.”
“It’s a boring class.”
“I’m bored in the class.”
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The Impact of Language
• Language of Responsibility
• “But” Statements
• In each sentence the word but cancels the
thought that precedes it:
• “You’re really a great person, but I think we should
see other people.”
• “You’ve done good work for us, but we’re going to
have to let you go.”
• “This paper has some good ideas, but I’m giving
you a D grade because it’s late.”
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The Impact of Language
• Language of Responsibility
• Questions
• Some questions are used to avoid making a
declaration
• “What are we having for dinner?” Could mean, “I
want to eat out.”
• “How many textbooks are assigned in that class?”
Could mean, “I’m afraid to get into a class with too
much reading.”
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The Impact of Language
• Language of Responsibility
• “I” and “You” Language
• “I” statements accept responsibility for a
message
• “You” statements express judgment
• “You left this place a mess!”
• “You didn’t keep your promise!”
• “You’re really crude sometimes!”
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The Impact of Language
• Language of Responsibility
• “I” and “You” Language
• An “I” statement has four elements:
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The person’s behavior
Your interpretations
Your feelings
The consequences that the other person’s
behavior has for you
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The Impact of Language
• Language of Responsibility
• “I” and “You” Language
• Example:
• “I get embarrassed (feeling) when you talk
about my bad grades in front of our friends
(behavior). I’m afraid they’ll think I’m stupid
(interpretation). That’s why I got so worked up
last night (consequence).”
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The Impact of Language
• Language of Responsibility
• Reservations about “I” language
• “I get too angry to use ‘I’ language”
• “Even with ‘I’ language, the other person gets
defensive”
• “ ‘I’ language sounds artificial”
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The Impact of Language
• Language of Responsibility
• “We” Language
• Implies the issue is the concern of both
parties
• “We need to figure out a budget that doesn’t
bankrupt us.”
• “I think we have a problem. We can’t seem to talk
about money without fighting.”
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Gender and Language
• Content
• Female friends spent more time discussing:
• Relationship problems, family, health
• Male friends spent more time discussing:
• Current events, music, sports, business
• Consider the gender’s impact on language:
• “I want to talk about important things, like how
we’re getting along. All he wants to do talk about
the news or what we’ll do this weekend.”
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Gender and Language
• Conversation Style
• The myth that women are more talkative than
men does not hold up under scientific scrutiny
• Men’s speech is characteristically:
• More direct, succinct, and task-oriented
• Women’s speech is more typically:
• indirect, elaborate, and focused on relationships
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Gender and Language
• Nongender Variables
• The link between gender and language isn’t
as clear-cut as it might seem
• The language between sexes is more similar
than it is different.
• One scholar suggested that the popular book,
“Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”
should be changed to “Men Are from North Dakota,
Women Are from South Dakota.”
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Culture and Language
• Verbal Communication Styles
• Low-context cultures
• Generally value language to express thoughts,
feelings, and ideas as directly as possible.
• High-context cultures
• Generally value using language to maintain social
harmony.
• Learn to discover meaning from the context in
which a message is delivered: nonverbal
behaviors, history of the relationship, etc
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Culture and Language
• Verbal Communication Styles
• Language and Worldview
• Linguistic relativism
• The worldview of a culture is shaped and reflected by the
language its members speak.
• The Eskimos have a large number of words for snow
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Chapter Review
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Language is Symbolic
Understandings and Misunderstandings
The Impact of Language
Gender and Language
Culture and Language
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