Meta-Meaning in Context: The Military Application of Sociolinguistic Anthropology to Operations in the Arabic Speaking World
Monograph, Jul 2006-Mar 2007
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
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This paper demonstrates how a better understanding of culture can lend itself to a better understanding of meaning in discourse between two cultures who operate across a linguistic barrier. The paper falls under the tradition of cultural relativism, and the modern version of linguistic relativity. Culture is a multi-faceted concept that can mean something different depending on the objective of study, and the particular discipline of the researcher. This led the researcher to adopt a theory of culture as socially distributed knowledge. Due to the particular subject related to meaning and linguistic contact, the paper makes language the parameter to define the culture being studied, which in this case is the Arabic speech community, writ large. Obviously, there are many subordinate cultures in such a large entity. The particular theory and parameter that we adopted will allow us to make some generalizations about Arabic speakers, based on a study of characteristics of the Arabic language. The theory also allows for human indeterminism, which tells us that each individual human being acts on his own accord, sometimes in accordance with cultural norms and sometimes not. This helps to keep the project in perspective and to prevent rash action based on expectations of behavior that can never be accurately predicted.. The paper pinpoints elements of sociolinguistic research, specifically contextualization clues and code switching. Arabic is a particularly rich case study, because code switching occurs constantly in the daily speech of native Arabic speakers. The author shows how these theories can be applied to discourse observation to obtain meta-meaning from the whole context of a speech event. Meta-meaning is defined as the meaning of the basic message, plus the meta-message that can be inferred from the context, subject to a level of ambiguity that can never be accurately predicted.
- Sociology and Law