Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Prosody and Misunderstanding

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This morning, I was listening to a podcast about “prosody”- the rhythm, tone, grouping of sounds, and intonational aspect of language – and how it conveys meaning, intent and emotion to what we say. In a conversation, we not only listen to what is being said but also pay close attention to how it was said. The rising and falling of the voice, what was stressed and what was stretched, how loud or soft, how fast or slow the words were said, are as important as the words themselves. But how do we convey prosody in written language? Not being able to listen to the person’s voice, how do we perceive his or her tone?

“I cannot believe you said that. What exactly do you mean!?”
“I was just kidding, honey. Didn’t you see the smiley at the end of the sentence?”

Written communication, where the aspect of prosody is not so evident, sometimes lead to miscommunication. In geographically-challenged relationships such as ours where daily communication relies on and is confined to letters written and exchanged in the virtual milieu, this sometimes becomes a problem. Where each sentence can be closely scrutinized for both explicit and implicit meanings or every line is read for any hidden emotion, or the choice of words or punctuation marks can be badly misunderstood, the problem becomes a bigger problem.

So how do we convey what we feel and intend to say in written form? Aside from the use emoticons, it pays to always aim for clarity whenever we put things in writing. Most importantly, knowing the person– his quirks, values, fears, and traits – and understanding where he’s coming from, never fail to shed light on what he really intends to say.

As someone said in the past: “Yearn to understand first and to be understood, second.”


Anonymous said...

Being guilty of these toneless emails and sms, I resolved to join a 12 step program. :)

Angeli said...

Aargh..aargh..aargh..! :)

Anonymous said...

Is that a pirate sound?

Step 3 Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of FMS as we understood Him.

Oh Noodliness please be sober this time. :)

Anonymous said...

i almost broke up with my lover because of treacherous electronic-miscommunication ..

i alternate posting in my other blog Angeli, do visit sometimes :-)

Angeli said...

Hi Vitchie. I'll do that. Thanks for visiting mine.

May i add you to my blogroll?

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