A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod. These are just two examples of humorous and contradictory features of the English language—the book Crazy English by Richard Lederer explores dozens more. A fun aspect of language enjoyed by more people than a small community of word enthusiasts is humor.
Humor is a complicated social phenomenon that is largely based on the relationship between language and meaning. Humor functions to liven up conversations, break the ice, and increase group cohesion. We also use humor to test our compatibility with others when a deep conversation about certain topics like politics or religion would be awkward. Using humor also draws attention to us, and the reactions that we get from others feeds into our self-concept.
We also use humor to disclose information about ourselves that we might not feel comfortable revealing in a more straightforward way. Humor can also be used to express sexual interest or to cope with bad news or bad situations. We first start to develop an understanding of humor as children when we realize that the words we use for objects are really arbitrary and can be manipulated. This manipulation creates a distortion or incongruous moment in the reality that we had previously known. It is in the process of encoding and decoding that humor emerges. People use encoding to decide how and when to use humor, and people use decoding to make sense of humorous communication.
Things can go wrong in both of those processes. Comedians make a living by making language fun, but humor is contextual and not always easy to pull off. As we already learned, language is essentially limitless. We may create a one-of-a-kind sentence combining words in new ways and never know it. Aside from the endless structural possibilities, words change meaning, and new words are created daily. Neologisms are newly coined or used words.
Newly coined words are those that were just brought into linguistic existence. Newly used words make their way into languages in several ways, including borrowing and changing structure. In any case, borrowing is the primary means through which languages expand. Weekend is a popular English word based on the number of languages that have borrowed it. We have borrowed many words, like chic from French, karaoke from Japanese, and caravan from Arabic. Structural changes also lead to new words. Compound words are neologisms that are created by joining two already known words.
Keyboard , newspaper , and giftcard are all compound words that were formed when new things were created or conceived.
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We also create new words by adding something, subtracting something, or blending them together. For example, we can add affixes, meaning a prefix or a suffix, to a word. Ex-husband and kitchenette are relatively recent examples of such changes Crystal, New words are also formed when clipping a word like examination , which creates a new word, exam , that retains the same meaning. And last, we can form new words by blending old ones together. Words like breakfast and lunch blend letters and meaning to form a new word— brunch. Existing words also change in their use and meaning.
The digital age has given rise to some interesting changes in word usage. Before Facebook, the word friend had many meanings, but it was mostly used as a noun referring to a companion. Google went from being a proper noun referring to the company to a more general verb that refers to searching for something on the Internet perhaps not even using the Google search engine. Meanings can expand or contract without changing from a noun to a verb. Perhaps because of the confusion that this caused, the meaning of gay has contracted again, as the earlier meaning is now considered archaic, meaning it is no longer in common usage.
The winning words are usually new words or words that recently took on new meaning. Although languages are dying out at an alarming rate, many languages are growing in terms of new words and expanded meanings, thanks largely to advances in technology, as can be seen in the example of cloud. Slang is a great example of the dynamic nature of language. Research has shown that only about 10 percent of the slang terms that emerge over a fifteen-year period survive.
Inversion is a form of word play that produces slang words like sick , wicked , and bad that refer to the opposite of their typical meaning. Reduction creates slang words such as pic , sec , and later from picture , second , and see you later. New slang words often represent what is edgy, current, or simply relevant to the daily lives of a group of people. Many creative examples of slang refer to illegal or socially taboo topics like sex, drinking, and drugs.
It makes sense that developing an alternative way to identify drugs or talk about taboo topics could make life easier for the people who partake in such activities. Taking a moment to think about the amount of slang that refers to being intoxicated on drugs or alcohol or engaging in sexual activity should generate a lengthy list. When I first started teaching this course in the early s, Cal Poly Pomona had been compiling a list of the top twenty college slang words of the year for a few years.
I always end up learning some new words from my students. Just as we learned here, new words can create a lot of buzz and become a part of common usage very quickly. The same can happen with new slang terms. Most slang words also disappear quickly, and their alternative meaning fades into obscurity. He points out that Shakespeare also abbreviated many words, played with the rules of language, and made up several thousand words, and he is not considered an abuser of language.
He also cites research that found, using experimental data, that children who texted more scored higher on reading and vocabulary tests.
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Crystal points out that in order to play with language, you must first have some understanding of the rules of language Huang, We use verbal communication to initiate, maintain, and terminate our interpersonal relationships. The first few exchanges with a potential romantic partner or friend help us size the other person up and figure out if we want to pursue a relationship or not. We then use verbal communication to remind others how we feel about them and to check in with them—engaging in relationship maintenance through language use.
3.2 Functions of Language
When negative feelings arrive and persist, or for many other reasons, we often use verbal communication to end a relationship. Interpersonally, verbal communication is key to bringing people together and maintaining relationships.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, our use of words like I , you , we , our , and us affect our relationships. Verbal communication brings people together and helps maintain satisfying relationships. Aside from the specific words that we use, the frequency of communication impacts relationships.
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Of course, the content of what is said is important, but research shows that romantic partners who communicate frequently with each other and with mutual friends and family members experience less stress and uncertainty in their relationship and are more likely to stay together McCornack, When frequent communication combines with supportive messages , which are messages communicated in an open, honest, and nonconfrontational way, people are sure to come together.
Moving from the interpersonal to the sociocultural level, we can see that speaking the same language can bring people together. When a person is surrounded by people who do not speak his or her native language, it can be very comforting to run into another person who speaks the same language. Even if the two people are strangers, the ease of linguistic compatibility is comforting and can quickly facilitate a social bond. Of course, there are individual differences within a language community, but the power of shared language to unite people has led to universal language movements that advocate for one global language.
Serious attempts to create a common language, sometimes referred to as a lingua franca or auxiliary language, began in the s as world exploration brought increased trade and Latin was no longer effective as the language of international business. Since then, hundreds of auxiliary languages have been recorded but none have achieved widespread international usage or been officially recognized as an international language Crystal, While some such movements were primarily motivated by business and profit, others hoped to promote mutual understanding, more effective diplomacy, and peaceful coexistence.
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Esperanto was invented by a Polish eye doctor at the end of the s and today has between one and two million fluent speakers worldwide. Some countries also broadcast radio programs in Esperanto. Several barriers will have to be overcome in order for an auxiliary language like Esperanto to gain international acceptance. First, there would have to be a massive effort put into a period of simultaneous learning—otherwise it is difficult to motivate people to learn a language that is not necessary for their daily lives and that no one else speaks.
Second, as we have learned, people take pride in their linguistic identity and find pleasure in playing with the rules of language, creatively inventing new words and meanings that constantly change a language. Such changes may be impossible to accommodate in an auxiliary language. Lastly, the optimism of an internationally shared language eventually gives way to realism.
Your kids and technology: Parents' coping tips
If a shared language really brings peaceful coexistence, how do we explain all the civil wars and other conflicts that have been fought between people who speak the same language? As new languages are invented, many more languages are dying.
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