Monday, February 7, 2011

Mix It Up Monday: Kamadeva- The Beauty of Vocabulary

This week on Mix It Up Monday is an article by Kamadeva. If you would like to see more by Kamadeva, you can read previous posts

 The Beauty of Vocabulary: Expression, Income, Understanding

"In this context, then, consider the case of human language.  It is one of the most distinctive behavioral adaptations on the planet."

- The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain

In my studies I have found that vocabulary (in the form of language) is one of thee most important aspects of human expression.

Guide your mind through a world of business negotiations, classroom presentations, sports commentating, relationships- dinner dates, clandestine operations, movie scripts, court room trials, and even social networking conversations. What do you get? A web of people expressing themselves, for better or worse, through something we have identified as language.

Within all those scenarios, one thing matters- effectively communicating a message. A regular animal can communicate a simple message; human beings on the other hand, are able to communicate complex feelings, emotions, rules, critiques, etc. All that is done through vocabulary.

To take it back, vocabulary is defined as:

"The system of techniques or symbols serving as a means of expression"

As I have grown in age, I've began to see the importance of vocabulary. A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to increase my understanding of language and expand my vocabulary (so I could read more complex books, and express my ideas more proficiently), which led me to the dictionary (including etymology), and books such as How to Build a Better Vocabulary, Verbal Advantage,  and the Vocabulary Dictionary.

During these studies, I came to find out that the English language is VAST. It encompasses words from an assortment of languages, and contains advanced words that express a concept that would take a smaller word a few sentences to express. No lie, I would read the word, then turn to the definition, it would be around two sentences long.

You've heard the saying "A picture says a thousand words", how about, a words says a thousand words. For example, the word "sinecure", is defined as "a position that provides a good income or salary but that requires little or no work." That one is able to explain a complex set of realities.

As I studied more, I found that an increased vocabulary allowed me to express myself exceedingly. A short pool of words lacks the ability to describe all the phenomena we deal with in a cosmopolitan society; this is the reason new vocabulary words are created in the first place. Imagine trying to describe to your mother, how a fire started in your house using the words, "the", "but", "hot", and "damn". Could you do it? Is that even possible? Now imagine trying to describe an abstract concept such as string theory or a physiological function of the body with those same words. Not possible.

In our fast growing complex world, more and more knowledge and concepts have appeared (or rather reappeared), at one point there was no need to describe financial derivatives, it simply didn't exist; now it does. This, within itself has caused an increase in financial lingo.

After studying certain vocabulary books (financial, legal, and business dictionaries), I also began to decipher increasingly advanced lectures (such as audio lectures from Oxford economic professors or tapes from The Teaching Company), books, and speeches. Surprisingly, I learned that some so called experts use complicated words and phrases to intimidate people. I learned that when it was actually broken down and comprehended, the concept sometimes didn't make since or was flat out wrong/irrelevant. Learning new vocabulary words should have nothing to do with sounding smart.

I also was introduced to some complex concepts that couldn't be expressed in simple terms, simple meaning few parts. Now I know about the K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid) saying, but some things are just not that simple, especially in the areas of finance, law, and mathematics.

When I was younger, my mother constantly had me learning new words, almost to a point where it was annoyin, based on that, I thought it was stupid. I now understand it’s all about expression, not to sound smart, but to smoothly get a point across, it’s about communication, the ability to express one's self.
The English language is a beautiful one because of its extensive roots. Contrary to standard history books, the Modern English language was developed and evolved during the period of the Moors occupation of Spain (which included most of Europe, not just the modern territory now called Spain). Scholars hailing from diverse lands like India, the Americas, and Africa huddled together in the great learning centers of Moorish Spain to create languages. For this reason you see English words that have roots in Sanskrit, Celtic, Latin, French, Norse, Germanic dialects, Dutch, and Arabic. It’s no coincidence the more advanced mathematical words are represented by Arabic root words brought by the Moors, for example, the word algebra.

Now, not only were sets of people represented, but also religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, all co-exited in the learning academies of Europe.

These institutions were chartered to produce Modern English. English is not the language of any one conqueror, it is a rainbow language, spanning across numerous geographical territories. That is what makes it beautiful.

According to Professor Dean Trembly of California Polytechnic Institute (CAL POLY), an extensive vocabulary is correlated with an increase in income. In his book, Learning to Use Your Aptitudes, he states: "money earnings are related to vocabulary. Within each occupation, those with larger vocabularies are more likely to profit. Put a dollar sign in front of each additional word you learn." Another Professor, this time out of Harvard- named Johnson O'Conner studied thousands of Americans of all ages, occupations, and levels of education for twenty years. His conclusion? "An exact and extensive vocabulary is an important concomitant of success."

There doesn't seem to be anything but advantages related to increasing one's vocabulary. Full and expansive expression of ideas, thoughts, and feelings, increased income, and the ability to devour and comprehend increasingly advanced subject material. Why wouldn't you??

By: Kamadeva

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