Influences of Language on Meaning and Perception
Language is the main communication tool which influences meaning and perception. Language can be verbal (sounds, words) and non-verbal (signs, gestures, mimic, facial expression, behavior, and physical setting, etc). Interpersonal communication includes any behavior that another person perceives and interprets.
As such, it is one person’s understanding of what another person means. Behavior itself is a form of communication.
Interpersonal communication occurs through symbols and signs decoded by the sender and encoded by the receiver. Using language (verbal), people name and describe objects, events and processes. Clarity and precision of presentation have a great impact on meaning and perception processes. The main problem is that the receiver can ‘encode’ the information differently which influences his perception and meaning of the message (Wood, 2003).
So although it is true that names must precede descriptions in the sense that they provide the atomic terms of a description, it is also true that some (possibly holophrastic) ostensive assertions must be primitive in all category naming (Guerrero 1999). Verbal communication means sending messages to another person to inform about something, to persuade people to do something, to develop positive attitudes, and to cause other changes in people’s thinking and behavior. Following Russell (2000) one interpretation of perception:
“focuses on attending and concentrates on surveying the environment. Another focuses on interpretation and concentrates on language and mental activity after initial contact with stimuli. Viewing perception as an attending process and as an outcome of attending can both serve well” (4)
The speech sounds of a language vary in many ways. Only some of these differences signal a difference in meaning in the language. These are called “phonemic” differences. The rest of the differences are “phonetic” differences that are less salient, less readily perceived, and less easily produced than the phonemic differences. In this case, if a person has poor articulation or speech defects the receiver can encode information is a wrong way and misinterpret the meaning. It is important that every person remember that specific words may not have the same meaning and significance for different people.
The choice of words and vocabulary is one type of symbol that possesses emotional and psychological properties. It is possible to say that language shapes the meaning and allows the receiver to perceive its meaning. A unique pattern of language comes to be regarded as equivalent to a unique pattern in the receiver mind. Meaning and perception depends upon experience and views of the receiver and differs in what is perceived and how information is stored, and because the nature of the mapping may differ for “different types of cross-modal linkages” (Guerrero 1999, p. 56).
I suppose that my language is clearly understood because I carefully chose vocabulary and meaning of words. Active listening helps me to learn new words and understand their usage correctly. So, it is possible to say that if a person wishes to communicate effectively with other people (verbally or non-verbally), he must somehow put themselves in each other’s shoes. Effective interpersonal communication requires that people have a common set of meanings and definitions.
Such a common set of meanings derives not only from the language, but refers more broadly to the pattern of beliefs, codes, and feelings on the basis of which people learn to live with their environment. To enlarge my vocabulary I read a lot of printed matters: books, magazines, scientific article, etc, and use new words and phrases in practice. For instance, non-fiction writing has ideas followed by arguments, by examples, before returning to a second argument. Seeing the structure of paragraphs is to see the pattern of the argument. This technique will help me to create a clear message and communicate with different people. One more important fact is that mass media is intended to be an example of language norms: vocabulary and grammar.
1.Guerrero, L. K. et al. (1999). The Nonverbal Communication Reader: Classic and Conteporary Readings. Waveland Press.
2.Russell, Ch. (2000). CULTURE, LANGUAGE AND BEHAVIOR: Perception. A Review of General Semantics, 57, 4.
3.Wood, J.T. (2003). Interpersonal Communications. Wadsworth Publishing.