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Chapter Outline

  1. The nature of language
    1. Language is symbolic; words are symbols and have no inherent meanings.
    2. Language is rule-governed.
      1. Phonological rules govern how sounds are combined to form words.
      2. Syntactic rules govern the way symbols can be arranged.
      3. Semantic rules help us understand the meaning of individual words.
      4. Pragmatic rules tell us what uses and interpretations of a message are appropriate in a given context. The coordinated management of meaning (CMM) theory suggests that pragmatic rules are used to create and interpret messages.

    3. Language is subjective. Meaning is both in and among people.
    4. Language and worldview can be understood by the theory linguistic relativism, which states that a culture is shaped and reflected by the language its members speak. The best known declaration of linguistic relativism is the Sapir–Whorf Hypothesis. Terms shape the thinking and actions of people.
  2. The impact of language - Language can have a strong effect on our perceptions and how we regard one another.

    1. Naming and identity

      1. Names shape the way others think of us, the way we view ourselves, and the way we act.
      2. People with non-normative names suffered psychological and emotional disturbance.
      3. What makes a name unusual changes over time.
      4. Some regard unique names as distinctive.
    2. Affiliation - Language can build and demonstrate solidarity with others, known as affiliation.

      1. Convergence is the process of adapting one's speech style to match that of others with whom the communicator wants to identify.
      2. Divergence is speaking in a way that emphasizes differences.
    3. Power and politeness - A number of patterns communicate more or less power.

      1. Powerless speech: tentative, indirect, hedges, hesitations
      2. Powerful language: direct, forceful, declarations, assertions
      3. Politeness: saves face for both sender and receiver
    4. Sexism and racism

      1. Sexist language uses words, phrases, and expressions that unnecessarily differentiate between female and male.
      2. Racist language reflects a worldview that classifies members of one racial group as superior and others as inferior.
    5. Precision and vagueness

      1. Ambiguous language consists of words and phrases that have more than one commonly accepted definition.
      2. Abstractions are convenient ways of generalizing about similarities between several objects, people, ideas, or events and can be thought of as being on an abstraction ladder.
      3. Euphemisms are innocuous terms substituted for a blunt ones and are typically used to soften the impact of information that might be unpleasant.
      4. Relative language gains meaning by comparison and is problematic because the relative word is not linked to a more measurable term.
      5. Static evaluation is a description or evaluation that contains the word "is," which makes the mistaken assumption that people or things are consistent and unchanging.
    6. The language of responsibility - Language reflects the speaker's willingness to take responsibility for his or her beliefs, feelings, and actions.

      1. "It" statements replace the personal pronouns "I" and “me” with "it’s," which avoids responsibility for ownership of a message.
      2. A "but" statement has the effect of canceling the thought that precedes it.
      3. "I" language is a way of accepting responsibility. Assertiveness – clearly expressing thoughts, feelings, and wants. "You" language expresses judgment of another person, and "We" language implies joint concern and responsibility for both the speaker and receiver.
      4. Evaluative/Emotive language seems to describe something but in reality announces the speaker's attitude toward it.
  3. Gender and language

    1. Extent of gender differences - Two approaches that represent different sides in the gender and language debate.

      1. Significant differences - Men and women have significant differences in the ways they behave socially, and some acknowledge significant differences in the way women and men use language. Some scholars describe men and women as members of distinct cultures.
      2. Minor differences – Differences are not as clear-cut: Only 1% variance in communication behavior resulted from sex differences. Women are not more talkative than men. Women’s and men’s speech more similar than different.
    2. Accounting for gender differences – occupation and power trump sex differences.

  4. Social Media and Language
    1. Online language and impression management

      1. Text message errors can make sender look bad
      2. Subscribers to dating services can manipulate photos and verbal self-descriptions.
      3. Facebook friends try to put their best feet forward with strategic language choices.
      4. Executives manage impressions in the way they craft their e-mails.
    2. Online language and gender

      1. Men use more large words, nouns, and swear words
      2. Women use more personal pronouns, verbs, and hedge phrases
      3. On Facebook, women used more emotion words, first-person singular pronouns, and references to people in their lives. Men made more object references, and swore more often.
      4. Online language differences are more pronounced among adolescents.

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