Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id VAA00288 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Sun, 7 Apr 2002 21:05:53 +0100 X-Originating-IP: [18.104.22.168] User-Agent: Microsoft-Entourage/9.0.2509 Date: Sun, 07 Apr 2002 20:57:29 +0100 Subject: Language and Meaning From: Steve Drew <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: <email@example.com> Message-ID: <B8D66307.3Bfirstname.lastname@example.org> In-Reply-To: <200204071830.TAA02124@alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk> Content-type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII" Content-transfer-encoding: 7bit X-OriginalArrivalTime: 07 Apr 2002 19:59:43.0093 (UTC) FILETIME=[C250D250:01C1DE6E] Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Date: Fri, 05 Apr 2002 19:12:39 -0800
> From: "Grant Callaghan" <email@example.com>
> Subject: Re: memetics-digest V1 #1008
> Thanks, Steve. One of the interesting things about language is the fact
> that we use it in a playful way that constantly creates new ways of using
> words and sentences. Peter Farb wrote a book called "Word Play" that
> covered most of the stuff I learned in linguistics 101 but his basic theme
> was that language is a game played for high stakes that can have life
> altering effects based on your skill and usage. He says,
> "The language game shares certain characteristics with all other true games.
> First of all, it has a minimum of two players (the private,
> incomprrehensible speech of a schizophrenic is no more a true game than is
> solitare). Second, a person within speaking distance of any stranger can be
> forced by social pressure to commit himself to play, in the same way that a
> bystander in the vicinity of any other kind of game may be asked to play or
> to look on. Third, something must be at stake and both players must strive
> to win it -- whether the reward be a tangible gain like convincing an
> employer of the need for a raise or an intangible one like the satisfaction
> of besting someone in an argument. Fourth, a player of any game has a
> particular style that distinguishes him as well as the ability to shift
> styles depending upon where the game is played and who the other players
> are. [I might refer here to a story, made into a movie, called The Circus
> of Doctor Lau. It was a perfect illustration of what Farb is talking about]
> In the case of the language game, the style might be a preference for
> certain expressions or a folksy way of speaking, and the style shift might
> be the bringing into play of different verbal strategies when speaking in
> the home, at the office, one the street, or in a place of worship."
> Black English is especially noteworthy in the creative use of words and one
> of the favorite games on the street is called "The Dozens," in which people
> make veiled and scabrous references to another's family, particularly one's
> mother. Another way is to twist pronounciation of an old word to produce a
> new effect.
> "Girl, you are yoogley!"
> "What do you mean by that?"
> "It takes ten thousand uglies to make one yoogley, and that's you, girl."
My friends and I engaged in the same thing at school. In fact we were at it
at a stag do last night. We always assumed it was because we were abnormal!
> As you can see, scoring points with insults confers status on the one doing
> the scoring. This was an actual conversation I heard on the streets of
> Washington D.C. some years ago.
> Scoring points in an academic environment can also consist of put downs and
> are also used to score points in an argument. I remember asking a question
> in class one day and the instructor coming back with "I don't find that to
> be interesting." meaning he thought I was asking a dumb question despite
> the general attitude pushed by the faculty that "there are no dumb
> questions." The language may sound different, but the game is the same.
Still learning about langauge (and a thousand other things since I joined
this list!), but that was an interesting idea. I had not considered
conversation in that way before. At present I'm working my way through a
book on the social interpretation of language and meaning. I'm also going to
have a look at a couple of papers on the evolution of language, as done on a
computer simulation. If I can understand it I'll report back to the list
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