Meaning Varies across Subgroups in the Language Community
As we mentioned earlier, within a larger language community, subgroups with unique cultures are sometimes formed. These subgroups develop variations on the core language that enable them to share meanings unique to their sub cultural experience. People from different subcultures approach the world from different perspectives, so they are likely to experience some difficulty sharing meaning when they talk with each other. As the Diverse Voices feature showed, one of the most confounding uses of language and its interpretation for people from different cultures is the use of idioms.
In addition to subgroups based on race, religion, and national origin, there are also subgroup cultures associated with generation, social class, and political interests. The need for awareness and sensitivity in applying our communication skills does not depend on someone’s being an immigrant or from a different ethnic background. Rather, the need for being aware of potential language differences is important in every type of communication. Developing our language skills so that the messages we send are clear and sensitive will increase our communication effectiveness in every situation.
Speaking More Clearly
Regardless of whether we are conversing, communicating in groups, or giving speeches, we can speak more clearly by reducing the ambiguity and confusion. Compare these two descriptions of a close call in an automobile. Some nut almost got with his car a while ago versus An older man in a banged up Honda Civic crashed the light at Calhoun and Clifton and came within inches of hitting me last week while I was waiting to turn left at the cross street. The differences are in clarity. In the second example, the message used language that was specific, concrete, and precise as well as statements that are dated and Dexedrine.
Specificity, Concreteness, and Precision in Language Use
Specific words clarify meaning by narrowing what is understood from a general categorize y to a particular unite or group within that category. Thus saying its a Honda Civic is more specific than saying It’s a car.Concrete words are sense related. In effect we can see, hear, smell, taste, or touch concrete words.
Thus we can picture that banged up to Civic. Abstract ideas, such as justice, equality, or fairness, can be made concrete through examples or metaphors. Precise words are those that most accurately express meaning they capture shades of difference. It is more precise to note that the Civic came within inches of hitting me than it is to say some nut almost got me.
Often, as we try our thoughts, the first words that come to mind are general, abstract, and imprecise. The ambiguity of these words makes the listener choose from many possible images rather than picturing the single focused image- we have in ·mind. The more listeners are called on to provide their own images, the more likely they are to-see meanings different from what we intend.
For instance, if Nev ah says that Ruben is a blue collar worker, you might picture any number of occupations that fall within this broad category. If, instead, she is more specific and says he’s a construction worker, the number of possible images you can picture is reduced. Now you select your image from the subcategory of construction worker, and your meaning is likely to be closer to the one she intended. If she is even more specific, she may say Ruben is a bulldozer operator. Now you see Ruben driving the dosser, and you are clearer on Ruben’s occupation.
In the preceding example, the continuum of specificity goes from blue collar worker to construction worker to construction vehicle operator to bulldozer operator. Provides another illustration of this continuum.
Art Painting Oil painting
Impressionist oil painting Renoir’s La Promenade
As we move from general to specific, we also move from abstract to concrete. Considerations word speak. This is a general, abstract term. To make it more concrete, we can use words such as mumble, whisper, bluster, drone, jeer, or rant. Say these words aloud. Notice the different sound of your voice when you say whisper as opposed to bluster, jeer, or rant.
Finally, we seek words that are precise those that most accurately or correctly capture the sense of what we are saying. In seeking the most precise word to describe Phillip’s speech, at first we might say, Phillip blustered. Well, to be more precise, he ranted. Notice that we are not moving from general to specific; both words are on roughly the same level of abstraction.
We talking about abstract versus concrete; both words are concrete. Rather, we are now concerned with precision in meaning. Blustering means talking in a way that is loudly boastful; ranting means talking in a way that is noise or bombastic. So, what we are considering here.is shades of meaning: Depending on how the person was talking, blustering or ranting would be the more precise word. Let’s try another one. Susan laughed at my story; well, to be more precise, she chuckled. What do you see as the difference between laughing and chuckling? A laugh is a loud show of mirth; a chuckle is a more gentle sound expressing suppressed mirth. Similar? Yes. But different showing shades of meaning.
Although specific, concrete, and precise words enable us to reduce ambiguity and sharpen. meaning through individual words, sometimes clarity is best achieved by adding a detail or an example. For instance, Linda says, Rashad is very loyal. The.meaning of loyal (faithful to an idea, person, company, and so on) is abstract, so to avoid ambiguity and confusion, Linda might add, “He never criticizes a friend behind her back. By following up her use of the abstract concept of loyalty with a concrete example, Linda makes it easier for her listeners this quality a concrete at experience.
Developing the Ability to Speak More Clearly
Being able to speak more clearly requires us to build our working vocabulary and to brainstorm to generate word choices from our active vocabulary. Vocabulary building As a speaker, the larger your vocabulary, the more choices you have from which to select the word you want. As a listener, the larger your vocabulary, the more likely you are to understand the words used by others .
One way to increase your vocabulary is to study one of the many vocabulary building books on the shelves of most any bookstore, such as Merriam Being able to speak more clearly requires us to build our working vocabulary and to brainstorm to generate word choices from our active vocabulary. Vocabulary building As a speaker, the larger your vocabulary, the more choices you have from which to select the word you want. As a listener, the larger your vocabulary, the more likely you are to understand the words used by others .
One way to increase your vocabulary is to study one of the many vocabulary building books on the shelves of most any bookstore, such as Merriam Webster’s Vocabulary Builder (Corn, 1998). You might also study magazine features such as Word Power in the Reader’s Digest. By completing this monthly quiz and learning the words with which you are not familiar, you could increase your vocabulary by as many as twenty words per month. A second way to increase your vocabulary is to make note of words that you read or that people use in their conversations with you and look them up.
For instance, suppose yo,u read or hear, I was inundated with phone calls today. If you wrote down and looked it lip in a dictionary later, you would find that inundated” means overwhelmed or flooded. If you then say to yourself. She was inundated overwhelmed or flooded with phone calls today, you are likely to remember that meaning and apply it the next time you hear the word. If you follow this practice, you will soon notice the increase in your vocabulary.
Mental brainstorming Having a larger vocabulary won’t help your speaking if you do not have a procedure for using it. One way to practice accessing choices from your memory is to brainstorm during practice sessions and later in conversation. Brainstorming is.an uncritical, non evaluative process of generating alternatives. Suppose someone asked you about how well preregistration was working. You might initially say, Preregistration is awful. If you don’t think that awful is the right word, you might be able to quickly brainstorm the words frustrating, demeaning, cumbersome, and annoying. Then you could say, What I really meant to say is that preregistration is overly cumbersome.
Clearly stating our verbal messages is hard work, but as you build your vocabulary and learn to mentally brainstorm, you will find that you are able to make such adjustments even in the middle of sentences when you need to. For instance, to describe Mike’s behavior you might say, Mike was just a jerk yesterday well, I guess I me in he was inconsiderate. Or when you are analyzing Pauline’s talents you hasty, I agree that Pauline is a tough manager, but i think she’s good because she is fair she treats everyone exactly alike.
When we are relaxed confident, our choice flows smoothly likely to be most effective. When we are under pressure, however, our ability to select the best symbols to convey our thoughts is likely to deteriorate. People sometimes think one thing and say something entirely different. For example, a math professor might say, We all remember that the numerator is on the bottom and the denominator is on the top of the fraction, so when we divide fractions. Professor a voice from the third row interrupts, You said the numerator is on the bottom and Is that what I said? the professor replies. Well you know what I meant. Did everyone in the class know? Probably not.
You will really know that you have made strides in improving specificity, precision, and concreteness when you find that you can form clear messages even under pressure.