Wednesday, May 11, 2016

PHI 210 Week 8

The presentation may contain content that is deemed objectionable to a particular viewer because of the view expressed or the conduct depicted. The views expressed are provided for learning purposes only, and do not necessarily express the views, or opinions, of Strayer University, your professor, or those participating in videos or other media.

We will have two ten-minute breaks: at 7:30 and 9 pm. You will have 15 minutes in the Lab at 9:45 and then we will do our Discussion at 10:00 before you are dismissed at 10:15 pm.

Chapter 8: Language

8.1 Language and Thinking





Tips for Dealing with Unclear Language

8.1 Practice: Language and Thinking

Multiple Meanings

"Words," Radiolab/NPR

"Language as a Window into Human Nature," RSA Animate, Steven Pinker

8.2 Define Your Terms


Denotative Meaning

Connotative Meaning

Syntactic Meaning

Pragmatic Meaning

How Do You Define "Cult"?

Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, Steven Hassan

8.3 Word Games


Emotive Language


Loaded Questions

Weasel Words

Proof Surrogate

8.3 Practice: Word Games

Manipulation in Politics

Drew Westen

Frank Luntz

Assignment 2: Problem Solving
Due Week 9 and worth 150 points
When faced with a problem, what do you do to solve it? Assignment 2 asks you to apply a systematic approach to problem solving. This assignment is divided into two (2) parts. In Part I, of the assignment, you will read three (3) articles that present variations on step-by-step problem solving strategies and then select one (1) of these strategies; you will engage in pre-writing to develop a solution to a problem scenario. In Part II of the assignment, you will write a paper that presents a synthesis of your ideas about solving the problem. As Voltaire said, “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”

Part I
Preparation and Pre-writing: Follow the steps below to explore a problem through reading and writing –
1. Choose one (1) of the problem scenarios as a topic choice for your paper (Note: Your professor must approve your topic choice before you begin work on the assignment.).
Scenario 1: You have worked at your company for eleven (11) years. You have returned to college to earn a Bachelor’s degree in order to increase your chances for a promotion. You are nearly finished with your degree; a supervisor’s position in a competing company becomes available in another state. The start date is in two (2) weeks, during your final exam period for your courses. The position offers a $15,000 per year salary increase, a car allowance, and relocation expenses. Your former supervisor works for the company and is recommending you for the position based on your outstanding job performance; if you want the job, it’s yours. All of the other supervisors at this level in the company have Master’s degrees. You know that you would be expected to earn your Bachelor’s degree and continue on to a Master’s degree. Your present company offers tuition reimbursement, but the new company does not.

Scenario 2: Your child comes home from school with an assignment sheet for a school project. He / she is very excited about the project and begins work immediately, doing research on the Internet and gathering materials. You read over the assignment sheet and notice that your child is not including all of the required items in the project, and you have some ideas for how to improve the quality of the presentation. You recently read an article in a parenting magazine about the importance of a child developing responsibility for his / her own learning. You recall the many ways in which your parents took over your school projects. You, on the other hand, want to encourage your child’s confidence in his / her ability to complete a project independently. The next day, you are at the grocery store when you see a parent of a student in your child’s class. That parent has spent over $30 in supplies for the science project and is taking a day off of work to put the pieces of the project together.

Scenario 3: You have two jobs—one during the week from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, and one on Saturday from 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm. You are taking two classes—one that meets from 6:00 to 10:00 pm, and one class online. You have two kids—one who plays soccer, and one who is in band. You have two elderly parents who no longer drive. You have two siblings—one who lives two (2) miles away, and one who lives in another state. You have two (2) papers due in your classes the same week that one (1) of your children has a soccer tournament, and the other child has a band concert. You are coaching the soccer team, and you are in charge of fundraising for the band. You have a goal to complete your degree in two (2) years. Your doctor tells you that your blood pressure, your cholesterol, and your weight are too high and recommends several medications that cost you nearly $200 per month after your insurance co-pay.

Scenario 4: You are a sales representative for a company that encourages staff to log time in the field and away from the office. You are expected to begin and end your day at the office. You notice that each day when you arrive and return another co-worker is already there, and you wonder whether this person spends most of his / her time at the office. At your weekly sales meeting, you are informed of your co-workers’ outstanding sales performance. You suspect that this co-worker is spending more time flattering the boss instead of working leads in the field, and as a result is getting the best client referrals. Your own sales numbers have steadily decreased since this other sales representative was hired.

2. Go to the Internet, and read the following articles:
3. Select one (1) of the step-by-step problem solving strategies outlined in one (1) of the articles. Using the chosen problem solving strategy as a model, brainstorm ideas for each of the steps to develop a solution to the problem scenario you chose. 

Part II
Synthesizing and Writing: Now that you have developed a solution to the problem by pre-writing about your ideas –
Write a four to five (4-5) page paper in which you:
  1. Analyze the problem scenario that you have chosen, and organize your analysis into sections that correlate to each step in the selected problem solving strategy.
  2. Apply each step within the selected problem solving strategy to related elements of the scenario that you have chosen.
  3. Suggest alternative actions to the situation(s) within the scenario that correspond to each of the steps within the selected problem solving strategy.
  4. Speculate on whether or not the same problem-solving strategy would be effective if used with different scenarios.
The paper should follow guidelines for clear and organized writing:
  • Include an introductory paragraph and concluding paragraph.
  • Address main ideas in body paragraphs with a topic sentence and supporting sentences.
  • Adhere to standard rules of English grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and spelling.
Your assignment must follow these formatting requirements:
  • Be typed, double spaced, using Times New Roman font (size 12), with one-inch margins on all sides; citations and references must follow APA Style format. Check with your professor for any additional instructions.
  • Include a cover page containing the title of the assignment, the student’s name, the professor’s name, the course title, and the date. The cover page and the reference page are not included in the required assignment page length.
You should follow these submission guidelines:
  • Submit the paper draft to and then submit the originality report with the draft to Blackboard.
The specific course learning outcomes associated with this assignment are:
  • Recognize the hindrances to the decision-making process in order to apply problem-solving skills to a variety of situations.
  • Write clearly and concisely about critical thinking using proper writing mechanics.
  • Use technology and information resources to research issues in critical thinking skills and informal logic.
Click here to view the grading rubric for this assignment.

Chapter 8: Language

Language is the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so, and a language is any specific example of such a system. The scientific study of language is called linguistics.

Questions concerning the philosophy of language, such as whether words can represent experience, have been debated since Gorgias and Plato in Ancient Greece. Thinkers such as Rousseau have argued that language originated from emotions while others like Kant have held that it originated from rational and logical thought. 20th-century philosophers such as Wittgenstein argued that philosophy is really the study of language. Major figures in linguistics include Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky.

Estimates of the number of languages in the world vary between 5,000 and 7,000. However, any precise estimate depends on a partly arbitrary distinction between languages and dialects. Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, in graphic writing, braille, or whistling. This is because human language is modality-independent. Depending on philosophical perspectives regarding the definition of language and meaning, when used as a general concept, "language" may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules. All languages rely on the process of semiosis to relate signs to particular meanings. Oral and sign languages contain a phonological system that governs how symbols are used to form sequences known as words or morphemes, and a syntactic system that governs how words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and utterances.

Human language has the properties of productivity, recursivity, and displacement, and relies entirely on social convention and learning. Its complex structure affords a much wider range of expressions than any known system of animal communication. Language is thought to have originated when early hominins started gradually changing their primate communication systems, acquiring the ability to form a theory of other minds and a shared intentionality.[1][2] This development is sometimes thought to have coincided with an increase in brain volume, and many linguists see the structures of language as having evolved to serve specific communicative and social functions. Language is processed in many different locations in the human brain, but especially in Broca's and Wernicke's areas. Humans acquire language through social interaction in early childhood, and children generally speak fluently when they are approximately three years old. The use of language is deeply entrenched in human culture. Therefore, in addition to its strictly communicative uses, language also has many social and cultural uses, such as signifying group identity, social stratification, as well as social grooming and entertainment.

Languages evolve and diversify over time, and the history of their evolution can be reconstructed by comparing modern languages to determine which traits their ancestral languages must have had in order for the later developmental stages to occur. A group of languages that descend from a common ancestor is known as a language family. The Indo-European family is the most widely spoken and includes languages such as English, Russian, and Hindi; the Sino-Tibetan family, which includes Mandarin and the other Chinese languages, and Tibetan; the Afro-Asiatic family, which includes Arabic, Somali, and Hebrew; the Bantu languages, which include Swahili, and Zulu, and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout Africa; and the Malayo-Polynesian languages, which include Indonesian, Malay, Tagalog, and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout the Pacific. The languages of the Dravidian family that are spoken mostly in Southern India include Tamil and Telugu. Academic consensus holds that between 50% and 90% of languages spoken at the beginning of the 21st century will probably have become extinct by the year 2100.

Language - Experiences and Perceptions -- Thoughts - Reasoning Processes -- Actions -- Emotions -- Moods -- Body - Social Interactions and Communication. 6:19 Break vid

Any change or stimulus on any of these links causes changes in both directions, affecting all the others. This means that every change in every link has an effect that can be encoded and represented in language, that is, it can be translated to language, at least to some extent. Linguistic expressions serve as signifiers of states and changes of the other elements present in the chain. Equally important is the other direction: the use of language in time also affects all the other elements.

The study of language in logic, linguistics and cognitive psychology should be the starting point of all other inquiries into science and the humanities. Http://

What is Language?║Lindsay Does Languages Video, 3:05

Sometimes we need to think about what language is before we can even think about learning other languages! What is language?

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6:19, Break vid

Signifier Object
Signifier Object 2

Signifier Object 3

Signifier Object 4

8.1 Language and Thinking

Language is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, and a language is any specific example of such a system. The scientific study of language is called linguistics.
Estimates of the number of languages in the world vary between 6,000 and 7,000. However, any precise estimate depends on a partly arbitrary distinction between languages and dialects. Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, in graphic writing, braille, or whistling. This is because human language is modality-independent. When used as a general concept, "language" may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules. All languages rely on the process of semiosis to relate signs with particular meanings. Oral and sign languages contain a phonological system that governs how symbols are used to form sequences known as words or morphemes, and a syntactic system that governs how words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and utterances.
Lockheed Martin: We're Engineering A Better Tomorrow (30 sec) by LockheedMartinVideos 0:00 / 0:32 Does language shape how we think? Linguistic relativity & linguistic determinism -- Linguistics 101, 3:16
From the "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis" to modern psychology, get a quick feel for this ongoing debate. Is language about grammatical universals like nouns and verbs? What's the relationship between language and culture?

Text version of this lesson with links to further resources: To continue learning about language, subscribe to NativLang or visit:
Music: Funkorama, Kevin MacLeod (


Grammar is the study of how meaningful elements called morphemes within a language can be combined into utterances. Morphemes can either be free or bound. If they are free to be moved around within an utterance, they are usually called words, and if they are bound to other words or morphemes, they are called affixes. The way in which meaningful elements can be combined within a language is governed by rules. The rules for the internal structure of words are called morphology. The rules of the internal structure of phrases and sentences are called syntax.

English - Language, Structure & Form: English Exam Tips, 2:07

Important Forms of the English language


Intentionality is a philosophical concept defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as "the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs". The term refers to the ability of the mind to form representations and should not be confused with intention. The term dates from medieval Scholastic philosophy, but was resurrected by Franz Brentano and adopted by Edmund Husserl. The earliest theory of intentionality is associated with St. Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God and his tenets distinguishing between objects that exist in the understanding and objects that exist in reality.

Non-Physical Properties of the Mind? Intentionality #1: Introduction, 5:38

An introduction to an apparent non-physical property of the mind, which presents one of the primary challenges to materialist reduction.

How do we use words to refer to or target things and conjure up meaning?

Pointer and referent

"Dog" and referent

We assign meaning to objects as a result of hints from language use.

The mind applies meaning.

Are we nothing but materials?


In analytic philosophy and linguistics, a concept may be considered vague if its extension is deemed lacking in clarity, if there is uncertainty about which objects belong to the concept or which exhibit characteristics that have this predicate (so-called "border-line cases").

In everyday speech, vagueness is an inevitable, often even desired effect of language usage. However, in most specialized texts (e.g., legal documents), vagueness is distracting.

Fallacies of Language? :34

As you watch this movie can you identify any examples of overly general language, vague comparisons, weasel words, hyperbole, or ambiguity?

Humorous verbs - so specific that they're vague, 5:05

This is an almost Monty Pythonesque presentation about verbs. 

Verbs can be too vague to elicit meaning.

Language needs to be specific to elicit meaning.

A whole passel of vague verbs are reviewed.

Politicos are experts at manipulating language.

How to Give a Speech without Saying Anything, 2:13

Watch more Politics 101 videos: Politicians have it down to a science—giving a rousing speech without actually saying anything. Learn how to double-talk, whether you're running for office or just need to say a whole lot of nothing. Step 1: Keep it vague Pepper your speech with universally appealing sound bites like, 'More money!' 'Less waste!' 'A clean environment!' 'Healthy children!' but don’t paint yourself into a corner by providing details on how you’re going to accomplish this wonderful stuff. Step 2: Hedge your bets Hedge your bets. If you say, 'We need to be aggressive,' temper it later with 'We need to proceed cautiously.' Thus if someone criticizes you for being too aggressive, you can say you underscored the need for caution. Tip Nod, smile, and point at imaginary friends in the audience, so people will think the room is filled with supporters. Step 3: Hire a speechwriter Hire a professional speechwriter to come up with a catchy phrase on the order of 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.' Then the rest of your blather won’t matter. Step 4: Use euphemisms Be liberal with your use of euphemisms. Your district isn’t in crisis; it’s facing a challenge. You’ve never been criticized; you’ve just gotten lots of feedback. And you’ve never been involved in a scandal, you just exercised poor judgment. Tip Remember, you’re not 'anti' anything—such an ugly word. You are simply 'pro' something else. Step 5: Run down the clock When asked a question, buy time by saying things like, 'That’s an excellent question!' and 'I’m glad someone asked that.' Keep rephrasing your delight and eagerness until people forget what the hell you were supposed to be answering. Did You Know? George Orwell said political language is 'designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.'

Is Hillary Clinton Right That The Rich Don't Pay Their "Fair Share" of Taxes? 1:31

Vague language can be used to the speaker's advantage. For example, politicians demanding that the law or taxes be "fair" without specifying what they mean.

How much precisely is fair?

How much of your money do you deserve to keep?

How much of their money should rich be people be able to keep?


Polysemy (/pəˈlɪsɨmi/ or /ˈpɒlɨsmi/; from Greek: πολυ-, poly-, "many" and σῆμα, sêma, "sign") is the capacity for a sign (e.g., a word, phrase, etc.) or signs to have multiple related meanings (sememes), i.e., a large semantic field. It is usually regarded as distinct from homonymy, in which the multiple meanings of a word may be unconnected or unrelated.

Charles Fillmore and Beryl Atkins’ definition stipulates three elements: (i) the various senses of a polysemous word have a central origin, (ii) the links between these senses form a network, and (iii) understanding the ‘inner’ one contributes to understanding of the ‘outer’ one.

Polysemy is a pivotal concept within disciplines such as media studies and linguistics.

Syntactic ambiguity, also called amphiboly or amphibology, is a situation where a sentence may be interpreted in more than one way due to ambiguous sentence structure.

Syntactic ambiguity arises not from the range of meanings of single words, but from the relationship between the words and clauses of a sentence, and the sentence structure implied thereby. When a reader can reasonably interpret the same sentence as having more than one possible structure, the text meets the definition of syntactic ambiguity.

In legal disputes, courts may be asked to interpret the meaning of syntactic ambiguities in statutes or contracts. In some instances, arguments asserting highly unlikely interpretations have been deemed frivolous.

"Whether Alicia gets a share of her grandmother's inheritance depends on whether she has the will" (Soomo text).

"Johann didn't want to discuss his wife's affair with his brother" (Soomo text).

Ambiguous... or is it? 4:31

Managerial Communication assignment by Sreedev Basu, PGP/17/177, section C. Ambiguity - imprecision or vagueness - in language, leaves communication open to interpretation, and thus, is a common roadblock to an effective exchange of thought, both in social and business spheres. However, with judicial use, it may be possible to turn ambiguity to one's own advantage.

What is pornography?

Parks and Recreation - "Define Pornography" :18

The phrase "I know it when I see it" is a colloquial expression by which a speaker attempts to categorize an observable fact or event, although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters. The phrase was famously used in this sense by United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to describe his threshold test for obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964). In explaining why the material at issue in the case was not obscene under the Roth test, and therefore was protected speech that could not be censored, Stewart wrote:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. [Emphasis added.]
—Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964), regarding possible obscenity in The Lovers.
The expression became one of the most famous phrases in the entire history of the Supreme Court.
Stewart's "I know it when I see it" standard was praised as "realistic and gallant" and an example of candor.

Is the disposition of a foetus a "choice," or a "life"? Is pornography "free speech"?

First Amendment activist Larry Flynt talks free speech at Syracuse University, 1:47

Can you precisely define pornography?

Larry Flynt, free speech activist, and publisher of Hustler magazine (a monthly pornographic magazine), addressed hundreds at Syracuse University's Goldstein Auditorium on Tuesday evening, trying to spread education on the First Amendment.

Language and Society


With intelligent wit Robert Dubac shows us what we say isn't what we mean.

English reflects a rich society but at times, shackles our thinking.

Orwell famously noted in "Politics and the English Language" that the decline of England was reflected in the sloppiness of the English language. Orwellian language notes that, as he stated, "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." In the '70s, government reports about Vietnam referred to civilian deaths as "collateral damage." "Pacification" was to make the country "peaceful" by such tactics as laying down a "carpet" of bombs. With such a "peaceful bombing pattern, who could be offended by a little collateral damage"?

Orwell condemned language such as this "designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

In the '80s Iran-Contra scandal there was "plausible deniability."

In the '90s the Gulf War presented "desert shield" and "desert storm." In the Yugoslavian breakup Serbians killing Croatians was "ethnic cleansing."

These are euphemisms that conceal as much as they reveal and identify.

Consider a few contemporary examples:

Failing = "emerging student"

"I misspoke" = "I lied."

Finally, seizing individuals to areas known to torture people is "extraordinary rendition."

Such distortions were not always a part of our American culture. Built on Christian values and Roman law, the "ideal American" was forthright and almost rudely honest. The American tradition was best represented by George Washington, of whom it was said, he never told a lie. Washington is so different from our current crop of politicians that people have difficulty accepting that he was such a forthright character but biographers and historians confirm his basic honesty. In addition, we might consider another famous American president, "Honest Abe" Lincoln. These are typical representatives of the American character. A significant change seems to have occurred when Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the Americans as he left office in 1960 about the "military-industrial complex"and the departure from the American tradition that might occur if we traveled down that road.

Language and Society - Intro to Culture, 6:40

This intro to a language and society course covers several important points helpful for our purposes in this section.

How do language and society intersect?

How do we define culture? :50 What are the "3 P's?"

Does language determine culture? Or, does culture determine language? Does language determine how we think?

Language and culture

Meredydd Evans: The Power of the Welsh Language and Cultural Identity, 2:58

Why should minorities preserve their language?

How is language related to identity?

Meredydd Evans, Professor of Philosophy, writer, and performer has long been an advocate for the Welsh language. In this 2008 interview, he discusses how language is an inseparable part of cultural identity.

Do you think the Welsh, against the Anglo-British tradition, would have a stronger identity had they been able to preserve their language better?


  • Language & Culture, 3:43 Break vid

  • Does language and culture provide us with an identity? 
  • Is language a sign of your identity?

  • 10 Surprising Ways To Offend People In Other Countries, 2:35 


  • The Power of Words, 1:48

    • Do the right words make a difference?


    • Figurative language Figurative Language Pop Culture 2014, 7:39

      A video that challenges students to identify examples of figurative language in pop culture. 
    • Teachers- Pause on the blue screens to give students time to read the example and answer.

      KEY 1. metaphor 2. simile 3. hyperbole 4. simile 5. alliteration 6. simile 7. metaphor 8. simile 9. simile 10. simile 11. metaphor OR alliteration 12. simile 13. metaphor OR alliteration 14. metaphor OR alliteration 15. metaphor 16. personification 17. metaphor 18. simile OR alliteration 19. personification 20. hyperbole 21. simile 22. simile 23. metaphor 24. personification 25. metaphor 26. hyperbole 27. metaphor 28. personification 29. hyperbole 30. hyperbole 31. metaphor OR alliteration 32. metaphor OR alliteration 33. hyperbole 34. personification 35. simile 36. simile 37. simile 38. simile

    Flocabulary - Figurative Language, 2:53

  • Learn all about different kinds of figurative language with this Flocabulary song. Can you fill in the blanks?


  • Meet Will, a youngin' with an old soul, An emcee who wants to be the next to blow. Imagine: he’s in a dark room in Manhattan, Scrapping, scribbling on napkins, Trying to make a living off rapping, But skills, he lacked them. Nobody thought that it would happen, Until one day, Will switches his style, Gets deep, and his wordplay gets witty and wild. He used to sound so embarrassing, Now peep all the ________ and comparisons. His life is a highway, but he’d confess, He has a plan but needs a GPS. He’s using references and ________, A lyrical Houdini, creating illusions. Dolphins in '72 - he won't lose, Up by the first alarm, he’s not snoozing. You'll be amazed by every phrase, He will come correct with the wordplay. Literal lines that block his way, He will come correct with the wordplay. (x2) Comparing with like or as, he's dropping ________, Taking little steps like a centipede. He's sharp like a laser, sharp as a razor, In a night as dark as Darth Vader. Dude can juke and adjust his position, Contrasting two things in ________, From weak to made, cheap to paid, A creep to a dude who leads the way. Using ________, what’s he doing? Making objects and animals seem human. The moon smiles as the city breathes, He can feel the heartbeat of the city streets. A live show? You really oughta see it. Will will drop some ________, Words that sound like what they describe, Now the crowd's buzzing - it’s alive. You'll be amazed by every phrase, He will come correct with the wordplay. Literal lines that block his way, He will come correct with the wordplay. (x2) Will he exaggerate? Use ________? He’s the best ever at it, so certainly. With ________, vowel sounds he’s repeating, He seems the least beat in any season. His fans are legion, all the boneheads who bring beef Leave with lots of lyrical lesions. That’s ________ - same sound sentence, It’s commonsense - he’s calm with the confidence. Using ________, opposite meaning, His lines hit as soft as iron, believe him, Good with the ________ and the wordplay, oh my, Going deep in double meanings like they were a coal mine. Will's skills are sick like ERs, you heard of this? Get hit and you’ll see stars like Copernicus. If you only have one chance to shine, You better get up, get out and ________.

  • Challenge Questions


  • Problems with English pronunciation FUNNY, 1:37

  • What happens when words are too vague to understand?

  • Pearson Longman presentation for teachers


  • Spelling/pronunciation

  • I Love Lucy: English Pronunciation, 5:25

  • The clip illustrates some of the accent prejudices and some of the more confusing elements of English spelling and pronunciation.

  • How is English a confusing language?


  • Tips for Dealing with Unclear Language

  • 8.1 Practice: Language and Thinking
    Multiple Meanings

  • How can words be misinterpreted with multiple meanings?
  • The King Who Rained (2005), 2:34

  • A play on homonyms, this short movie visualizes the misinterpretations of a little girl based on things her parents have told her.

  • Began as a class project for Rob Polich's TAT 315 class (Visual Design), and expanded outward into an independent one. This is the Director's Cut.

  • Adapted from children's book of the same title by Fred Gwynne and shown both at the Fall 2005 TAPS at CSUMB and downtown in Monterey at the Osio.

  • Written and Directed by Garett Thomas.
    Starring: Lexus Brooke Butler, Genetta Butler, Bret Leduc, "King" Will Olsen and Pamela Johnson.
    Crew: Maria Patricia R. Garcia, Alisa Lai, Kathleena Ramirez and Stephanie Young.
    See version with commentary here:
    See Behind the Scenes:
    See Pam's BTS Footage:
    © Thomas Productions.


  • "Words," Radiolab/NPR

  • "Language as a Window into Human Nature," RSA Animate, Steven Pinker

  • Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-born U.S. experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist, and popular science author. He is a Harvard College Professor and the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind.
    Pinker's academic specializations are visual cognition and psycholinguistics. His experimental subjects include mental imagery, shape recognition, visual attention, children's language development, regular and irregular phenomena in language, the neural bases of words and grammar, and the psychology of innuendo and euphemism. He published two technical books which proposed a general theory of language acquisition and applied it to children's learning of verbs. In particular, his work with Alan Prince published in 1989 critiqued the connectionist model of how children acquire the past tense of English verbs, arguing instead that children use default rules such as adding "-ed" to make regular forms, sometimes in error, but are obliged to learn irregular forms one by one.

  • In his popular books, he has argued that the human faculty for language is an "instinct", an innate behavior shaped by natural selection and adapted to our communication needs. He is the author of six books for a general audience. Five of these, namely The Language Instinct (1994), How the Mind Works (1997), Words and Rules (2000), The Blank Slate (2002), and The Stuff of Thought (2007) describe aspects of the field of psycholinguistics, and include, among much else, accessible accounts of his own research. The sixth book, The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011), makes the case that violence in human societies has in general steadily declined with time, and identifies six major causes of this decline.

  • Pinker has been named as one of the world's most influential intellectuals by various magazines. He has won awards from the American Psychological Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society and the American Humanist Association. He has served on the editorial boards of a variety of journals, and on the advisory boards of several institutions. He has frequently participated in public debates on science and society.

  • Hilarious examples of awful language usage - Steven Pinker, 3:42

    Excerpted from his talk at the Royal Institution:

  • Radiolab and NPR Present Words, 3:04

  • A stunning film from Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante to accompany Radiolab's Words episode. With an original score by Keith Kenniff. Radiolab's Words episode: Everynone: Keith Kenniff:
    Do words change their meaning depending on the context?


  • 8.2 Define Your Terms

  • Denotative Meaning

  • Denotation is a translation of a sign to its meaning, more exactly, to its literal meaning. Denotation is sometimes contrasted to connotation, which translates a sign to meanings associated with it.

  • Connotative Meaning

  • A connotation is a commonly understood cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to the word's or phrase's explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation.
    A connotation is frequently described as either positive or negative, with regards to its pleasing or displeasing emotional connection. For example, a stubborn person may be described as being either strong-willed or pig-headed; although these have the same literal meaning (stubborn), strong-willed connotes admiration for the level of someone's will (a positive connotation), while pig-headed connotes frustration in dealing with someone (a negative connotation).

  • Denotative and Connotative Meanings, 1:36

  • Learn more about dennotative and connotative meanings. Understand their differences and why they are important. Visit:
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  • Syntactic Meaning

  • Meaning that is established by how a word relates to the other words around it in a sentence. 
  • Structural Ambiguity - Syntax Video #3, 4:49

    Sometimes a single sentence has more than one meaning. A group of linguists explore prepositional phrase attachment ambiguity. Twitter @lingvids LingVids is created by Caroline Andrews, Leland Paul Kusmer, Gretchen McCulloch, and Joshua Levy. For a more detailed introduction to syntax, see the How to Draw Syntax Trees series starting at: Music is composed by Kevin MacLeod and used under a Creative Commons License. The track can be found here:

  • Pragmatic Meaning

  • What a word means in the full context of the situation--who is saying it, where are they, what's happening, and so on. 
  • What Is Pragmatic Language? 3:07

    Dr. Lydia Soifer of the Soifer Center for Learning and Child Development discusses a phrase familiar to parents of children with learning differences and social communication deficits: 'pragmatic language.' What is it? Well, Dr. Soifer says, "the functions of language are many"--and being able to use language in different ways and differentiate how others are using it is a skill as important as vocabulary or conjugation. And it doesn't come as easily to some as to others. Learn more at or

  • 8.2 Practice: Define Your Terms
    How Do You Define "Cult"?

  • Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, Steven Hassan

  • Agree or disagree?

  • It's totally impractical to try to differentiate between cults and faith-based groups.
    Steve Hassan Discusses Faith Based Initiative Funds for Cults with Bill O'Reilley, 6:51


  • 8.3 Word Games

  • A euphemism is a generally innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse; while others use bland, inoffensive, and often misleading terms for things the user wishes to dissimulate or downplay. Euphemisms are used for dissimulation, to refer to taboo topics (such as disability, sex, excretion, and death) in a polite way, and to mask profanity. The opposite of euphemism roughly equates to dysphemism.

  • Euphemisms may be used to avoid words considered rude, while still conveying their meaning; words may be replaced by similar-sounding words, gentler words, or placeholders. Some euphemisms have become accepted in certain societies for uncomfortable information; for example, in many English speaking countries, a doctor is likely to say "the patient passed away" rather than "the patient died". A second example relating uncomfortable information and concealing some degree of truth would be "we put the dog to sleep" rather than "we killed the dog". Euphemisms can be used to downplay or conceal unpalatable facts, such as "collateral damage" for "civilian casualties" in a military context, or "redacted" for "censored.

  • Emotive Language

  • Innuendo

  • An innuendo is an insinuation or intimation about a person or thing, especially of a disparaging or a derogatory nature. It can also be a remark or question, typically disparaging (also called insinuation), that works obliquely by allusion. In the latter sense the intention is often to insult or accuse someone in such a way that one's words, taken literally, are innocent.

  • According to the Advanced Oxford Learner's Dictionary, an innuendo is "an indirect remark about somebody or something, usually suggesting something bad, mean or rude; the use of remarks like this: innuendoes about her private life or The song is full of sexual innuendo." The word is often used to express disapproval.

  • The term sexual innuendo has acquired a specific meaning, namely that of a "risqué" double entendre by playing on a possibly sexual interpretation of an otherwise innocent uttering. For example: "We need to go deeper" can be seen as both a request for further inquiry on any given issue or a request to go deeper into an orifice. Alternatively the simple changing of the pronunciation of a word can be used to make it sound vulgar e.g. innuendo to "in-your-endo".

  • Animal Flyer
    In the context of defamation law, an innuendo meaning is one which is not directly contained in the words complained of, but which would be understood by those reading it based on special knowledge.

  • Loaded Questions

  • The most famous example is:
    When did you stop beating your wife?

  • A loaded question or complex question fallacy is a question which contains a controversial or unjustified assumption (e.g., a presumption of guilt).

  • Aside from being an informal fallacy depending on usage, such questions may be used as a rhetorical tool: the question attempts to limit direct replies to be those that serve the questioner's agenda. The traditional example is the question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Whether the respondent answers yes or no, he will admit to having a wife and having beaten her at some time in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy of many questions has been committed. The fallacy relies upon context for its effect: the fact that a question presupposes something does not in itself make the question fallacious. Only when some of these presuppositions are not necessarily agreed to by the person who is asked the question does the argument containing them become fallacious. Hence the same question may be loaded in one context, but not in the other. For example the previous question would not be loaded if it was asked during a trial in which the defendant has already admitted to beating his wife.

  • This fallacy should be distinguished from that of begging the question, which offers a premise whose plausibility depends on the truth of the proposition asked about, and which is often an implicit restatement of the proposition.

  • The term "loaded question" is sometimes used to refer to loaded language that is phrased as a question. This type of question does not necessarily contain a fallacious presupposition, but rather this usage refers to the question having an unspoken and often emotive implication. For example, "Are you a murderer?" would be such a loaded question, as "murder" has a very negative connotation. Such a question may be asked merely to harass or upset the respondent with no intention of listening to their reply, or asked with the full expectation that the respondent will predictably deny it.

  • Weasel Words
    Weasel words.svg
  • A weasel word (also, anonymous authority) is an informal term for words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that a specific and/or meaningful statement has been made, when in fact only a vague or ambiguous claim has been communicated, enabling the specific meaning to be denied if the statement is challenged. A more formal term is equivocation.

  • The use of weasel words to avoid making an outright assertion is a synonym to tergiversate. Weasel words can imply meaning far beyond the claim actually being made. Some weasel words may also have the effect of softening the force of a potentially loaded or otherwise controversial statement through some form of understatement, for example using detensifiers such as "somewhat" or "in most respects".

  • Weasel words are likely to be used in advertising and in political statements, where encouraging the audience to develop a misleading impression of what was said can lead to advantages, at least in the short term (in the longer term, systematic deception is likely to be identified, with a loss of trust in the speaker).

  • Proof Surrogate

  • When you hint that you have proof or that evidence is out there, but you don't actually commit to providing it or citing your sources.

  • 8.3 Practice: Word Games
    Manipulation in Politics

  • Drew Westen

  • Harry Reid lie: Romney Hasn't Paid Taxes in 10 Years
    "The word is out."

  • Price, Waterhouse, and Cooper verified Romney paid his taxes.


  • Why The Obama Message Worked - Frank Luntz, 3:44

  • Frank Luntz

  • Despite high unemployment among African-Americans, women, and Hispanics: what language worked for Obama?

  • What was the difference between the 2008 and the 2012 campaigns?

  • What kind of person was Romney?

  • What messages and language did the Obama campaign run?

  • What messages will work in the next election?


    To meet the overall objectives we will cover the following topics in Lecture 1:
    • Meaning, word choice, word order, and context
    • Language as brain “software” and logic as “hard-wiring”
    • Language and culture
    • Figurative language
    • Limits of language
    • Powers and pitfalls of the English language
    To meet the overall objectives we will cover the following topics in Lecture 2:
    • Conscious awareness of feelings
    • How feelings can create or inhibit writing (particularly in the “generation” stages)
    • How feelings are received and impact an audience
    • How strong feelings can lead to eloquence in speaking and writing

  • Wittgenstein, The Limits of Language, 22:25

  • RSA Animate - Language as a Window into Human Nature, 10:53

  • n this new RSA Animate, renowned experimental psychologist Steven Pinker shows us how the mind turns the finite building blocks of language into infinite meanings. Taken from the RSA's free public events programme Watch the full lecture here: Find out more about the RSA at Join the RSA on Facebook at ------ This audio has been edited from the original event by Becca Pyne. Series produced by Abi Stephenson, RSA. Animation by Cognitive Media.


  • Military-Industrial Complex - the Rise of the War Economy, 8:13


Section 215

Real Talk: The Patriot Act, 3:19



Bonhoeffer Author on Nazi Parallels, 5:13

Houston Nazis

Minnesota Islamists Demand Sharia


Somalis have protected status.

Gay Muslim Wedding Cake, 5:48

Gay Muslim

Megyn Kelly, Pamela Geller, Muhammed, N-word


Nebraska Draw Muhammed Contest, :54