Linguistics

Symbolic Speech

Symbolic speech is a specific form of communication, involving actions that clearly and purposely convey a particular message. A notable example of symbolic speech is the act of flag burning, which clearly conveys feelings of anger toward a nation without overt verbal expression. This type of behavior is found in all cultures, where various gestures represent different sentiments depending on the culture.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is the right to express one’s beliefs and ideas via speech without discrimination. Though it is technically a political right, granted by various national and international human rights laws, freedom of speech is considered a universal, natural right of all humans. However, in practice, there are usually some limitations to freedom of speech, involving acts such as libel or slander. In the past, much of the debate regarding freedom of speech involved the degree to which speech should be protected.

Linguistic Redundancy

Linguistic redundancy refers to parts of a language that are repetitive and can be removed without damaging the effectiveness of communication. This exists in all facets of language, from spelling and words to semantics and syntax. Though redundancy might be interpreted as unnecessary and negative, many linguists believe it is a fundamental attribute of language. “Linguistic redundancy consists of grammatical redundancy and contextual redundancy, whose various functions contribute to successful communication”.

Sememes (Meaningful Elements in Language)

A sememe is the smallest unit of semantics, responsible for transmitting meaning in all natural languages. Sememes are a basic component of language that "can be used independently" and "expressed by specific linguistic form." For example, the sememe ‘move’ means ‘to move’, but also conveys meanings for ‘roll’, ‘jump’, or ‘turn’ in an abstract sense. The analysis of sememes involves observing the primary motive of the sememe, rather than looking at how it can be manipulated to create other meanings.

Cognitive Semantics

Cognitive semantics is a unique approach to the field of linguistics, characterized by the idea that the meanings of words are not inherent, but rather conceptual and based on personal understanding.

Semantics

Semantics is the study of linguistic meaning and the relationships between words, phrases, and symbols that contribute to human communication and expression. A study observed how children learn the meanings of words in their native languages. It was determined that children can deduce the meanings of unknown words when they know the overall meaning of the sentence in which the unknown words are spoken. This allows the children to “acquire partial knowledge from ambiguous situations and combine such partial knowledge across situations,” until a complete understanding is achieved.

Politeness

Politeness is a universal human behavior, thought to result from a need for balanced interpersonal relationships. Studies of linguistic politeness do not usually attempt to identify specific polite behaviors because “politeness is a social matter, and hence culture-specific.” However, researchers generally agree that politeness has universal value as a verbal strategy that produces friction-free social interactions. Studies of politeness draw a distinction between universality and culture-specificity in order to obtain a more definitive understanding of this type of behavior.

Proverbs

Proverbs are simple, oft-repeated sayings that express some sort of truth or moral, usually originating from a society’s folklore, riddles, fables, and myths. Proverbs are found in all languages and may even pass from one language to another.

Proper Names

Proper names are names given to specific people, locations, or objects, such as Istanbul or The White House. Researchers have studied the ways children learn proper names, as well as the link between proper names and their appropriate interpretations. It was found that children learn proper names by utilizing “implicit semantic knowledge that they posses when they begin to acquire language.” This allows children to “map individual proper names onto their appropriate interpretations and to master the language-specific grammatical properties of expressions belonging to this class.”

Pronouns

Pronouns are a part of speech found in all languages, used to replace nouns so that sentences become less repetitive. Pronouns can become confusing if they are overused, since it can sometimes become difficult to determine which pronouns are referring to which nouns. Experiments were performed to test whether participants could correctly identify the referents of ambiguous pronouns.

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