You are on page 1of 8


Chapter 3
The Nature of Language
• “A body of symbols (most commonly words) and the systems
for their use in messages that are common to the people of
the same speech community”

• Speech community: group of people who speak same

language; 3-4k speech communities in world (five largest—
Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi)

• Words: symbols used by speech community to represent

objects, ideas, and feelings
The Purposes of Language
• To designate, label, define, and limit

• To evaluate

• To discuss things outside our immediate experience

• To talk about language

Relationship between Language and
• Meaning of words is in people, not in words themselves

• Words have two levels of meaning: denotation and


• Meaning may vary depending on its syntactic context

• Language of any speech community will change over time

• Language of dominant group gradually absorbs words from

the language of immigrants
Cultural and Gender Influences on
Language Use
• Low-context cultures (e.g., USA, northern European countries):
messages typically quite direct; specific language

• High-context cultures (e.g., Latin American, Asian, and Native

American): verbal messages may be indirect; use general and
ambiguous language

• Feminine styles of language: typically use words of empathy

and support; emphasizes concrete and personal language; shows
politeness and tentativeness in speaking

• Masculine styles of language: often uses words of status and

problem-solving; emphasizes abstract and general language;
shows assertiveness and control in speaking
Language that Clarifies Meaning
• Use specific words: clarifies meaning by narrowing what is
understood from a general category to a particular group within
that category

• Use concrete words that appeal to our senses

• Use precise words that narrows a larger category to a smaller

group within that category

• Date info.: specifies time or period a fact was true or known to be


• Indexing generalizations: mental and verbal practice of

acknowledging individual differences when voicing generalizations
Make Your Messages Memorable
• Use vivid wording that is full of life, vigorous, bright, intense

• Achieve vividness through use of similes and metaphors

• Use emphasis
Use Linguistic Sensitivity
• Adapt vocabulary to level of your listener

• Use jargon sparingly

• Use slang appropriate to the listener

• Use inclusive language

• Use non-offensive language