Today, more than ever, language is an integral part of our existence and survival. We depend on it to think and communicate on a day to day basis from person to person. Language as a basic communication takes the form of: sender, message and receiver, and is said to be highly specialized and sophisticated. Language allows us to communicate an infinite variety of messages; indeed, sometimes messages are unclear or vague because both the sender and receiver might not have the exact same understanding of their language.
This last problem of communication that is unclear or vague is one that results from the use of words for which the range of application is not clear. One could also say that something which is vague is that which lacks precision. This type of vagueness results from statements or words which are not quantifiable and therefore lead to misunderstandings between the sender and the receptor. Montaigne said something very true about the term 'word' as it is very difficult to define. To start, what is a word?
What is the definition of the term word? All these deceptively simple questions have led to debate among linguists. At its most simple, according to David Crystal, a word is "a unit of expression which has universal intuitive recognition by native speakers". However, a word is so much more than that: a word has to be imaginarily divided into the person who say it and into the person that receives it because these two individual members of communication have their own way to interpret what is the idea within that precise word.
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In order to know the exact meaning of the term 'word' we have to take into consideration the fact that some words have a denotation and several connotations. A denotation is the primary or 'dictionary' meaning; what the word describes precisely, no more no less. On the other hand, a connotation is the 'added value' to a word; what it implies; what is associated or attached to it by society and/or the individual. Some words, for example expressive words, have much more connotation because they create feelings and atmosphere.
The term 'apple' denotes more than the term 'food', and yet the term 'food' connotes more than the term 'apple'. There are some factors that affect the connotation of a word. For example, the term 'weekend' has lots of connotations and these will vary depending on the receptor's age, sex, social class, personal interest, past experience, etc. A 16 year old girl can associate the term 'weekend' with: party, friends, cinema, relax, sleep more, have fun; while a 50 year old man who owns a restaurant will associate the term 'weekend' with: more customers, more work, more stressful, higher incomes for the company and less time to relax.
Communication, that is the "system of verbal gestures by which a speaker points out a reality to a listener", requires that the two parties involved have a similar understanding of the language. Such a problem arises when two people speak a different language, but the same thing can occur on a smaller scale if people have a slightly different understanding of the same language. This is because we unconsciously assume that the other person (the receptor) is identical to us in their use of language.
This often is as a result of a sender and a receiver (or writer and reader where it happens these same sort of confusions because of misunderstanding of message by problems with their language) who use certain words in a different manner. It is necessary, for communication not to be impeded, that the second individual has the same understanding of a word as the first. That is why it can be said that a word is half the sender and half the receptor as both of them have their own way of interpreting the word and also their own way of recreating it by its meanings in their minds, by all the factors mentioned above.
To conclude we can say that language is our most important tool in communication and thus must be employed in order to interact with each and everyone who surrounds us. If it were not employed, communication would be hindered, delayed or even blocked, to a far greater degree than it is due to the problems such as misunderstanding, vagueness or the fact that words have different connotations to everybody. It should be the aim of everyone to, when possible, avoid these problems.
The result would be language which is far clearer, precise, and less confusing, that will help both the sender and the receptor in order to transmit a more concrete message and therefore understand themselves in a more optimal way. Language free of most problems would make it an even greater tool, effectively improving the communication between persons and developing better understanding and knowledge through this communication.
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