Reading Assignment – “Language in Thought and Action” by S. I. Hayakawa and Alan R. Hayakawa book report Language in my Thought and my Action Since I was born, I have been learning languages consciously and unconsciously without asking why. S. I. Hayakawa and Alan R. Hayakawa’s Language in Thought and Action remind me the goal of the study of language – to learn to think more clearly, to speak and to write more effectively, and to listen and to read with greater understanding. This book is divided into 2 parts, the functions of language and language and thought.
The deepest debt of the author in this book is to the general semantics. It is designed to educate the reader using concepts that are first explained in straightforward terms and then illustrated by excellent examples that further exemplify the basic concept of each chapter. I found the idea of informative Connotations and affective Connotations and the distinctions between The Open and Closed Mind; the concepts of Cooperation; and concept of Symbolism in Advertising especially helpful. Those can be applied to my work, my understanding of mass media and my daily life respectively.
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What I have learnt form this book in relation to my work Informative and Affective Connotation Informative connotation is roughly reports about things, while affective connotation is roughly our feelings about things. Take Barack Obama as an example, he was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States at begging of year 2009. His winning due to his affective and emotional language when did the speech. Let peruse a part of his Inauguration Speech at that time: “With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come.
Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. ” He use a lot of words “We, Our, Us”, to show his strong will to serve his country, and he is not the one to got all the glory for the victory. He had emphasized the victory truly belongs to it belongs to citizens.
President Obama made an impassioned and emotional speech to the multitude of people who had braved the elements to witness the inauguration of America’s first African-American President. Since he was selected as the forty-fourth president of the USA, Obama has given American people several promises. Although everything doesn’t come true right now, his words conquered the hearts of majority American. According to the book ” Language in Thought and Action”, from the point of linguistic, due to language plays the most important and irreplaceable role in audience’s thought and action.
Hayakawa explained that language has a function of denotation. So, a slogan or a promise is not just only a simple word, but it can affect others’ feelings and actions, even causes what happen in the future. Taking advantage of repeating sentences, affecting words, spurring someone’s emotion, blurring reality, speaker could gain audiences’ trust. On the page 43-6, I found that affective language has the character of a kind of force. Going through this thinking, Obama won his competitors based on his wonderful language speaking.
As an Entertainment News Anchor in TVB, which is the TV station in Hong Kong, I always have to report the news of showbiz industry to the public daily. As we all know, entertainment news is different form hard news what is the kind of fast-paced news that usually appears on the front page of newspapers. Mostly, entertainment news is about the love stories of the artistes, the recent works of the singers and or the leisure life experiences of the celebrities. Actually, entertainment news is the kind of entertainment to the public.
So, I need to make the reporting more funny or impressive, to draw audience’s attention. But sometime the use of word should be careful; it may affect the image of the artistes or influence of the matter. Learning from Obama, I should take advantage of informative connotation to delivery the news and use affective language like humor and familiar language to grab reader or audience’s sight. It helps rating of the show. The Open and Closed Mind Hayakawa summarized The Open and Closed mind on pages 131-3. It tells that people with closed minds apparently feel threatened and fearful.
If someone trusted the speaker, but rejected his statement, he would view the speaker as unconsciously on the enemy side. If someone rejected the speaker, the statement is unacceptable to him too. He rejects both. They are two-valued people, which have to like everything about the speaker or nothing. Reasonably secure and well organized persons enjoy their own belief system, but they are also open to information about their disbeliefs system. They can empathize with persons who hold others ideas that they do not believe in, is to have an open mind. A question raised up in my mind is that, am I a news anchor with an open mind?
Theoretically, anchor should be open-minded, to writing the true story and report the fact o the audiences. But, if I am a closed-mind anchor, I know in advance which side I am on, and engage the correspondent or accept the article that will give aid and comfort to that side. Forsaking the obligation to illuminate, I may turn on the heat. However, the result is inevitable: the other side fights back. But in this world, whatever the country is capitalism or communism, the whole power is controlled by Party, so, is there any space for news anchor to report news totally open?
I don’t think so. Many young journalists or anchors are honest and conscientious. They have chosen and entered their profession with noble ideals. But they soon or later learn that to succeed, which in time may be no more than maintaining a job that will keep bread on the family’s table, requires satisfying the boss. They may compromise stories that might antagonize them, major advertisers, a sizeable number of the audiences, or important and powerful sources. Take an example, there are two TV artists involved in fight case recently.
TV station would like to protect the image of both two, don’t want to make too much noise about the case. Then, TVB entertainment news reporting haven’t mentioned what exactly had happened on the two artists, just said “…. something had happened, so he got a wound…. ” Generally speaking, not only entertainment news reporting, but also hard news journalism is losing the public’s trust because too many journalists, especially those on the television networks and major city newspapers are arrogant and blatantly biased.
Nevertheless, I believe that whatever my personal beliefs, I need to try my best to have an open mind, it is the most important professional attribute. What I have learnt form this book in relation to mass media Cooperation In the page 12 of this book, writer tells: “Human fitness to survive requires the ability to talk, write, listen, and read in ways that increase the chances for you and fellow members of the species to survive together. ” Cooperation and communication among people are very important.
Human characteristics is expressed and developed through our ability to cooperate by means of making meaningful noise and meaningful scratches on paper. This is language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group.
One Hollywood film recently are shown all over the word named “Avatar”, is a 2009 American epic science fiction film written and directed by James Cameron, it all about a planet called Pandora, avatars are citizens of Pandora. Human being in earth wants to plunder the peaceful land in Pandora and send a man, called Jake, there to lurk in avatars’ life, to live their life and learn their language in order to do investigation. Later, the war between human and avatars triggered. But, Jake changed his mind and join avatars to fight back and save Pandora.
At the end of the movie, Jake and all tribes and cliques of avatars and animals in the Pandora finally cooperated with each other no matter they are enemies through, and also together join the war to order to save their mother land. With connecting to this book, I found that the using language cooperating with each other is really important especially before something badly happened like home land destroyed. Usually, I always read books, magazine, and watch TV to ask for knowledge; these are useful information to me at one time or another in solving my own problem.
So, the language is not just a communication bridge, but also a cultural and intellectual cooperation bridge. What I have learnt form this book in relation to my daily life Advertising Form this book, I learn about the nature of advertising. “Advertising is a symbol-manipulating occupation. “(On page 141) The process by means of which human beings can arbitrarily make certain things stand for other things may be called the symbolic process. As an American sociologist and economist and a primary mentor, Thorstein Veblen has pointed out in his well known book “Theory of the Leisure Class” (1899).
All fashionable cloths are highly symbolic. The more we dress up in fine cloths, the more we restrict our freedom of action. And, the wealthy classes manage to symbolize, among other things, the fact that they don’t have to work for a living. One more common example, man selects their car to serve as visible symbols of their taste, wealth, and social position. Man buy luxury car with latest model, not always to get better transportation, but to give evidence to the community that he can afford it. And, I learned the dangers of advertising from this book.
From a linguistic point of view, and, in a completely new chapter called “The Empty Eye” about the content, form, and hidden message of television, from situation comedies to news coverage to political advertising. It said that advertising is not even an autonomous art but the handmaiden of commerce. Its name carries connotations, often well deserved, of half-truth, deception, and outright fraud; of appeals to vanity, fear, snobbery, and false pride; of radio and television programs hideous with wheedling voices. Advertising is designed for one purpose – to sell.
To achieve this goal, advertises are willing to stretch and distort the truth, just to convince people to buy their product. However, in some case, it is harmful to our life. By using skillful tactics, the public is deceived into buying a product that may not do what is required, or a product which not really like. This is why advertising can be harmful for our society. By reading this book, I know what can the public do is to judge an advertisement benefit or not to ourselves, in other words, whether it is useful information to us. All of us can be a smart consumer, as long as we are intelligent audience.
Conclusion I think this book is required reading in schools. Although it is not very funny book which can make reader laugh, it absolutely is a useful book for reader to open up one’s mind, to learn and think what is language, why we use it hose ways, what it says about us that we do, and, how our ways of using language affect our ways of thinking and, ultimately experiencing and behaving in the world. To me, the book make me, at least, think the concept of the book more methodically, conclude this book content more confidently and fell smarter myself.