The ability to communicate with our fellow human beings makes us distinct from other living beings. The chapter has made it very clear that speaking is not conversation. Conversation is a collaborative effort by both the speaker and the listener. Our success much depends on how well we can interact with people around us. It much depends upon understanding certain factors called ‘social dynamics’ in conversation. In the essay “Women Talk Too Much” Janet Holmes makes it very clear that it is a wrong notion to think that women talk more than men. She says it is an assumption based on stereotypes.
On the other hand, she says that it is men who talk more. There is no proof to say that men are biologically programmed to talk more than women. It is just the social conditions that promoted the wrong notion that boys are more active than girls and they talk more. She says it is entirely disagreeable. I find quite interesting to know that it is boys who interact more in the class rooms than the girls. Then, the author claims, how it can be said that women talk more than men In the second essay of the chapter, Tony Kornheiser makes a distinction in the communication style of women and that of men.
He feels that women are very particular about everything and they have more to say than men have. He makes a point saying that women do not think life is as simple as men believe it to be. A conversation that turns into a lecture is definitely boring as Deborah Tannen points out in the essay “I’ll Explain It to You”. The most frustrating experience for anyone is when a conversation turns into a lecture. I feel it is not only boring to women but also equally tedious to men. There has been much literature on gender biased language and there is a gradual change in the use of language to sound neutral.
Ronald Macaulay also agrees with Janet Holmes and says that many of the notions are myth and they have no validity scientifically speaking. It is rather social conditioning that has played a key role in imparting opinions that have no basis. Clive Thompson’s essay on how computer software can identify accurately whether the writer is a man or woman is quite interesting, His questions the many of the commonly held ideas about the differences between the two sexes. (407 words) Chapter6: Media Speak. What we know about the world is from media only. Our perception of the world is influenced by the media which presents it.
The billions of dollars spent on TV ads clearly indicate the power that the media enjoys. Undoubtedly, the advertisements that come on television and newspapers and magazines have tremendous influence on us. Within a span of a century there is a great change in the media. Now the world is increasingly dependent on oral media where as it was mostly written word in the beginning of the last century. With the aim of reaching more number of audiences, the quality of language used in TV news and shows has become very low. Neil Postman and Steve Powers, rightly point out that the dependence on the image has made a great shift in news making.
The highly quality visuals have replaced good language with low level popular language. They argue that it is not just language but also our views and opinions about the world are getting corrupted. The general saying is “a picture is worth a thousand words” but in the present days when news is re-created or re-presented, it is equally true to say that “one word is worth a thousand pictures. ” There is little doubt that the language used by the media is aimed at creating sensations to attract more audience. Then, I do believe that it is not exactly what happened i. e. news.
The article ‘All the World in Pictures’ is very interesting and thought provoking. It has clearly explained how the language is used in mass media. It is aptly said that ‘Advertising is the driving force of consumer economy’. The world is filled with advertisements. Wherever there are people, there are advertisements. They appeal to all our weakness creating a world of fancy with eternal youth, power, enriched beauty, immediate happiness, and fulfillment of our inner needs. I feel the use of language in creating such emotional appeals is quite amazing. Advertising plays much on the psychology of people.
A small fifteen second ad can effectively tempt the people appealing to their emotions by making fantastic appeals and promises. The article “With these Words, I can Sell You Anything” is very enlightening. It has made it clear how they twist the language to send their message effectively. It is a finely engineered language that creates strong images on the minds of audience. I have found it very exciting to know the how the advertisers play on the people with their language. (419 words) Chapter7: Censorship and Free Speech Freedom of speech is fundamental to American democracy.
It enables every American to freely express his ideas, opinions and beliefs. Any limits to the freedom of speech are seen as a threat to the rights of Americans. It is interesting to note that the discussion lays emphasis on the equality in enjoying one’s rights. No man or woman has the right to hurt the feelings or sentiments of others. It is by respecting others rights that we can enjoy our rights well. The censorship is against the rights given in the constitution. However, it is required in some areas. The censorship and books, biased language and hate speech and certain limits on campus speech have lead to interesting debate.
The first amendment has not only given the right to express ideas freely but it also has given the right to know others’ ideas. The censorship on books has been a much debated issue with different opinions. It is beyond my understanding why some books are banned totally and some are censored. When a book raises questions that lead to controversy and debate, it will help people to know what exactly the truth is. Banning is not the solution for it. The controversy over Harry Potter books, which have attracted millions of children all over the world, seems pointless.
Censorship on books is dangerous as it blocks all new creative and original ideas. Censorship on biased language and hate speech is quite useful as it raises many questions in the practical use of language. It is very difficult and almost impossible to classify what makes a hate speech and biased language. I feel it is highly impossible to make a law in the absence of any valid principles regarding what comes under biased language and hate speech. Sometimes, the words may be good but the tone in which they are delivered could be full of hatred.
Censorship on free speech on the campus has some good in it, as it reduces misunderstanding among the students who come different parts of the world. The campus is a place where tolerance is mostly needed. The rules prohibiting certain speech acts is good for the minority students. But it does not guarantee that no racist speech is ever heard on the campuses. (378 words) Chapter -8 The English Language Debate The debate whether English should be made official language of the US or not, is very interesting bringing out valid arguments on both the sides.
The United States, the nation of immigrants, respects cultural differences of people coming from different countries. Respecting other languages, the US has not declared English as the official language. I find it very great quality of the American people for their respect other cultures. It shows their multi cultural tolerance and national unity. The unity of American people has come more from their like mindedness in political and social values and self respect than from having one language. The discussion on what is Standard English has made it clear how different forces work on language.
Robert MacNeil has explored well what makes American English and what exactly it is. The argument for Standard English has its own merits with clear focus on clarity in thinking and what we are saying. It argues for care and caution in the use of language as it is central for identifying an individual. If a person neglects his language and uses it causally, it will not help him or her in the long run. As the author has rightly put it “casualization” everything in culture has led to casual attitude to language use as well. The ‘growing informality’ of language is one of the major concerns of linguists.
The scholars and grammarians who prescribe rules on how language should be used are rightly called “Prescriptivists. ” Especially, John Simon, who is called the Prince of Prescriptivists, holds the view that the present day language is poor, unhealthy and hopeless. He represents those who argue for perfect use of language as it helps you to communicate clearly what you are. It is with the use of language only that a person can show his distinction. If the distinction is lost, he or she will be among many who can not say clearly what they mean.
It becomes a serious challenge. I feel there should be certain principles which can not be sacrificed in the use of language. The “Descriptivists”, on the other hand, just describe how the language is used by people. They do not dictate any rules regarding how English should be used. They are permissive and tolerate the new expressions and the informality in expressions. They argue that a language is called a living language only when it is spoken. When it is spoken it is natural to have changes in the language as no two people can pronounce the same word in the same way.
They are free to allow new words into English as change the law of life and of language. It shows tolerance towards people who speak the same language with some regional differences. There are many examples when the language of the Black people is accepted by the grammarians and included in the dictionaries. It helps the language to grow and reflect the present day culture. The fears about what will happen to American English seem justified, but nobody can stop the changes that take place in society. I feel the changes in English are an indication of changes in society, and language is just reflecting the same. (534 words)