Language

This category contains 4 posts

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Is it possible to separate what is said from how it is said? It would be comforting to think so, to believe that we don’t judge a book by its cover, so to speak. It turns out that isn’t so easy to do. Have a look at this writeup on research conducted by the University of Chicago. Truth is harder to recognize if it is spoken with a funny accent.

Do you imagine yourself to be more distrustful of people with foreign accents? Are there ways of “compensating” for this? Do we have an ethical duty to trust people equally regardless of their accent, physical appearance or nationality?… Read the rest

Fake it until you become it

It is estimated that well over half of face to face communication is non-verbal, ie body language. The usual breakdown is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% the actual words. Much of the information being communicated is emotional; we look to someone’s body language to judge if they are sexually attracted, frightened, shy or aggressive. If you’re prone to evolutionary speculations as I am, it makes sense that as pack animals one of the first things we need to establish is hierarchy, and that our body language is a good indication of where we think we should be in the pecking order.… Read the rest

Evolution, reason and rhetoric

Reason has long been considered one of the hallmarks of being human. It’s a tool we have developed – or so the story goes – to help us on our path towards truth, an evolutionary adaptation that allows us the better to evaluate situations and come to correct decisions. Maybe. Hugo Mercer and Dan Sperber, cognitive social scientists advocating what is being called the argumentative theory of reasoning, think otherwise. They have argued that reason developed not as a truth-finding tool, but as a social tool to help us to win arguments. For a concise account of their groundbreaking work, see this NY Times article.… Read the rest

Metaphor and cognitive dissonance

Metaphor is everywhere – in fact, you can hardly string two sentences together without without including at least one metaphor. In this video, James Geary elaborates on how metaphor functions not only to adorn language but as a means of creating meaning.

 … Read the rest

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