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Semantics – Lost in our own translation

By Thuli Zulu

Semantics (from Ancient Greek: σημαντικός sēmantikos, “significant”)[1][2] is primarily the linguistic, and also philosophical study of meaning—in language, programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics. It focuses on the relationship between signifiers—like words, phrases, signs, and symbols—and what they stand for, their denotation.(Wikipedia)

Communication is more than just conceiving words. Spoken or unspoken! We interpret, decipher, filter, judge and at times misconstrue these cues. The world would not be able to function without language, which is a core part of the DNA of human interaction. So words can unite, divide, contrive and berate along the same line, yet the same words we impart are the words that give ’meaning’. There are however, complexities regarding the usage of language and words (a topic for another day). I have loved words and books since I was a little person…School harnessed and also intimidated my view point on language and my understanding thereof. I have been quite conflicted on this subject matter, but have come to an acceptance that my place on earth was not to deliberate over this ‘medium’, but embrace it for how it can be a catalyst for change.

How we come to understand a press statement, elevator pitch, pay-offline, brand philosophy and/or manifesto all lies in our understanding about the human psyche, entity or client that we are engaging. Being South African has taught me that language transcends one form of construct as we are a hybrid of many cultures, creeds and races. There is no better place to run a Communications firm then here in Africa with its idiosyncrasies, which makes the practice more intriguing. Take my word or don’t take my word for it but it is my stance! How semantics play on communications, has everything to do with the communication research process. Allowing ourselves to formulate techniques, methods and applications thereto is the bedrock of any strategy which will inform the ‘plan’.

How do semantics fit into communication? It is not about the right answer from the recipient, more than it is about the question that one asks. Off course we will be lost in translation if we do not ask the right questions. Ask! Recognize! then Determine! As Communication Specialists we will ask till we derive what we need to understand.

Words, intentional or not are notes to our ears. Be presumptuous, vague, ambiguous, abbreviated, questionable, loaded or clear…we will Determine!

So please say what you mean and mean what you say!


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