Systems & complexity

Clarification techniques are universal in language

A fantastic linguistic study by Mark Dingemanse and Nick Enfield has shown that languages use three near-universal techniques to clarify potential misunderstandings. These are:

  1. Open Request: A general request for clarification on what was said, eg “Huh?”
  2. Restricted Request: Asking for repetition of a a specific word or phrase, eg “Who?”
  3. Restricted Offer: By repeating what was said and asking for confirmation, eg “She had a boy?”

The authors conclude that human communication has a “fundamentally cooperative nature” and that “key systems of language use may be largely similar across cultural groups … revealing a common infrastructure for social interaction which may be the universal bedrock upon which linguistic diversity rests”.

Source: Plos One, The AtlanticNot Exactly Rocket Science

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Also published on Medium.

Stephen Bounds

Stephen Bounds is an Information and Knowledge Management Specialist with a wide range of experience across the government and private sectors. As founding editor of RealKM and Executive, Information Management at Cordelta, Stephen provides clear strategic thinking along with a hands-on approach to help organisations successfully develop and implement modern information systems.

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