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Archerbird
07-26-2011, 06:13 AM
I apologize in advance in case I make you confused, because I really don't know what I'm looking for.


I'm looking for something that would explain the psychology behind using a word instead of another and what effect it has.
I'm thinking that the way people phrase themselves says something about their subconscious or whatever, the same when interpreting.




Semantics, pragmatics, am I close?

Medievalist
07-26-2011, 06:40 AM
Worf-Sapir hypothesis; see

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=190260
See also Freud and the "Freudian slip."

Dawnstorm
07-26-2011, 10:45 AM
Semantics, pragmatics, am I close?

They're both relevant. It depends, though, on what you want to do. Both Semantics and Pragmatics are areas of research, semantics dealing with meaning as a component of language, and pragmatics dealing with language in applied context. Neither needs to make assumptions about the psychology of a speaker/writer/reader/listener, though they can.

Most linguists have some sort of theoretic approach to language that guids what they think language is in the first place. There is actually a theoretic approach that looks at language as a result of human cognitive processes: Cognitive Linguistics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_linguistics). (If Shweta were here, she could tell you more.) Cognitive linguistics tries to explain language, same as, say, structural or functional linguistics, but they have the bias you're looking for.

Apart from that, there is a discipline that looks at the actual psychology of language, psycholinguistics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psycholinguistics). This one's interdisciplinary, and focuses on what's going on in people's head. If they use brainscans and such, they're talking about neurolinguistics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurolinguistics).

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis Medievalist mentions is again different, in that it developed out of structural anthropology, where you basically try to get at the structure of artefacts/behavioural habits/rituals to get at a culture. Both Sapir and later Worf tried to apply that concept to language. The drive, thus, is more social than psychological (but there are clear relations between psyches and the social construct).

If you want to look at actual controversy you may want to look into forensic linguistics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forensic_linguistics), where people keep debating how much you can infer from word uses - what counts as evidence in court.

I know very little about all of those, so I can't really be of further help. Maybe if you'd have a more concrete question, something else will come to mind, but I don't know.

Archerbird
07-27-2011, 03:57 AM
Worf-Sapir hypothesis; see

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=190260
See also Freud and the "Freudian slip."


Maybe if you'd have a more concrete question, something else will come to mind, but I don't know.

That's the problem right there when you don't know anything about this sort of thing. I saw a similar question to mine on another forum, unfortunately I forgot to save it. Doesn't matter though, I still find your answers far more useful than anything I could have found on my own.
So thanks for the replies. Hopefully someone else just had their questions answered as well.

Anyway, the Worf-Sapir hypothesis is interesting, and close, but it looks like forensic linguistics and discourse analysis is the closest so far.

Thanks again.

JSSchley
07-27-2011, 05:06 PM
Archer, can you be more concrete about what it is you're looking for? In what context are you thinking about why people choose a particular word?

Sapir-Whorf will take you a little bit of the way, but for the most part people don't really talk about Sapir-Whorf as having any credibility any longer, except maybe in what's called the "soft" Sapir-Whorf, that language and thought are influenced by each other.

Discourse analysis and interactional sociolinguistics may be where you want to go. Although it's not generally talked about in terms of a subconscious desire or something, more about the work that is done interactionally by a particular word or words, and that we do choose to do things in particular ways because they get certain messages across, whether it's part of our socialization, or ways we've learned to deal with people.

Anyway, if you think more or want to talk more, I'm your discourse analyst at your disposal, and I can have a forensnic linguist in gChat in sixty seconds. :)

talkwrite
07-28-2011, 03:45 AM
As part of our training, we judicial interpreters research all the possible word choices that a person may use whether it be a lay person's understanding of a medical condition or a lawyer citing the implications of a contract. Emotional testimony ranges from a person reliving the death of a loved one to the resurgence of the same anger that caused them to kill someone. We then learn how to duplicate the register and cultural expressions or in some cases the lack thereof. So we work with the whole gamut of language and communication. But we aren't allowed to delve into why a person speaks the way they do...at least not on the job. The lawyers and detectives do that and it is fascinating to hear their opinions...after we have finished interpreting.


I apologize in advance in case I make you confused, because I really don't know what I'm looking for.


I'm looking for something that would explain the psychology behind using a word instead of another and what effect it has.
I'm thinking that the way people phrase themselves says something about their subconscious or whatever, the same when interpreting.




Semantics, pragmatics, am I close?

Archerbird
07-29-2011, 04:31 AM
Archer, can you be more concrete about what it is you're looking for? In what context are you thinking about why people choose a particular word?



Discourse analysis and interactional sociolinguistics may be where you want to go. Although it's not generally talked about in terms of a subconscious desire or something, more about the work that is done interactionally by a particular word or words, and that we do choose to do things in particular ways because they get certain messages across, whether it's part of our socialization, or ways we've learned to deal with people.

Anyway, if you think more or want to talk more, I'm your discourse analyst at your disposal, and I can have a forensnic linguist in gChat in sixty seconds. :)


That's neat.


I've given it some more thought, and the only thing that comes to mind is that I'd really like to let either a character or a narrator in a story reveal that they are biased or even lying without actually letting anyone know that they are. You would have to figure it out by their words or wording alone.* So I'm wondering if there are any branches of linguistics that deal with that sort of thing? How or why people reveal things without meaning to?


I'm open to the possiblity that I'm completely off course, but this is interesting nonetheless.






*Yes, I know that I'm making things more complicated than I have too. I also know that the easy stuff never learn anyone anything. Shoot me.

Medievalist
07-29-2011, 04:36 AM
You might want to look at the concept of the unreliable narrator; the housekeeper in Wuthering Heights is a classic example. Dorothy Ghent does a nice bit of discourse analysis, and Wayne Booth essentially invented the phrase and discussed examples in his The Rhetoric of Fiction.

An unreliable narrator often reveals that they are less than honest by omitting details that change the interpretation/understanding of other characters' while the reader in fact is allowed to see details or hints about the actual events, for instance.

Dawnstorm
07-29-2011, 11:15 AM
I've given it some more thought, and the only thing that comes to mind is that I'd really like to let either a character or a narrator in a story reveal that they are biased or even lying without actually letting anyone know that they are. You would have to figure it out by their words or wording alone.* So I'm wondering if there are any branches of linguistics that deal with that sort of thing? How or why people reveal things without meaning to?

Ah, I see. There are many possible approaches to this question. You could go the cognitive linguistics route. "Framing" would be a useful concept (Lakoff, via fame semantics), as would be "Profiling" (Langacker).

Framing means that when you use a term, you're also invoking a frame of meanings that gives rise to the term. Thus, depending on what terms you use, certain things are harder to argue than others. For example, I'm an atheist. But by calling myself an "atheist" I'm already ceding ground to theists, by invoking what I'm not - a theist, rather than exploring what I actually believe and giving a non-theist-coloured term to it (such as "naturalist" or "materialist", each of which again conjurs up different contexts and may or may not be to my advantage.)

Profiling means something similar: A word/construction/... usually profiles something on a base. This is rather complex, and I'm not an expert. But, for example, Langacker says that a verb profiles a relation on the base of its participents. I think this means that the "I receive a present," "I am given a present," and "Joe gives me a present," all refer to the same state of affairs, but with different profiles:

"Receive" profiles the relation between recepient (me) and object (the present), leaving out the giver (Joe). "Give" profiles the three-way relation between the recepient (me), the object (the present) and the giver (Joe). Passive voice (as in "I was given a present,") shifts the "landmark" and reverses the "trajectory", but still retains the the profiling of the giver (Joe). (This is why amateur critics often talk about how the passive voice obscures the agent, while a verb like "receive", which does the same thing, gets away with it: The profile draws attention to what's not expressed.)

***

You could also approach the question via pragmatics. The Gricean maxims of conversation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gricean_maxims) come to mind. Basically, it's about what about a situation you think should be said. The maxims are Quality (Say the truth), Quantity (Give neither too little nor too much information), Relation (Be relevant), and Manner (be clear). If you think one of these maxims is violated, you may have detected a difference in perspective. An obvious example: "I've fired my homosexual gardener." You know he only employed one gardener. There is no question he's a bigot, really. Why else would that adjective be in there, than to indicate the reason for firing the gardener. Most statements are not as obvious.

***

There are pitfalls: Take this (http://www.stanford.edu/class/linguist156/Bohner_2001.pdf) article about rape and responsiblity attribution, as concerns the use of the passive voice. There's an interesting discussion of ambiguity, and then you get to the methodology. This includes this little gem:


Nominal forms (e.g. ‘and then the rape occurred’) were coded as passive because of their impersonal nature.

Ah. If nominal forms were coded as passives because of their impersonal nature, wouldn't it have been more straightforward to code both passives and nominal forms as "constructions of an impersonal nature"? Why, then, does this run under the heading of "passive voice". Also, why do they not separate agented and unagented passives (if it is the impersonal nature they are after)? A sentence like "And then she was raped by that castration-deserving arsehole" is very different in responsibility attribution from something like "Yeah, well, she got herself raped." (Notice how I'm exaggerating extremes to make a point here? What does that say about my position? Go and google my post history, and you will find lots of rants of mine targeting the silly [<--aha!] rule against passive voice....)

This is getting convoluted now, isn't it? An article that seeks to find out bias, gets targeted by me for it's own bias - in biased language... So what's my point? Be vigilant. Don't even trust studies. Interesting new concepts are especially seductive.

Just a little taste of what a difficult subject you're interested in. (But it's soooo interesting, isn't it?)

Rachel Udin
08-02-2011, 09:36 PM
Also Cultural linguistics.

Culture doesn't represent just countries, sub cultures.

So example. Does someone call the carbonated sugary water, pop, soda, soda pop, fizzy, what? Often that depends on region. So region that one grew up can play a roll. A teacher from Boston called it "Soder" (due to accent) while in NYS, they called it Pop.

Also location of Urban v. Country. Suburban can play a roll. Also ethnicities in the area. For example, you might get someone using slang borrowed from Spanish if they live close to the border of Mexico. But then slang might be different near Scotland, where some gaelic slang might have seeped in.

Regionalities, ethnicities, etc all play in word choice. There is also social class, economic class (which isn't the same thing), caste (in older India.) etc. That's all culture and cultural linguistics deals with that. (Though the emphasis tends to be more on spoken speech v. traditional linguistics which tends towards written and perfected grammar and speech.)

Sunny Moonlight
08-10-2011, 04:20 AM
Could it be that you were looking for "distancing language?" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distancing_language

GailD
08-31-2011, 03:59 AM
That's neat.


I've given it some more thought, and the only thing that comes to mind is that I'd really like to let either a character or a narrator in a story reveal that they are biased or even lying without actually letting anyone know that they are. You would have to figure it out by their words or wording alone.* So I'm wondering if there are any branches of linguistics that deal with that sort of thing? How or why people reveal things without meaning to?


I'm open to the possiblity that I'm completely off course, but this is interesting nonetheless.


*Yes, I know that I'm making things more complicated than I have too. I also know that the easy stuff never learn anyone anything. Shoot me.

I think this is a fascinating topic, one that I've pondered on for quite some time.

Most of us, I'm sure, are familiar with the external signs of someone lying. Figeting, unconscious hand over mouth, etc. And anyone who has watched a few episodes of "Lie To Me" will have learned about some of the physiological signs.

Habitual and pathological liars are often very good at hiding these signs but (and I must mention here that this is purely anecdotal) very few people can actually 'lie with their voices'. By this I mean, the voice is a dead give-away. I've learned to listen very carefully and one can actually detect the change in pitch and/or tone. I'm not sure if this is the result of the pyscological tension caused by lying but I'm inclined to think that it is.

So how does that help you with a written piece? I would imagine that constantly commenting on a character's voice or body-language could become annoying and distracting. Here's something I noticed that might help.

I've watched tapes of dozens and dozens of police interviews and very often, when the suspect is lying he or she will tend to emphasize the lie.
Example:

Officer: How well do you know John?
Suspect: Uh... Not well. No. Not well at all.
Officer: When did you last see him?
Suspect: Um... I dunno... maybe a month ago. Yeah, at least a month ago.
Officer: Where was he when you saw him?
Suspect: He was in the bar. At the other end of the bar, hanging with his homies.
Officer: And was that the last time you saw him?
Suspect: Yeah. That was the last time I saw him. I haven't seen him since then, at all.

Notice the repetition. ^This, when the police were in possesion of CCTV footage that showed the suspect and 'John' having an angry discussion on a street corner three or four days prior to the interview.

I hope this may be of some help to you. Also, I really like what Dawnstorm said about the use of passive voice as a means of (consciously or unconsciously) putting some distance between the speaker and the lie.

BTW I agree about passive voice. Sometimes it works very well. IMHO.

Fallen
09-06-2011, 01:20 AM
GailD, paralinguistics deal with the more, non-verbal elements that I think you're on about.

There's that many branches, sometimes it's a case of: pick one -- any one.

Best thing I think: how do you lie? Look at your choices, your body movements, your reasoning behind why you lie. Somtimes you're your best subject, or those around you are.

Medievalist
09-06-2011, 01:22 AM
Most of us, I'm sure, are familiar with the external signs of someone lying. Figeting, unconscious hand over mouth, etc. And anyone who has watched a few episodes of "Lie To Me" will have learned about some of the physiological signs.

Keep in mind that these are culturally inculcated.

GailD
09-08-2011, 03:59 PM
Keep in mind that these are culturally inculcated.

Are you saying that different cultures habitually use different external signs of deceit? I find that very interesting. Would you elaborate?

Archerbird
10-15-2011, 06:17 PM
GailD, paralinguistics deal with the more, non-verbal elements that I think you're on about.

There's that many branches, sometimes it's a case of: pick one -- any one.

As someone on the "outside", I've also noticed that they seem to run into each other. Or maybe it's a matter of definition within the various branches, and they only look like each other on the outside?



I think this is a fascinating topic, one that I've pondered on for quite some time.





This is a good one. I have to agree that some of this has to do with culture though, like eyecontact, confidence and such.


Not to mention, If you're a good enough a liar, you'll be aware of bodylanguage, etc.