Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Ambiguity of Language

As time moves on, the ambiguity of modern language becomes more and more apparent. Words, regardless of their actual definition, can now be defined based on their usage, and their effect on the people it's directed at.

An easy example is the word, "literally". Literally, by definition, is exact or precise. However, you will often hear literally used in an informal sense, when something might not necessarily be true.

That's just one example out of many, and while the definition of a word may stay the same, it's effect on people might be drastically different depending on the circumstances.

The meaning of language is based off of interpretation, and different people can have different interpretations of language. This is why communication, why theoretically direct, is actually rather indirect. When you say words to somebody, they interpret the message you are trying to send them based off of what they were taught what those words meant.

Regardless of what they were taught, certain words can still have different meanings than what the sender may or may not have intended. This becomes more obvious in racism by language. If a sender were to say something that one person takes as racist, it doesn't matter what the sender intended, the receiver will feel offended.

Even large political figures say things that offend the people they are trying to appeal to. On a large scale, language becomes one of the most powerful tools you can use to promote a cause, for better or for worse.

This also extends to the non-verbal medium. If you drive by a group of protesters, they will often have signs with text written on them to promote what they are trying to say. The same principle applies to written text, the words can have different meanings than their definitions, depending on who is reading it.

Similar to political figures, the words that protesters choose to use can have a positive or negative effect, based on who is listening to them, or reading their signs. Protesters and politicians need to strongly consider how to best send their message to their audience, and adapt that message as their audience changes.

What is the point of all of this? It means that we need to be aware of the effect that our words have on other people, and realize that our meaning might not get across to the people we are talking to. Understand that everything is based off of interpretation, and that we need to consider that when we are talking to people, or a group of people.

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