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Language Versus Communication


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#1 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 10:05 AM

To start, let me go ahead and give the definitions of language and communication, courtesy of the first thing that popped up on Bing search:

 

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communication
[ kəˌmyo͞onəˈkāSHən ]
NOUN
noun: communication
  1. the imparting or exchanging of information or news:
    "direct communication between the two countries will produce greater understanding"
    synonyms: transmission · conveyance · divulgence · disclosure ·
  2. (communications)
    means of connection between people or places, in particular.
    • the means of sending or receiving information, such as telephone lines or computers:
      "satellite communications"
    • the means of traveling or of transporting goods, such as roads or railroads:
      "a city providing excellent road and rail communications"
    • the field of study concerned with the transmission of information by various means. 
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language
[ ˈlaNGgwij ]
NOUN
noun: language
  1. the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way:
    "a study of the way children learn language"
  2. the system of communication used by a particular community or country:
    "the book was translated into twenty-five languages"
    • computing
      a system of symbols and rules for writing programs or algorithms:
      "a new programming language"
  3. the manner or style of a piece of writing or speech:
    "he explained the procedure in simple, everyday language"
    • the phraseology and vocabulary of a certain profession, domain, or group of people:
      "legal language"
      synonyms: wording · phrasing · phraseology · style · vocabulary ·
    • (bad/strong language)
      coarse, crude, or offensive language:
      "strong language"

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In this context, I will be referring to definition 1 for both words and talking about humans as opposed to other communicating species. Now...

 

   Communication (or communicating) is the act of exchange between humans. This can be the conveyance of a variety of things from thoughts to feelings and emotions, ideas and so on. While there are a few methods of communicating such as music (base melody, not the words), art and dance, language is by far the most affective method of communication we have. With how social our species is, it is integral to our functionality and, loosely speaking, our existance. There is an issue with language though: the amount of languages present far exceed what we need to be able to communicate with each other.

 

   We have an unfathomable amount of language in the world today, and even within those languages, you have dialects which at times could be seen as other languages altogether. My issue with this is we (humans) need to be able to communicate with each other, but with the multitude of languages we have, our ability to communicate with others of our own species has become fragmented and regionalized. Breaking up language into so many different pieces has, to a degree, made our understanding and interaction with one another more difficult.

 

   As such, my question is this: At what point does the need to communicate outweigh our need for multiple languages? Among Earth's apporoximated 7 billion people, there are and estimated 7,000 languages. Why is there so much variation as opposed to unity in language? I'm of the mind that we could technically manage a language per continent. What's the importance of maintaining so much variation when the reason language exists is to engage each other, not isolate?



#2 CraigD

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 07:19 AM

As such, my question is this: At what point does the need to communicate outweigh our need for multiple languages?

As with most social, psychological, political questions, answering this one is, I think, largely a matter of intuition and judgement.

L. L. Zamenhof clearly believed the point had been reached before 1880, when he set out to create a language to replace all existing languages, Esperanto. In his 1895 words

In such a town [his hometown of Białystok, Poland] a sensitive nature feels more acutely than elsewhere the misery caused by language division and sees at every step that the diversity of languages is the first, or at least the most influential, basis for the separation of the human family into groups of enemies.


What's the importance of maintaining so much variation when the reason language exists is to engage each other, not isolate?

An answer to this question, I think, comes from questioning its implicit assumption that the purpose of language is to connect, not isolate, people.

The history of Esperanto can be instructive on these questions. Despite being well-know, having a well-documented grammar and dictionary, being arguably the easiest language to learn, and sounding IHMO pretty, after 125 years, fewer than 0.3% of the world reads or speaks it. In the mid 20th century, it was widely vilified, and its proponents harassed, jailed, and executed, by at least 3 national governments as revolutionary or “the language of spys”.

I think the reason why Esperanto, or any effort to promote the a common world language, has and will encounter resistance is that national governments see such efforts as threatening to there continued existence. Common language seeks to make people of many nations see each other as friends, which conflicts with government agendas that need people to see people of other nations, social classes, religions, or ethnicities, as enemies.

#3 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 10:12 AM

So in other words, we are likely incapable of consolidating our language base at this point due to national governments seeing unity as a threat? It's not as if using one language between all peoples threatens our cultures, societies or advancements, nor does that language have to replace all others. If anything I would say that we would only have to use it when dealing with situations that require us to interact with those of foreign  nature, while maintaining our birth language in domestic situations. I also think that a single international language would strengthen collaborative efforts between nations on any number of projects, with the potential to broaden our understanding of each other in addition to expanding our pool of knowledge as humans.

 

If language is no longer a tool of communication amongst our species, what is its purpose? Clearly there is an unnecessary terror of unity, so does that leave language as nothing more than a means to promote such a destructive ideology as inequality and divergence?



#4 CraigD

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 12:30 PM

So in other words, we are likely incapable of consolidating our language base at this point due to national governments seeing unity as a threat?

That is a conclusion we could draw from the history of Esperanto I linked to above, a correct one, I think.

Opposing a common international language is only one method that governments and other agencies that could be harmed by improved communication between people of different nations or other categories.

Improvement in communication technology, such as radio, television, and the internet, have made many old techniques, such as restricting travel and mail, less effective. Computer translation, such as that built into browsers such as Google Chrome, is, I think, reducing the effectiveness of language differences.

This brings up an interesting thought: is having hundreds of incomprehensibly different languages and dialects a barrier to communication if translation services – especially inexpensive computerizes ones – are widely available? Is the idea of a common language like Esperanto, which made sense to thousands then millions of people beginning in 1885, still sensible if translation services allows us to communicate as if we are speaking the same language?
 

If anything I would say that we would only have to use it when dealing with situations that require us to interact with those of foreign nature, while maintaining our birth language in domestic situations.

The problem I see with that is that over half the world’s people speaks only one language/dialect. Of the roughly 50% of the world (20% of the US) who speak 2+ languages, many have much limited skills in their non-primary language – how limited, it’s difficult to measure. (source: http://livingbilingu...e-are-bilingual )

Individuals differ a lot in their ability to learn new languages well. Requiring the use of a 2nd, common world language to speak to interact with those of a foreign nature could have the effect of creating a class of people who know the common language well, another who don’t.
 

If language is no longer a tool of communication amongst our species, what is its purpose?

A shared language encourages communication, the lack of shared language discourages it. So both common languages and their lack are tools for achieving different results, in one case results that are helped by effective communication, like trade in goods and ideas, in the other case results that are hurt by it, like war.

War is not the only endeavor that can be hurt by effective communication. Ineffective communication is also the essential source of what Bill Gates termed ~1995 market “friction” (meaning something different from its more common business definition).

Here’s an example of “friction” of the kind Gates described:
A buyer wants to buy a specific widget at the lowest price offered by any seller
If a complete and accurate list of the price of the widget for all sellers is available, he can easily find the lowest price seller. In this case, the market is low-friction
If no complete and accurate list exists, it’s difficult for him to find the lowest price seller, and he may fail altogether. In this case, the market is high-friction.

Low friction favors buyers and the lowest price sellers, hurting high price sellers. High friction favors high price sellers who are easy to find, hurting the buyers and lowest price sellers

Another example involves laborers seeking to find the employer offering the highest wages for a give job. Low friction favors laborers, hurting low wage employers. High friction favors low wage employers, hurting laborers.

Effective communication reduces friction. So high price sellers and low wage employers want to reduce the ability buyers and laborers to communicate effectively.

#5 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 02:06 PM

That is a conclusion we could draw from the history of Esperanto I linked to above, a correct one, I think.

 

   That concept was very interesting and gave a lot of insight in to just how influential language is, and how equally threatening established forms of government view it to be. However, that leads me to wonder: if our government had less or no control over our languages, would we have already begun to adopt, or fully acheive, the widespread use of a single or a few consolodated languages?

 

This brings up an interesting thought: is having hundreds of incomprehensibly different languages and dialects a barrier to communication if translation services – especially inexpensive computerizes ones – are widely available? Is the idea of a common language like Esperanto, which made sense to thousands then millions of people beginning in 1885, still sensible if translation services allows us to communicate as if we are speaking the same language?

 

   I hadn't even considered that our auto-translate features could be bridging the present gap in communication brought about by language barriers. Very true. In the case of technology, then, if compact automatic translating devices with a vast language and dialect index became available, I feel as though that would be a universally accepted language in itself. There is no conformity necessary and it can likely become a valuable asset to anyone dealing with other languages on a regular basis. I suppose in a way, the coding of the device is the single language that will allow for better communication amongst each other. This could also potentially avoid the derogatory classification of people you mentioned in your second point.

 

 

A shared language encourages communication, the lack of shared language discourages it. So both common languages and their lack are tools for achieving different results, in one case results that are helped by effective communication, like trade in goods and ideas, in the other case results that are hurt by it, like war.

War is not the only endeavor that can be hurt by effective communication. Ineffective communication is also the essential source of what Bill Gates termed ~1995 market “friction” (meaning something different from its more common business definition).

Here’s an example of “friction” of the kind Gates described:
A buyer wants to buy a specific widget at the lowest price offered by any seller
If a complete and accurate list of the price of the widget for all sellers is available, he can easily find the lowest price seller. In this case, the market is low-friction
If no complete and accurate list exists, it’s difficult for him to find the lowest price seller, and he may fail altogether. In this case, the market is high-friction.

Low friction favors buyers and the lowest price sellers, hurting high price sellers. High friction favors high price sellers who are easy to find, hurting the buyers and lowest price sellers

Another example involves laborers seeking to find the employer offering the highest wages for a give job. Low friction favors laborers, hurting low wage employers. High friction favors low wage employers, hurting laborers.

Effective communication reduces friction. So high price sellers and low wage employers want to reduce the ability buyers and laborers to communicate effectively.

 

   Under this circumstance though, it makes it sound like a necessary evil, which to me sounds like a pitch fed to general masses in an effort to line the pockets of upper class society, whose pockets are already full to the brim. If that's the case, I would have to wonder what the trade off is, were more affective methods of communication available in comparison to them not being available. If language manipulation is being used to promote greater affulence among those that currently posses it, what other aspects of society are being hindered/ bolstered using the same ploy?



#6 CraigD

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Posted 16 June 2015 - 01:02 PM

A shared language encourages communication, the lack of shared language discourages it. So both common languages and their lack are tools for achieving different results, in one case results that are helped by effective communication, like trade in goods and ideas, in the other case results that are hurt by it, like war.

War is not the only endeavor that can be hurt by effective communication. Ineffective communication is also the essential source of what Bill Gates termed ~1995 market “friction” (meaning something different from its more common business definition).

Under this circumstance though, it makes it sound like a necessary evil, which to me sounds like a pitch fed to general masses in an effort to line the pockets of upper class society, whose pockets are already full to the brim. If that's the case, I would have to wonder what the trade off is, were more affective methods of communication available in comparison to them not being available.

Gates’ thoughts on the matter (which, AFAIK, appeared only in his co-authored 1995 book The Road Ahead) appeared to me to be mostly optimistic, even utopian. His focus was on electronic communication – what’s we’d all call today “the internet” – making commerce of all kinds near-optimally efficient. In this vision, personalized intelligent search agents would quickly and accurately connect people offering goods and services with people wanting them. Service consumers would pay fair prices and service provider make fair profits. Barriers that presently give undue control of industry and commerce to the rich would be removed. Having a lot of money would no longer guarantee making more money, rather creativity and merit would. There’s no appreciable tradeoff/downside to this vision of “friction-free capitalism”.

Like most utopian visions, I think, this one fails to appreciate the existence and influence of conscious actors who understand, and strongly do not want the vision realized. So while many of the elements Gate’s and others predicted have been realized – for example, various programs analyze our use of web browsers, then present us with advertisements for goods and services that use suggests we want – its essential hope of reducing the cost of advertising, and thus the barriers that prevent creative, meritorious people from providing goods and services to people who really want and need them, has IMHO not been. People with lot of money are able to use it to sell people things they don’t really want for more than they could have what they really wanted from people who don’t have lots of money.
 

If language manipulation is being used to promote greater affulence among those that currently posses it, what other aspects of society are being hindered/ bolstered using the same ploy?

This question goes to is a big, controversial field of study and activism, described best, I think, by the concept of “framing the debate” through choice of language. This 2004 paper by cognitive scientist, linguist, and excellent writer George Lakoff is, I think, a good entrypoint.

#7 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 29 June 2015 - 03:20 PM

This question goes to is a big, controversial field of study and activism, described best, I think, by the concept of “framing the debate” through choice of language. This 2004 paper by cognitive scientist, linguist, and excellent writer George Lakoff is, I think, a good entrypoint.

 

   Quite an interesting read. There is much more verbal warfare going on than I ever realized. However, this was mostly just about politics. It's also likely to be true that similar tactics are being used everywhere, and that worries me.

 

If it's commonplace to employ ambiguous language, how can we trust that anything that needs attention is actually being addressed? According to the paper, it was said that cognitive science shows that people do not tend to favor choices of self interest, yet this form of language manipulation was created for that exact reason. That would mean that the general masses, which find themselves outside of positions of authority and power, frequent the genuine pursuit of advancements for the greater good, while those that sit in positions of power and authority utilize framing to serve self-interest. Is this ignorance on the part of the people, or has this method of language manipulation just become too advanced for us to tell the difference? And knowing this, why do we even allow it?



#8 AbdulWaheed

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 09:42 AM

You make the whole thing boring dear. Be brief so that I can read and understand you. Hope you don't mind me.