Archive for November, 2005

The language of communication In this column I us…

The language of communication

In this column I usually reflect on politics, economics, culture. I comment on a variety of issues and concerns and present my opinion. Some people might feel it is easy to write an article but for me it is an act of labor and passion, and quite frankly it is a lot of work. I thoroughly research topics and facts to understand them fully before writing on them and putting forward my own viewpoint. And, of course, I do not expect the reader to always agree with me. But somehow, sometimes, the message is not communicated well, or the soul of the piece does not reach the reader in the manner the sender intends it to be. So, today, let’s discuss language as a medium of communication and how it can be improved.

Open a dictionary and you will find “language” defined as “communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols”. This means that language as a medium of communication constitutes symbols, which are alphabets, since it is a system so it has rules which we call grammar, it has sounds because it is either written or spoken, and it has expression, which also becomes part of the medium. All this seems simple but the situation becomes complex when different people interpret the grammar and synonyms used in the construction of sentences and the manner in which they are spoken, differently. For instance, when an important person like President Bush or the Federal Reserve Chairman Allan Greenspan speak, analysts not only look at the choice of their words but also the phrases they emphasize. Despite all the careful preparation by speechwriters and speakers, different group of people extract different meanings from the same speech. So much so that sometimes a leader has to elaborate on the purpose and objective of his speech long after it is delivered.

Any unintended distortions added to the message because of inadequate choice of words for perfect communication are called noise. For centuries linguistics and researchers have tried to control the extent of noise in a message but so far the success has been limited. One reason for this failure is the inability of language to transcend multiple cultures as it becomes more international. This handicap of language to become universal is one reason language is usually made part of culture.

Language, even thought imperfect, has been a preferred medium of communication since the known history of man. Over centuries, new words have been added to the language to fill gaps and also to reflect the changing human environment. For example, the word ‘Klashnikov culture’ symbolizes lawlessness in the society. Today we will make an effort to present two new words for addition to the vocabulary to contribute to its richness.

All of us know that feet have toes and hands have fingers. If language constitutes symbols and sound to represent an idea or a meaning then we need to revisit this concept of toes and fingers. Words relating to a particular part or event should have resemblance which means that people should be able to relate those words together without much effort. Using this same pretext we propose that feet should have ten fingers while hands should have ten HINGERS. Before presenting this new word in this article we did our small research to see if any such word exists and if it does what does it mean. But there is no such words in the dictionary so we feel confident that our readers will give this new word a serious thought and contribute towards the evolution of English language.

The other word we have been contemplating for some time deserves a separate column. But we would still like to present it here for your consideration. All of us have heard about the economic and political concept of globalization. The promoters of globalization treat the world as one village where all of us should have an equal opportunity to contribute towards the economic, cultural and social advancement of the community. Formation of trade agreements and political blocks is part of promoting globalization in a phased manner. The greatest experiment in promotion of globalization is the formation of political and economic unit of European Union. Although EU was able to promulgate a single currency in 2002 but the draft of EU constitution was not ratified by most of the member countries. This shows that globalization is facing stiff competition from culture and language. Culture, like religion, has been part of our psyche throughout history. It is not easy for people to give up their communal identity for economic benefits alone. All this means is that globalization is largely considered as an economic concept and it should not conflict with cultural values of the people to be acceptable. Companies should compete globally for business and profits while countries should collaborate to promote and celebrate culture.

Considering that globalization should give thought and consideration to local culture. We feel that these two concepts should be combined in a concept called GLOCALIZATION. This means that a company, like GE, should be a global enterprise with access to human, natural and financial capital but it should also contribute to the promotion to local culture and values instead of trying to create one umbrella culture.

Again before proposing this new word we did our limited research to find out if there already exist such word and what does it mean. Each time I explain these words to people the first reaction I get is a smile, which means they like the ingenuity of the thought. And the other reaction I get is that they don’t disagree with it so that means there is some level of acceptance for these words.
According to Darwin’s theory of evolution the only way we can preserve humankind is to continuously change and adjust to changing environment. Language one of the most complex human endeavors deserves greater depth to be more effective and productive.


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