Universal Human Commonalities (UHC)


A metonymy is a figure of speech distinctly used to describe one entity that is representing another entity (such as using “head count” to mean "the number of people"). Metonymy differs from metaphor in that metonymy uses one entity to stand in for another, whereas metaphor uses one entity to describe another.

Synesthetic Metaphor

A synesthetic metaphor is a metaphor that crosses different senses to describe one entity in terms of another. For example, one might refer to a vibrant color as “loud” or a pleasant smell as “sweet.” Synesthetic metaphor specifies a certain sense, but invokes imagery that is linguistically described in terms belonging to a different sense.

Language and Consciousness

Consciousness is an essential component of not just psychology, but linguistics as well. During communication, consciousness allows individuals to distinguish between given information, or what the speaker assumes the listener already knows, and new information, or what the listener is hearing for the first time. Much of communication revolves around the dynamics of information sharing, since speakers must determine what listeners already know and what they need to know in order to advance the conversation.

Loss of Language

For various reasons, some languages wane and eventually become extinct over time. The loss of language can have a profound effect on culture, which is intimately linked to language. “Culture is expressed through language; when language is lost, those things that represent a way of life, a way of valuing, and human reality are also lost.” Linguists argue that teaching children a language in school is not enough to ensure the language will survive.

Phonetic Symbolism

Two forms of phonetic symbolism exist: “associative or referential, and phonic or expressive.” An experiment attempted to measure feelings of symbolism associated with certain vowels and consonants, separated from the meaningful words in which these letters usually appear. The results found that participants were more likely to consider fake words with the letter ‘a’ larger than fake words with the letter ‘i’.

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.


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