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1.0 Introduction

This chapter sets a theoretical framework for the field of verbal communication offering the tools needed in order to perform the analysis included in the course case study comprised and discussed in the third chapter of the present paper.

The first stage is to give definitions of language seen from different linguistics. Than I analyze how it is the message transmitted in language .I move on to conversation in our life and how many types of conversations exist. Moreover I attempt to describe the use of language in talk, and not only in a society but also in bilingual communities’ .Finally the last part of the chapter deals with miscommunication and how it is produced, which factors influence it in society, and how can we avoid it.

1.1 Definitions of language

Communication through verbal aspects is made due to language use. Language is being defined in many different theories. Nancy Bonvillain (2003:1) describes it as an integral part of human behaviour which is the fundament for human interaction. It is developed through its use because practically people learn how, and what to say what they think and they also learn about the relationship with others through the give and take of communicative interaction.

Other linguists like Brown and Pollit (1994) agreed with the idea that language consists of a set of forms that can be characterized at different levels of interpretation: sounds, word-formation, sentence- formation, and discourse structure.

Language can be analyzed from a culturalistic point of view with 2 approaches: ethnolinguistic and sociolinguistic. Ethnolinguists look after communities and try to bring together the data collected from their behaviours. Their research is based on vocabulary and grammatical constructions. Sociolinguistic, on the other hand, searches for variations of language, and the context in which language is used.

Robert Hudge (1996) suggested that language is produced by the society in which the individual lives and it is seen as the key instrument in communication and it also allows the society to form and to develop the individual's consciousness.

In the examination of language in translations Edward Sapir (Susan Bassnett 1991:13) explained that language is the instrument of describing the social reality, and the persons are depending from it because language is the medium of expression for the society. Still Sapir affirmed that there is no similarity between 2 languages that are representing the same social reality.

1.2 The form of the message

The message is the essence of communication because it transmits the meaning from one person to another but to really understand its purpose people have to use verbal communication techniques. As it was said before language is a system based on formal units (sound, structure, and meaning) that are integrated through process of combination. In other words language has 4 important branches of studies:





Phonology deals with the study of sound systems in language. It involves phonetics (description of sound) and phonemics (analysis of the use of sounds to understand the meaning). Sounds are distinguished into voiced (p, t, f, s) and voiceless (b, d, v, z), oral and nasal (m, n). The minimal unit of sound is phoneme and has the function of differentiating the meaning of the word. The prosodic features which completes the sound system is based on stress (deals with the degree of emphasis placed on the syllables), pitch (the voice pitch accompanying a syllables production), and length (refers to continuation of a sound during its production).

Morphology analyzes the word structure. The unit of sound or meaning which compose the word is named morpheme. They can be divided in roots (basic lexical meaning) and affixes (are attached to roots: un -, s-, ing-, ness-, ly-). Affixes are composed from: prefixes, suffixes, and infixes. Morphemes express lexical or grammatical meaning (concepts for nouns as: case, number, gender; verbs; modifiers).Those concepts are not the same in other languages, for example Inuktitut (Canada) has the plural for three, not only one and dual .

Syntax is based on the structure of the sentence and it deals with rules of syntax that describes possibilities of co-occurrence and orders of constituents. Most languages have three units: subject, object, and verb. The normal topic for the right majority of the languages is subject preceded by objects and than by verb. The purpose of grammar is to characterize the linguistic facts so as to produce rules having in consideration all the sentences that can appear in language.

Semantics is the study of the meaning. Its features may be expressed through various linguistic forms: animate/inanimate, mass/count, definite/indefinite. Word as an individual form, has one meaning, but in correlation with another form it produces another meaning. For example heart represents the organ in the chest that plums blood in the body, and as heartache is a strong feeling of great sadness and anxiety. So that new form has a different meaning from the original one.

However, communication is realized if the message is transmitted and received correctly. Between the transmission and reception of a message, much can be lost. Communication, by definition, involves at least two individuals, the sender and the receiver. There are certain filters or barriers which determine whether or not the message is actually transmitted or received. These barriers depend on cultural differences, environmental conditions, poor acoustics, others talking, and outside noises. Assumptions, attitudes, and sensitivity issues may result in barriers as well. As a receiver he may filter or not hear certain aspects (or any aspect for that matter) of a message as seen in figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1 (AE Schwartz & Associates

Because the message may seem unimportant or too difficult the individual may be selective in his attention. For example, he may feel that the sender is being redundant or boring, so he stops listening after the first few words and daydream instead. He may be preoccupied with something else. Or his filtering or lack of attention may be due to his past experience with the sender. He may think of interrupting the senders with his thoughts according to Schwartz & Associates

1.3 Types of conversations

Conversation represents a means of creating shared understanding, in other words to use dialogue. During a conversation the individual develops a new shared meaning which is the result of a shared understanding.

According to the Conversation techniques Katie Byrd conversation can be divided into 4 branches depending on the subject:

Conversations about subjective ideas (extend understanding and awareness)

Conversations about objective facts (strengthen a widely-held view)

Conversations about other people ( critical, competitive, or supportive)

Conversations about oneself (seeking for attention)

So conversation appears to any level of understanding, having as a purpose a wide range of second effects, like attention, critics etc.

Other linguists like A. Baker and G. Baker discovered other types of conversation:

Conversation for a relationship

Conversation for possibility

Conversation for opportunity

Conversation for action

These types can be used as part of a single or an individual, at different stages of a process. The first type is used when the individual wants to establish a relationship just for achieving an objective, for example the conversation hold during a party with the purpose of knowing people. For the next type, conversation searches for different ways of resolving a problem. Usually that type represents an important source of creativity or as it is known in the common language: brainstorming. It is very important in this stage not to develop new conflicts. The conversation for opportunity is focused in constructing ideas to become reality. It involves the process of selection through which the individual is assessing resources, support and skills. The last type appears when the individual must generate a promise or a commitment to act in some way. In the case when it takes place a conversation, the individual should use these types in order, so the previous type influences the next type. If there appears a problem the next stage of the conversation is damaged.

1.4 Language in talking

As Mercer: (1995) said people in general, use “talking” in contrast with “doing”. In specific occasion the talking can be transformed in doing facts which lead to a form of social action. Spoken language was used with the purpose of pursuing the interest of the conversation. In talking the ideas get form in reality, are disputed, shared and than developed through language, till they construct culture. In order to talk, people have to think privately, but with a certain influence of the society.

According to .Blue (1995) there are 3 types of talking and thinking:

Disputational talking

Cumulative talking

Exploratory talk

The first way of talking is based on disagreement and individualized decision making. This kind of disputational talk is consisted from assertion and counter assertion. The next way is constructed from common knowledge characterized by repetitions, confirmation, and elaboration. The last part is practically formed from advantages and disadvantages of the challenges, between the participants. In contrast with the first types exploratory talk knowledge is made more publicly accountable and reasoning is more visible in talk. All these three types embody certain principles in language: accountability, clarity, constructive criticism, and receptiveness to argued proposals.

Because earlier I said that in the last type the individual debates the subject of the discussion, it must be analyzed how people learn to dispute. Bonvillain (2003) suggests the following idea: knowing that in some speech communities the conflict is engaged in open verbal confrontation, there are some strategies that lead to a signalized opposition:

1. Repetition as a pretext to their opposition, focusing on linguistic elements like in the example:

A: Are you going to drink it?

B Drink it, do you know how many acids does it contain?

2. Repeating linguistic sequences and replacing the place of a verbal challenge with correction.

A: And she graduated last year.

B: She graduated this year.

3. Recycling and repeating challenges strategy that also prologues the conflict

A: You broke my glasses.

B: No I didn't.

A: Did too.

B: Did not.

A: Did too.

Although these were conflictual strategies there was noticed a slight difference in gender. Boys usually make use of power and challenges the others, while girls tend to take the form of repeating other peoples statement using “she/he said” arguments. Nancy Bonvillain (2003)

1.5 Bilingual communities

Every speaker from the bilingual communities performs a strategy in using his language. He uses one language taking in consideration the restrictions of the topic, of the participants, or of the context itself. So this combination of roles can make the language to remain unmodified for centuries or it can make it suffer from changes regarding the position of language spoken.

First of all, in a community, language changes due to the influences of different linguistic systems. In time it eliminates various sounds, or markers of the grammar itself. For example the Modern English does not use any more three genders or four cases as it did in Old English.

In any community the result of linguistic and cultural contact was the borrowing of foreign words. The most influential 2 languages that represented the base of derivation of new words were Latin and French. To each new borrowing it was added a new native lexicon. Pyles and Algeo developed a list with different loanwords and their source taken from other languages. See Table 1.1




Agnostic, chlorine, idiosyncrasy, telephone

Irish Gaelic

Brogue, leprechaun, shamrock

Scots Gaelic

Clan, plaid, slogan, whiskey


Muggy, rug, ski


Bonanza, canyon, patio, ranch


Albino, flamingo, molasses


Balcony, bandit, studio, umbrella


Boss, cookie, pit, sleigh


Hamster, pretzel, semester


Kibitzer, nebbish, phooey, schlep


Czar, mammoth, tundra, vodka


Fez, tulip, turban


Candy, mattress, orange, sugar


Cherub, hallelujah, jubilee, kosher


Caravan, bazaar, shawl


Karma, yoga


Bungalow, dungaree, jungle, pyjamas


Tea, kowtow, tycoon


Hara-kiri, samurai, Soya

Pacific languages

Bamboo, kangaroo, launch, tattoo

African languages

Gorilla, jazz, tote, vam

Native North American languages

Bayou, moccasin, moose, pecan

Native Central America languages

Chocolate, maize, tomato, potato

Table 1.1 The origins and development of English (Pyles and Algeo

So the linguistic change can be made in any language as proved in the table, with the completion that the locus and the modification depend on duration, context, and the intensity of contact between the speakers of different languages.

In bilingual communities the shift from one language to another can produce the elimination of the other. From an ethnographic point of view the bilinguals can choose the language of speaking depending on the context, participants, speech events, and goal. Judging after the example which Nancy Bonvillain (2003:341) gives with those 2 speakers of Spanish and English in the United States, who spoke English at work and Spanish at home, Spanish because they belonged to the same Hispanic Ethnic group, and English because they respected the country in which they worked; language can be described in:

high language (used in schools, churches, government, or in important groups)

low languages (used in private areas like family, friends, and it is associated with strong emotions)

A local example with the language use in bilingual communities is present in Covasna area where the majority of its citizens are Hungarians and at home they speak Hungarian and at work they speak Romanian. It is a matter of choice how frequently they use their maternal language. But the fundamental of those linguistic choices are the society and the interpersonal levels.

Depending on the external factors, the speakers, like the immigrants, can attract the death of their native language because they give up their native language in favour of the language of the society into which they have moved. And to understand better this process the best example represents the immigrants in the United States, especially their third generation which practically has no knowledge about their parental language.

In order to show the importance of the expressiveness of the linguistic repertory N. Bonvillain (2003:343) observed that bilinguals depend on 2 various types of codes:

code Switching

code Mixing

Code Switching involves the use of linguistic material from both languages within the same discourse unity. It differs from borrowing to borrowing. One of it’s significantly function is the expansion of the vocabulary. A cause of this code can be the tendency of using simpler expressions which do not appear in both languages; and the lack of words in expressing the desired meaning. However, the use of this kind of code presuppose a firm knowledge of the grammars of both languages in order to know what kind of element can be switched and where.

Code mixing looks for the blending of the linguistic elements from the second language into the base language. It is not the same with the code switching because this one involves more deeply integrated mixed material into the host's linguistic system. An example with speakers that use frequently code mixing, are the Indians who use English with the purpose of showing how well educated, sophisticated and refined they are.

1. 6 Misunderstanding in communication

In this section I describe misunderstanding from the perspective of some linguists that give a clear definition of what can lead into important difficulties in misunderstanding. First of all, I have to define it and then to find out the sources of misunderstanding and how appears in society.

So I begin by giving its definition: misunderstanding, as J. House (2003:1) said, was widely analyzed in different disciplines either scientific or humanistic, and also proposed many other definitions, types, sources, consequences and significance. Coupland (1991:3) affirmed that communication is itself misunderstandable. He explains that, by observing the way through which children are learning language through misunderstandings. To support this idea Ochs (1991) notes that at the base of socialization remains misunderstanding because a child can develop new ideas or at least he can look at a context from various points of view.

In analyzing misunderstanding it must be taken in consideration the use of language at the cognitive-emotive level and also at the social level. Practically the context in which language is used influences misunderstandings that can take place at a certain level.

1.6.1 Sources of misunderstandings

Two important linguists Bazzanella and Damino (1999:819) distinguished 5 levels of misunderstandings:






Practically misunderstanding happens in any situation and all these levels presented in the anterior lines, are influenced by the social context: internal and external discourse. For the external discourse it was analyzed the components as:

'Discourse roles associated with participant structure e.g. hearers as auditors, bystanders and audience; social roles, categorized into the societal, professional, activity and personal roles; situational frames; and physical properties and settings.' Tzanne (2000:85)

These issues were analyzed from the perspective of the relationship between discourse-external context and social interaction. What is relatively new to that theory is that Tzanne discovers not only the circumstances as being guilty of its production but also the interactants are culpable of what they understood.

Coupland (1991:11) develops some patterns of the sources of misunderstandings. Firstly he sees misunderstanding not as a problem to which repairs and concern is needed, but more as a natural symbol of exchangeable communication. Then, he continues by saying that the main purpose of the actants is to avoid unclarity, threat, and damage, not to develop the perfect performances, in language. More than once it was seen in different situations that misunderstanding involves a bad temper, uncontrolled behaviour, or perhaps blame of not being able of acting as a normal person. Still Coupland (1991:14) affirmed that sources of misunderstanding appear at the level of negotiation in conversational and relational control.

1.6.2 Social misunderstandings

J. House (2003:23) admitted that in resolving an interactional misunderstanding the main solution represents the failure of interpreting the alter`s real meaning of the utterance, not the problems that arise at the levels of pronunciation, usage of grammatical and lexical rules. Another theory, which was very well developed by Bilmes (1992: 96), observes the way in which misunderstanding is seen as an interactional stance, as a mean of claiming, agreeing, or disputing over something.

Regarding the interactional structure of misunderstandings House discovered seven types of misunderstandings. See Figure1.2

Mu1 Mu2 Mu3 Mu4 Mu5 Mu6 Mu7

Overt misunderstandings Covert type Latent type

Figure1.2 Types of misunderstanding (House 2003:60)

In the figure above, Mu1 shows that it can be noticed an appropriate recognition of the misunderstanding, due to the repair in the next utterance followed by a return at the initial state. (Extract1.1)

1 S: Yeah but it would be unlimited, I'd be at ease, you know?

2 H: Limited well

3 S: Unlimited

4 H: Unlimited?

5 S: Unlimited, ya

6 H: But you'll still carry on with your dissertation, though?

Extract 1.1 the interactional structure of misunderstanding (House 2003:61)

In this extract the lines 3, 4, 5, can be very well omitted causing the misunderstanding not to take place. As seen in line 2 the misunderstanding takes place. Accompanied by intonation she continues in line 3 with the correction of it, and lines 4 and 5 reassure the mishearer, and rectify the correction made by the corrector. In the case of Mu2 the repair also takes place in the next utterance but with no return at the initial state. The misunderstanding is a source of continuation. The Mu3 appears when there are signs of incoherence, detours, recycling, paralinguistic insecurity, or uncomfortable moments Erickson and Schultz (1982) said that requires more effort in the process of repairing the misunderstanding and it cannot identify the place where it appears. For Mu4 the recognition is the same as Mu3 with the difference that the misunderstanding is not going to be repaired by none of the interlocutors just to be passed over. The particularity for Mu5 is that it involves all the Mu`s until the communication ends or just the topic is changed .Exactly as Gumperez affirmed:

‘Lack of shared background knowledge leads initially to misunderstandings, but since contextualization conventions are shared, attempts to repair these misunderstandings fail and conversational cooperation breaks down. ‘(1995:120)

The next Mu does not recognize any misunderstanding in the minds of the interactants but an observer can remain partially and analyze it. The last Mu7 is based on the one of the interlocutor who recognizes the misunderstanding but does not negotiate it.

1.7 Conclusion

The first chapter of this paper delineates the main theoretical background necessary in order to identify the verbal communication. To a certain extent the main message that is desired to be transmitted can be misunderstood, so the message induce another question or just another state .Taking in consideration those three types of talking and thinking: disputational talking, cumulative talking, and exploratory talk language is based on different arguments: disagreement and individualized decision making, assertion and counter assertion; advantages and disadvantages of the challenges, between the participants. Regarding the bilingual communities every speaker performs a strategy in using his language. He may be influenced by the restrictions of the subject, of the interactants, or of the context itself. So this can produce a change at the level of the language .To sum up verbal communication cannot be made without language.

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