Language as Inhibitor Intro Notes

Looks like I’ve missed posting a bunch of intro notes so the blog will be busy today!

On Tuesday March 12 I hosted a discussion about language as inhibitor. I will reiterate that the general consensus was that language is a very useful tool that can be a struggle to interpret – but as long as we confirm with the person we are communicating through asking questions what it is they mean communication can be quite effective. Also, I want to note that a statistic was introduced by a very good friend, Merlin, stating that 70% of sound is outgoing, and only 30% is incoming. This means that we have evolved to hear ourselves more than to hear others. Fascinating!

Language as Inhibitor

It is important to think about how you say things, versus just what you say. When communicating with others we take into account not only their words, but their tone, structure, volume, pitch, and non-verbal language, among other things. Between all of these things it is easy to get mixed signals, or interpret something in the wrong way.

Let’s start with a short description of language…

“Language is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, and a language is any specific example of such a system.” – Wikipedia

And, complex it is. To demonstrate, I’ll send you a link to the Abbott and Costello skit called, “Who’s on first?”. If you can’t see it here, then you should be able to see it on your own computer. It’s about 6 minutes long. You don’t have to watch the whole thing as you’ll get the idea pretty quickly. It demonstrates the issues when one persons’ meaning is not the same as someone else’s.

According to Bertrand Russell, “no one can understand the word ‘cheese’ unless he has a nonlinguistic acquaintance with cheese.”

Language is used to communicate abstract ideas in a manner in which the person you’re trying to communicate them to can understand. This means that both parties need to have a mutual understanding of the intended meaning of the words you’re using, but, alas, this is not always the case. Plato had a theory of forms, that explains that there is a basic idea or concept of what certain things are. For instance, if I say “dog”, you all have a picture in your mind of what that is. But, a dog can be broken down into various different breeds, body parts, and attitudes that are also then distinguishable by a form, ie. bone, hyper, Poodle. Another example is the word “love.” We don’t have a solid definition of what it is, but we have a concept of what it is, and we can translate it into another sign or reword it into something more relate-able. Same with “happiness.” If someone is unfamiliar with these forms, all of our communication is moot.

The questions I want us to explore today are:
Is there a better way for us to communicate?
How can we ensure that those we are communicating with are understanding our true meaning?
and the big one…
Is language an inhibitor to our communication?

We’ll go around the circle, starting to my left today, and everyone will get a turn to share. If you would like to pass you may, but if you have something to share you can feel free to do it in either text or voice, or both. If you are sharing in text, I will read your contribution on voice so everyone has the ability to participate.


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