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Entries tagged 'cat:Language'

How can you explain the meaning of the word 'remember' whichout using that word in a definition? How do children learn what that word means (as well as other non-tangible terms)? I suppose only non-children regard it as incredible how easily those who still enjoy their high neural plasticity learn (e.g. languages).

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Analogue, Digital, Meaninglessness

((Oh, I forgot to fill this one with a content part until now.))

Yeah, I have some peeves about the use of language. I don't think it's just being unable to accept that language changes. I get and accept that. I use words and phrases that wouldn't have made any sense and sometimes noticeably aren't understood by earlier generations. I use nouns as verbs. I use abbreviations where it isn't necessary because it sounds more hip or carries the right (e.g. ironic) undertone. I sometimes use sentence structured that weren't accepted as being correct when I was in school. I use words that, without context, have a different meaning from what I intend them to mean because the stand in a context that I expect my listener to accept as giving the term a different meaning or connotation. I use the singular them and other things many people find wrong. And I don't mind if other people are doing the same things. What I think unnecessarily changing a language by using it wrongly is using a word to mean something it doesn't mean and has never meant because the speaker is confusing the work with another, similar one. It's misspelling a word because the author assumes that spelling doesn't matter. It's placing a comma in a sentence because it looks better, not because it belongs there. It's mixing up and combining proverbs or other expressions as if they didn't have any meaning. It's using a word that has meaning as a filling word, or just because it sounds good, and expecting the listener to know that the speaker didn't mean that (despite saying it). I don't always speak and write in my first language and I know other's are using languages that are fairly new or very new to them.

In other words: I mostly consider it wrong use of language to use a phrase or word to say something else than what almost all or all speakers of that language had already accepted that phrase or word to mean. I don't mind people writing "tho" instead of "though" or "thats" instead of "that's" (although a "its" can hinder my reading flow). But writing "would of" instead of "would have" or "would've" is a really bad habit. "Would" and "of" have a meaning. And while my mind tries to figure out what the author is trying to say by using those words before coming to the conclusion that they aren't, my brain could have processed three more sentences instead. I don't mind it when people only use lower case letters. But switching case every other letter is just inconsiderate to the reader. I don't care how wrong you spell the word "figuratively". But if you spell it "literally" (which literally means the opposite) then you're just using the wrong word.

One of these mistakes (according to me) that has made it into the daily usage is "analogue". That word has completely changed it's meaning, which I find fascinating. I mean, there are worse examples of words having their meaning changed over time by being used differently than before. But this one appears relevant to me because by being used with its new meaning it conveys less information that the words that already existed before "analogue" was used in this way. I suppose it started with "digital". Digital: of or relating to the fingers or toes. Okay, that's an even more original meaning that what I mean here. "Digital" has been used in electronics for a long time to describe data that is recorded or displayed in a form of a countable number of steps. The digital clock displays the time in distinguishable steps of 60 minutes per hour (and 60 seconds per minute if it has a seconds display). There is no in-between. The analogue clock ("analogue" being used as a sort of opposite of "digital" here) on the other hand (picture a sundial here) only always shows the exact representation of now, which may be between two seconds, between femtoseconds, between whatever digital (/countable) unit you make up. Every moment in time has an analogue on the sundial.

So saying a recording (be it a cardiogram or a piece of music) is analogue or digital means exactly that. It's either stored as sound waves on an analogue medium or by storing numbers from a limited predefined range on a digital medium. That's why it's sometimes said that analogue audio recordings sound better than digital recordings.

So, what does that have to do with the internet and mass-communication? As far as I can figure out nothing except vague connotations in one area or another. Implied associations relying on context that ranges from "how this person has used the term before on this channel" to "what has been discussed on other channels on which the person using the term has read and participated in over the recent years" (which listeners can't or at least shouldn't be expected to know). "Digitally" is often used to mean "something related to or involving electronic devices", or "using technologies that are capable of mass-communication", or just "in a modern way in which it hasn't commonly be done in the past". But it can also just mean "digitally", in which case "machine-readable" can also be implied but not said. Without explanation and/or a large lot of context, it's usually impossible to know what's actually meant by the word. "In person", "on paper", "using a device not connected to the internet", "similar to something else" - those are all meanings for which the word "analogue" is used today. Sometimes, the user of the word really doesn't know what they want to say, except that it's somehow related to not being online, not using modern communication services. I suppose then it can be the right word to convey "something with electronics and the internet". But in all cases where I read and head the word used, I wish the speaker or author would be more specific and let me know what they actually mean. "Digital communication" seems to include messages of any format that are sent over social network platforms, audio messages that are uploaded to a remote computer and downloaded from there by another computer, and text messages regardless of the medium that is used as long as it's electronic. The same audio message spoken through a phone (which first digitizes it and then sends it over the same wires using the same internet protocol and the same server infrastructure than the rest of the internet does) is not considered digital. A fax is digital, but excluded by the modern usage of digital. A digital message written on paper is also not considered digital.

Why change the meaning of the words? What's the advantage? Isn't this always confusing and obfuscating?

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Eigentlich ist ein schönes Wort.


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Political Correctness

When I first realised that the disagreements about political correctness aren't just yet another sign of political camps having opposite views about societal coexistence and interactions but rather a debate in which proponents and opponents of political correctness are situated in the same communities, I was a bit confused. When I realised that free thinkers and rationalists repeatedly spoke out against political correctness as a whole and against individual examples of it as well as recent developments in western societies that I view as positive, I was surprised. This year I have finally heard enough to get me to look into why that is. More than a few times I have heard people whose world view I share or whose opinions I value either condemn political correctness or rant about something that in their depiction went wrong or is going wrong because of political correctness. But they seemed to assume that the reader/listener/dialogue partner is on the same page and didn't go into detail or defend that view enough to make me understand it. Ultimately it was the hate in the sound Stephen Fry's voice that made me search for the cause of the clash of opinions between his and mine.

My view on the topic has always been a bit simple but nonetheless felt mature to me. It's not like I've never read or thought about political correctness and relating topics before. Simply put, I don't see a good reason to do something incorrectly on purpose. There are many reasons to be politically incorrect apart from sheer self-purpose and intentional offence. Ignorance, a lack of awareness, understanding or time to think about matters like this and other human imperfections are all very widespread and understandable causes for political incorrectness. But they aren't good reasons to be incorrect. I'm trying to write this without using any examples because I fear that it would make me go way too far down into detail. So, in short: When making a conscious decision to do something one way or the other, one should, all other things being equal, ideally, always choose the one that, to their knowledge, has the least potential to cause offence, oppress or support existing inequality. Yes, I know. But I said in short. Let's keep it at that for now.

What I found when I looked into this debate was, well, first of all a lack of a definition in almost every case, which makes debating on it a lot less efficient and more prone to misunderstandings, leading to misrepresentations and wrong assumptions of other's opinions and thus a lack of a result of the whole debate. But trying to look past that, I got the feeling that the motivations for rejecting what I perceive as positive progression through political correctness are often rooted in a fundamental dislike for change. I should be able to relate to this even more than I do as it is. But I don't see this as a rational argument against political correctness. And it isn't used as one. It's just what I assume behind many cul-de-sacs in discussions because no clear, rational reason is given. Even people with a well-deserved reputation of being rational thinkers create the impression of arguing out of personal offence (at which point the opponent often points out the irony of the one arguing for the freedom of offence being the one who is offended by rational arguments, which usually leads the discussion to leave the path that looks like it could lead to useful insight).

But there is one argument that I hadn't really taken into account before: The claim that it just doesn't work. Empirically, what did political correctness bring us directly? How much progress was caused or influenced by it? And how much hate, tribalism and radicalisation has it caused and still causes it on the right? I don't know. But that is an interesting part of this discussion. I don't think I have anything useful to contribute to this. So I'll leave these questions entirely unanswered before reading more.

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Sprache ist persönlich - auch auf Twitter -nur für Politiker nicht ??

This blog entry was originally posted to mixlog.de.

Sprache ist etwas persönliches, in chat und auf twitter wird die persönliche Sprache erkennt - egal wie man sich nennt. Aber schreiben die twitternden Politiker wirklich alle selbst, oder lassen sie auch bei Twitter schreiben, bei einem Dialogmedium, was so dazu genutzt wird, den Bürger noch weiter für "dummen zu verkaufen" weil er eben gar nicht mit dem Politiker, sondern einer Angentur im Dialog steht. Wie werden Bürger reagieren ? Solche Parteien/Politiker nicht mehr wählen ?

Comparing apples and oranges: a randomised prospective study

There is a research paper that was published a year ago and hasn't gotton enough attention in my opinion. I wished many times that somebody attempted something line this scientifically.

There are several very basic things wrong with this paper. The results are pretty much useless apart from the overall success of the comparison itself. Ignore the details. I can finally say with confidence that comparing apples with oranges is not as outragiously impossible as it is usually made out to be.

Here's the link to the paper. And here it is on NCBI.

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Real Life

Of all the things people do wrong in the usage of language, this is probably my pet peeve. Maybe because I believe that I can reasonably argue against it.

People use the term "real life" ("IRL" and, very similarly, "real world") as if it would mean the opposite of "online" or "over the internet" or "using some electronic medium". Hereafter I will call this the wrong usage of the term. It is done so often and regularly that it actually does mean one of these things. Before I describe what I think the problem with it is, let me try to explain what I'm talking about, exactly. Both of those words (real and life) have meanings on their own and using them together is absolutely in line with those individual meanings. I don't find it absurd to expect that the phrase means "the life that is actually true, as opposed to fictional". In fact, I consider it better to expect this meaning because not only did this meaning exist first, it also continues to be used. "The real world" is used meaning the opposite of a virtual world. I suppose the internet was considered to be a virtual world in the beginning and assume that that's where the wrong usage of "real world" stems from.

The main problem that I see is that when people regularly and naturally apply the wrong usage, the notion that the internet is not part of the real world, the real life, is reinforced, which I fear may influence the perception and the expectation that what happens on the internet does not have the same meaning or effects on life as things that happen without the internet playing a major role. In some ways they are (e.g. greater possible audience on social media than on a soapbox), but not in the way the use of "real world" as the opposite implies.

A conversation in a chat room can be much more real than a conversation offline. E-Mails, their meaning and effects on the world aren't less real than those of letter written or printed on paper. A confession over a video chat platform is not unreal compared to a confession over a telephone call, which is not unreal compared to a confession given in close physical proximity, just different. A threat posted in a Whatsapp group doesn't have less impact than a thread yelled at a schoolyard or under four eyes.

I imagine that the more this wrong usage is ignored the more its wrong implications get internalised by society and individuals. I wouldn't go so far to assume that there is a relavant relation between the wrong usage of "real life" and "real world" and the prevalence of "cyberbullying", online harassment and other extreme forms of modern trollship. But I also don't think the possibility that language influences the thinking and by that extension the actions of humans should be overlooked. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some connection to be found. But I don't know of any research on this nor would I expect to find any.

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