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Can communication be achieved if there are language errors?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a very difficult question and one that is sometimes hotly debated among both non-linguists and linguists. While I don't expect to end the debate, I can shed a little light on the question that supports the assertion that at times, communication cannot be achieved if there are language errors. Linguist William Labov of the University of Pennsylvania pointed out that on a daily basis, we are misunderstood more often than is commonly believed because of phonetic and other language errors. Additionally, a recent language study revealed that upwards of 60 percent of native American English speakers fail to understand conditional sentences and other higher order sentences, like subordinated sentences, on a regular basis.

One of the illustrations Labov uses to prove language error misunderstandings involves the common officeplace words "bus" and "boss." He finds that surprisingly often these words are misunderstood, thus sentence intent is misunderstood; thus communication is not...

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mizzwillie eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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