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At a backyard barbeque at a friend’s home some years ago, a wide array of conversational topics was making the rounds among the twenty or so people present – most of whom were well-acquainted university colleagues, their partners, children and friends The yard, as well as the conversational participants’ behavior, also resulted in an unusual acoustic situation.
Some years ago while working late at my house in Wisconsin, in the United States, where I lived at the time, I made a phone call to a local sandwich restaurant to order a takeaway meal. The restaurant was small and locally owned – run by a family.
One of the important themes to be conveyed by this chapter was also a major theme of my most recent authored book (Colston, 2015) – the inherently social quality of language, especially figurative language.
The brief discussion of the George Carlin pun, “Atheism is a non-prophet organization,” at the end of the last chapter sets up the current chapter’s treatment of language play very nicely – with puns being a major way in which language can be playful.
Different forms of language structure serve well to introduce this chapter’s presentation of indirectness as a category of other-side-of-meaning. These structures leverage new meaning and pragmatic effects often not by deviating greatly (although some might be considered mild deviations).
In Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel 2312 (Robinson, 2012), one of the main characters, Swan, who is mourning the death of her grandmother, maintains an ongoing testy relationship with her head-implanted quantum computer, Pauline – the two often arguing about many things, including rhetorical devices.
Language's key function is to enable human social interaction, for which people are motivated to engage by powerful brain mechanisms. This book integrates recent work on embodied simulations, traditional meaning-making processes and a myriad of semantic and other meaning contributors to formulate a new model of how language functions following a pattern of conjoined antonymy. It investigates how embodied simulations,semantic information, deviation, omission, indirectness, figurativity, language play, and other processes leverage rich meaning from only a few words by using inherently biological, cognitive and social frameworks. The interaction of these meaning-making components of language is described and a language-functioning model based on recent neuroscientific research is laid out to allow for a more complete understanding of how language operates.