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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Using Semantics to Improve Language Clarity


Semantics is a concept that helps define a word within the context of other words. It is often derived from word selection and connotation. Semantics can come from multiple forms of subtle meaning to create impressions in the listener's mind. Those who can master semantics can create higher forms of communicative ability and influence. From sales opportunities to leadership semantics has a huge impact on how each of the individual parts of a message creates a whole understanding of that message.

In general, semantics can take information from multiple sources such as tone, word choice, word order, facial expressions (paralanguage), and other subtle impressions that help define the full message. When used in combination the clarity of language is enhanced due to its focus of symbolism to create a single shared meaning both in part and together. To understand how they work together can create a powerful message.

Each sentence and word is associated with those around it and within the context of the environment. The way in which people make connections between this information can be argued as either an inborn part of natural language or developed throughout cultural vantage points. Many researchers are still unsure of which philosophical approach to take. However, they do agree that the connection of words to their meaning occurs through cognitive abilities and is associated with higher thought. 

Research helps show how semantic enhancement of language is associated with the personal abilities of individuals. For example, those who are in tune with music are also more capable in semantic usage (Bidelman, et. al, 2013). This is associated with their higher perceptual understanding of tones and the ability to discern between subtleties. A large body of research associates artistic endeavors with sensitivity to environmental information. 

Strong communication and use of pitch can enhance presentation skills and overall sales. Sales departments that are strong on their use of semantics are likely to be more effective in their transference of information that allows the buyer to come to their own conclusions.  People can often judge the meaning behind the words, attitude, tone, and sincerity of message (Gitomer, 2013).  This creates higher levels of verbal continuity which can translate into dollars.

The use of semantics can also help listeners created categories in their minds making the message much easier to follow. Semantics usage contributes to perception and cognition when they lead to the proper categorization of information and create spatial understandings (Choi & Hattrup, 2012). Those speakers who use semantics to enhance their messages can also create categorization and clarity within the mind’s of listeners. 

Semantics is a fundamental aspect of natural language. Research conducted on motion verbs in 100 languages found similarities between words of related meanings (Walchli & Cysouw, 2012). Similarities of meanings exist in multiple languages and create a more basic form of semantic identity. This identity indicates that semantics is more basic than abstract thought and is part of a fundamental building block.

Semantic language usage enhances the power of leaders to communicate their message with clarity by creating categories in the minds of readers. It also allows the ability to influence actions and behaviors of others who use these messages to cue expectations and behaviors. Even though semantic language is an inherent part of communicating it is often outside of the average person’s awareness. Yet awareness does not mean that they are not taking these cues subconsciously to make meaning and decisions. It could be argued that unconscious use of semantic language may be more powerful than its conscious use. Sales, executives, and public speakers would do well to learn how semantic information influences their communication abilities. 

Tips:

-Learn semantic language for higher level presentations.
-Beware of tone, spacing, and pitch.
-Be aware of body language.
-Understand the context of the message
-Know how to work with various mediums.
-Understand how semantic cues lead and influence a larger concept.

Bidelman, et. al. (2013). Tone language speakers and musicians share enhanced perception and cognitive abilities for musical pitch: evidence for bidirectionality between the domains of language and music. PlosOne, 8(4). 

Choi, S. & Hattrup, K. (2012). Relative contribution of perception/cognition and language on spatial categorization. Cognitive Science, 36 (1). 

Gitomer, J. (2013). Presentation and communication skills. Corridor Business Journal, 9 (35).

Walchli & Cysouw, M. (2012). Lexical typology through similarity semantics: toward a semantic map of motion verbs. Linguistics, 50 (3).

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