Language comprehension is an important tool of communication. Through language, human beings are able to exchange information amongst themselves, form relationships, comprehend, and express their feelings. Consequently, language is a vital component of human understanding.
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The issue of misinterpretation in language use is very important because it has the potential to affect communication in a big way. Misinterpretations can result in severed relationships and in other cases they can offend people. The complexities of the differences between languages are responsible for contradicting statements and unintended interpretations.
Most cases of lingual misinterpretations depend on cultural differences and ambiguity. Languages are often interpreted differently by several individuals. Consequently, the issue of ‘meaning to whom’ takes centre stage in language use. In some instances, the usage of some words may differ depending on lingual factions. This paper explores language use with respect to misinterpretation and meanings.
The issue of misinterpretation in language use is tricky because it is likely to have several valid interpretations of one utterance. Therefore, several listeners might have different interpretations in a single case of language use. The concept of having a ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ interpretation is complicated by the fact that one utterance can have several valid interpretations.
Interpretations depend on their interpreter. For instance, misinterpretations depend on the status of the listener. In America, interpretations are mostly dependent on racial factions such as African American, Asian American, or Native American.
Misinterpretations are a product of a speaker’s intention. Nevertheless, in some cases a speaker might have more than one intention. An utterance can bear characteristics of motive, desire, and reason. All these factors are tied to cultural backgrounds and resulting interpretations.
The fact that a speaker’s motive might be in conflict with his/her desires makes things complicated for listeners. Racial tensions in America are a common source of misinterpretations. After considering all these facts, it is clear that misinterpretations are part of communication. Consequently, the ‘correct’ interpretation of any language use can vary.
A listener’s chances of misinterpretation are dependent on a number of pre-conditions. A listener is only able to interpret an utterance based on his/her “background knowledge, intelligence and imaginative power, degree of attention and interest, social relations to the speaker and actual social interaction with the latter, willingness to think over what has been said and what follows from that” (Odlin, 2008).
During language use, it is likely for a listener to draw multiple conclusions from a single utterance. Therefore, the issue of misinterpretation easily applies to listeners during language use. It is also important to note that a listener might have a wide range of valid interpretations when it comes to language use.
When discussing the issue of misinterpretations, it is important to note that the context of a particular utterance matters. The issue of ‘meaning to whom’ is rarely analyzed by linguists. The multiplicity of contexts in communication makes it difficult to analyze the issue of what a particular utterance means to diverse groups of people.
Nevertheless, the task of deeply analyzing utterances is often relegated to observers and other linguistic experts. Linguistic analysts often investigate the concept of ‘meaning to whom’ using several considerations. The chances of an interpreter avoiding instances of ‘misinterpretations’, depend on his/her familiarity with speakers and listeners. For instance, America uses English as the standard language of communication.
However, English speakers are likely to understand utterances in relation to their individual backgrounds. A linguistic analyst can have difficulties analyzing what an utterance means to a Mexican-American without a slight understanding of the Spanish language. Consequently, to reduce instances of misinterpretations the American system uses hyphenation. Hyphenation offers linguistic experts a chance to make interpretations using the unique traits of listeners and speakers.
Each cultural group creates meanings in its unique way. Therefore, even though all Americans speak one language their interpretations might differ. The issue of interpretation encourages both speakers and listeners to use cultural anthropologies when making deductions. Nevertheless, hyphenations are more effective when analyzing utterances compared to an analysis of written texts (Leiser, 2009).
In written texts, accents do not matter. However, in utterances accents form a big part of interpretation. An example of how the concept of ‘meaning to whom’ is manifested is in the use of the word ‘squaw’. The word squaw means different things to different Native American communities.
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On the other hand, the word has different interpretations within Canada and the United States. For the Algonquian speaking people, the word squaw refers to either a woman or girl. Over the years, the term squaw has come to be interpreted in different ways by different people.
Even though the origins of the word indicate that the word initially meant ‘woman’, other Native American communities have claimed that the word refers to ‘vagina’. Linguists agree that the change of meaning of the word ‘squaw’ is a misinterpretation. Nevertheless, the resulting misinterpretation has turned the word squaw into a derogatory term.
In addition, some Native American communities have renamed places that have the word squaw in them. Although the word squaw initially meant one thing to the early Native Americans, it has come to mean something else to the current generation.
Leiser, R. G. (2009). Exploiting convergence to improve natural language understanding. Interacting with Computers, 1(3), 284-298.
Odlin, T. (2008). Language transfer: Cross-linguistic influence in language learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.