Sorry for the lateitude. My legs, they were made of doom.
I love knitting socks, but I hate wearing socks. Most of my family and friends have reaped the benefits of this knitter’s paradox. [pair-of-socks paradox? SORRY SORRY BAD PUN]
There have been one or two occasions when the thought bubbles were reversed, though. That was a major bummer
But but but all spoken communication is to some degree an exercise in mind-reading, and in a sense everyone you know, as you know them, lives inside your head. You can’t make a sharp cut-off point; if I ask you for a character reference and you tell me that “makes really good tea”, am I to stick to your literal assertion that they do make really good tea? Surely I take the implicature that their character is poor; maybe even that you personally dislike them and wish me to think ill of them. But all communication carries a non-explicit element.
“Give me a character reference” is a little bit of an unspoken communication. It means “give me your opinion of this person’s character.” There is no objective character reference; past experience, even from five minutes ago, may no longer apply.
The same is true of “really good tea.”
So, if two people disregarding unspoken communication were to have this discussion, it would go like this:
“I’d like to hear your opinion on this person’s character.”
“I like their tea a lot,” possibly adding “I have nothing else to share.”
Feel free to interpret that however you like, but any assumptions on unspoken meaning beyond this may not be intended by the speaker, and may cause miscommunication or upset later on.
Or have I missed something and I am being dense? :/
ETA: I was initially confused, because if someone tells me that someone else makes really good tea I don’t read anything else into it. If I think by tone of voice or something that the speaker implies something else as well, I ask, “does that mean [insert suspected assumption here]?”
“I really like her… mane?” – “Gee, she’s absolutely terrible except for making decent tea.”
“I REALLY like her mane!” – “She’s wonderful… especially the tea!”
“I really like her mane.” *shrug* – “Oh, Carl? I guess she makes good tea.”
Not to forget, of course:
“I really like her T.” (Unspoken: “Her A leaves much to be desired.”)
I agree with you, Lotte, that making good tea is basically a character reference. I’m not picky, though, so giving me decent tea (very strong and not made of starflower or dragonfruit) is about all you need to do to get a good character reference out of me.
Awesome. In other news: I’ve never had tea containing starflower or dragonfruit!
As an aside, your first point isn’t really unspoken; it’s contained in the conventional [literal|dictionary] meaning of ‘character reference’.
Your interpretation of the tea conversation seems strange to me; here’s how I’d interpret it (and what I *assume* is a fairly natural interpretation to English speakers, though expanded to make each step explicit), hinging around the maxim of relevance which is “cooperate with your conversational partners by making your contribution relevant”. ‘Flouting’ means ignoring a maxim to communicate something non-literal; ‘opting out’ means specifying that you cannot or do not want to follow a maxim. ‘Violating’ means not following the maxim for whatever reason, even accidentally. I’ve chosen what I think is a clearer example as well.
Speaker: “Can you give me a reference for Zebedee for the post of astrophysics lecturer?”
Addressee: “Zebedee makes really good tea.”
Addressee violated the maxim of relevance: making good tea is not a skill that is relevant for an astrophysics lecturer.
Addressee is a competent speaker of English, so probably did not violate this maxim by accident.
Addressee did not opt out of the maxim of relevance, to indicate that they were incapable of following the maxim (e.g. “No, sorry, I don’t have any knowledge of their abilities as an astrophysics lecturer”.)
Therefore, Speaker reasons that Addressee is probably flouting the maxim of relevance, in order to communicate something indirectly.
For reasons I can’t easily make explicit, the best option (and certainly one option) is that Addressee is flouting the maxim of relevance because the only relevant things Addressee could say are bad, and Addressee does not want to explicitly say bad things about Zebedee.
It’s a bit of a crash course but I hope it was understandable.
And, yeah, non-literal meaning is *everywhere*, you can’t just disregard it.
Ahhhhh I see, yes that all makes sense. I would fail at this way of communicating because if were asking for a reference, I wouldn’t assume that the tea thing was an attempt to inexplicitly say that the tea-maker is rubbish. (Well, perhaps I will now that you’ve explained. So that’s good!)
Perhaps I just prefer it when people say things like “there’s nothing good I can say about Zebedee’s abilities as a potential astrophysics lecturer, but they make good tea!”
Yes, that is my conclusion. It’s not that unspoken communication is bad; I just don’t like it.
The thing above makes a lot more sense when there’s a specific thing that is being avoided – ‘astrophysics reference’ is, indeed, a bit different in my head from ‘reference’, and the tea-making comment would seem more out of place. I did also interpret the first tea reference as literal (I would have also thought, with ‘makes good tea’ offered as a character reference, that the speaker actually approves of the referent’s tea-making. I may have gone as far as taking it as a reference to the referent’s attention to detail, or to the idea that they pay attention to people (and thus learn other’s tea preferences)).
Yes! I am so glad someone else thinks like me. Tea-making skills are totally part of a character reference in my world.
Perhaps, Kai, we are not destined for astrophysics greatness. *le sigh*
Yeah that wasn’t a great example; I had fairly specifically a sort of formal situation like a courtroom in mind
I am chuckling madly to myself that I feel like I’m guilty of communication fail on a post about communication. 😀
Soy milk, no sugar, right? 😀
That is a nice part of Sheffield too. Me and my partner are somewhat amused that you’re using pictures from the city centre of our home.
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