“Sign” , according to C. S. Peirce, is a static unit or individual representational form that can be interpreted as part of a collective sign system. Signs can be signs are because they can magnify the particular feature of a particular object. For instance, in French, a “mother-in-law” is called as “ la belle-mère.” “Belle” means beautiful and pretty. “mère” means mother. It is also true in China, we call a mother-in-law as “qin jia mu”, here, qin means close and related by blood. We can see that we have to emphasize that we are soooo close because we are not that close in reality. Language, here as a symbol, functions in the daily life.
Thanks to the internet, people in this world closely connected to each other as never before. The online version of communication can get rid of the facial expressions, gestures and tones, it is easier to be interpreted. So, how a text message, an email message, or social media message works? What kinds of communication acts understood by communicators are involved?
In The Information Paradox, Shannon’s words were cited to explain the first theoretical model of a mathematical theory of communication. “ A source sends a message. An encoder generates a distinct signal for the message, as prescribed in a code book. The channel is the medium that carries signals from the source to the receiver. a decoder on the receiver end converts the signals back to their original form, using the same code book, and the message has arrived.”
In the first step, the encoder generates a distinct signal for the message. Senders play a decisive role in a communication action. The sign can only be a sign when it is interpreted by a sender in a particular way. So, if the senders’ intention is unknown, this sign cannot be interpreted. A German man has taught his dog Adolf to give a nazi salute when hearing “Adolf sit, give me the salute.” In this case, the situation is much more complicate. The sender of this sign is only a trained dog who cannot understand the meaning of this gesture, so the dog is not violating Germany’s anti-Nazi laws. The sender also decides the way of encoding. A signal can be encoded in various ways, but there exist better options of one idea. A lot of outside factors can matter. For example, If a signal is highly required by an environment, this signal can be sent in many ways. When I want to answer a yes-no question, I can say “yes”, “sure”, “correct”, “of course”, etc. But If I want to mention a term, I can only use “algebra”, or “physics”.
In the last step, a decoder converts the signals back to their original form. The process of decoding is answering a series of yes-no questions. Although the answer of each question can only be 0 or 1, but the probabilities of 1 and 0 are different. I have to distinguish “me” and “not me”, and then the “is a person” -“ is not a person” question. The “is a tiger”-“not a tiger” question. We can see that we have to cut a sign into several questions and then decode them respectively. A receiver has to choose the same code book of interpreting the codes. Although we do have some conventions, they cannot cover every aspect, detail, and trivia of life. That could be the first reason the receiver may not get the sender’s meaning.
Another reason that may distract the receiver is the noise exists in the medium that carries signals from the source to the receiver. Sometimes we can abstract the thing we talk about from the real world. When we sit in a theatre, we can tell the difference between on stage and in reality. That is because there is a intangible wall between you and the play. But, usually, we recognize this world by taking them as an entity.
I can never make sure that the text message I sent can be full understood by you.
Nazi salute. (2016, October 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:29, October 8, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Nazi_salute&oldid=743191847
Irvine, Martin. “Introduction to the Technical Theory of Information.”
Denning, Peter J., and Tim Bell. 2012. “The Information Paradox.” American Scientist 100 (6): 470–77.
Hall, Stuart. “Encoding, Decoding.” In The Cultural Studies Reader, edited by Simon During, 507-17. London; New York: Routledge, 1993.
I have two questions:
1.Do we have some expression in particular languages cannot be translated or deciphered by other languages? I mean, if you can explain a 15-letter English word by 1000 Chinese words, you can still translate it.
2. Why different languages can be unbalance? In Chinese, we use different words to indicate elder cousins, younger cousins, male cousins, female cousins, maternal cousins, and paternal cousins, but in English, there is only one word: cousin. And in French, they use “quatre-vingt-dix-neuf” to indicate 99, quatre means 4, vingt means 20, dix means 10, neuf means 9. It is really like a formula: 99=4*20+10+9. Why they don’t have the words like ninety.