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Language and Communication - Introdution Vol.2 - Language and Communication

Language and Communication


1. Quote

Language and Communication

  There are two communication abilities which are essential to cooperative behavior  One is the ability to exchange information and the other is the ability to regulate and coordinate human behavior.  Our ability to speak is crucial to both activities.  At the very least, exchanging information consists of asking questiuons and making assetions.  And, the regulation and coordination of human behavior consists, among other things, of making requests, giving orders, making offers, and making promises, and so on.  Each of these specific linguistic abilities involves performing an action with language, an action that would be difficult, if not impossible, to perform without language.
  Communicating consists in performing certain acts called "Speech Acts."  One of the most interesting features of these acts is that there are certain social rules governing their use.  If I wish to make a request of you, I must want this request performed; I must believe that the action I wish performed has not been performed; I must believe that you are willing to do certain things for me; and so on.  The social relationsip between speakers and hearer determines how this request will be performed.  If I enjoy greater social status than you do, I might give you an order (which would be quite impolite).
(1) Pick up that pencil!
Such impoliteness is rare.  In order not to be impolite, I might weaken the order by turning it into a request.
(2) Please pick up that pencil!
If I wish to be especially polite, I might use an indirect request.
(3) Would you mind picking up that pencil?
As this example illustrates, studying speech acts can tell us much about the nature of social interactions.  This should not surprise us, for communicating is a social activity.

(Michael L. Geis, Language and Communication, Oxford, OUP, 2001, pp.1-2, ll.18-29)

2. Analysis

2-1. Two Essential Abilities for Communication

Make requests
Abilities Actions
Exchange information
Ask questions
Make assertions
Regulate and coordinate human behavior
Give orders
Make offers
Make promises

We consciously or unconsicously exercise both abilities so natually that we seldom care about them.   Exchanging information is done by asking questions and get answers to them.   Plus, making requests, giving orders and making offers enables us to regulate and coordinate human behavior.

THe most important is we humans make the most of thses capabilities with language no matter what way it is done by, such as face-to-face communication or texting.
Can we exchange information without language?
If not impossible, it is much harder to communication in an exact way.   Also, can we regulate and coordinate other people without language?
Maybe we can, but it seems a lot more diffcult.   If we resorted to violence, it would be more possible; however, it must not be permitted in this civilised society.   Never!! So we can say that language allows us to communicate with others in a cultural way.

2-2. Speech Acts

How we make our requests performed depends on the social power balance between the parties in interest.
If we enjoyed a greater social status than someone else, we would make orders.   On the contrary, we would make requests if they are in a higher social class than us.

Eupemistic expressions make request politer in the latter situtation.   Let me show you a simple example.   If you hope to know a way to a station you would like to arrive at and ask someone, what would you do?
You might say "Could[Can] you show me the way to ○○ stration?", instead "Show me the way to XX stration."
Why "could" or "can"?
First, you would like to know if the person has the ability to show the way to the station to.   You allow for her/his by asking the ability.   If so, you wish she/he would share it with you.   The person know what you mean by "Could[Can] you show me the way to ○○ stration?", so she/he would take you to the station.   If she/he were to leave the spot saying "Yes, I could[can]." or "No, I couldn't[can't].", it is totally nonsense.   Euphemism goes around and depends on mutual understanding in a specific culture.

Back on topic, since we change how we make our requests performed based on the relatrionship between the parties in interest, language we use reflects a social power balance in this respect.

3. Reference

Michal L. Geis, Language and Communication, Oxford, OUP, 2001