Is much of our subjective interpretation of meaning based on understanding exactly what the person said or how the person said it?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Whether our interpretation of the meaning of an utterance is determined mainly by precise wording or by other factors such as tone or facial expression or context depends on the phrase and situation. While many utterances are simple statements of fact or questions  or requests ("Medium vanilla latte, please" or "Turn left at the second light.") others are more complex and rely more heavily on factors extrinsic to the precise wording to convey tone. Much of the content in social interactions is emotional rather than purely informational and thus one factor we need to consider is that "meaning" of such questions as "how have you been" or "did you have a good vacation"  and associated answers are more a matter of indicating sociability than conveying propositional content.

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