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Non Linguistic Speech And Symbols

2075 words - 9 pages

More Than Words Can Say:
Non-Linguistic Speech & the Confederate Flag

When a speaker utters a specific set of words to convey some specific meaning, it is important that the hearer understands this meaning, as speech can do more than merely express the opinions or report incidents, but enable actions. The relationship between the speaker and the hearer and how will they can convey meaning and interpretation to each other is crucial to the conversation. Both parties need to be able to express and understand words and interpret their meaning. When meaning is lost in our utterances, communication is no longer effective and can lead to mishaps. Speaking words is not the only way a ...view middle of the document...

The meanings of symbols with such deep ambiguity are usually defined by historical events and practices associated with those symbols. As outcomes of historical invents can be reported differently depending on who you talk to, the symbols associated with them can convey many different meanings. The Confederate Flag as we see it today and what we interpret it to mean is a perfect example of the problems and difficulties non-linguistic speech faces in regards to symbols having ambiguous meanings. In this paper, I attempt to examine some of the meanings that can be conveyed through the Confederate Flag and what is more influential in determining the meaning of this symbol, speaker intention, hearer interpretation, context etc.

The most influential battle fought on American soil was no doubt The Civil War. There are many interpretations on why the eleven Southern states decided to secede from the Union, creating the Confederate Territories just as there are many reasons today to interpret the Flag that Southerners fought under. Though this flag was not the original Flag of the Confederate states, we associate it with the events that happened in the Civil War. Speakers and hearers can have different understandings of what this symbol means depending on the understanding of the Civil War and its implications today, their race and where they are geographically located when interpreting the intended meaning of the flag. Through several examples we can see how difficult this is.


There are many people who see and fly the Confederate Flag as a symbol admiration of the struggles the South endured from Northern economic oppression as well as the unique culture that has defined Southern life and thought. In certain southern states, say Mississippi whose state flag also contains an image of the Confederate Flag imposed in it, one could imagine a celebration where the relatives and others gather to honor those veterans who fought for the South. Before the moment of silence to honor those fallen soldiers, a Confederate Flag is raised. The people at the ceremony believe this is appropriate and are all beaming with pride. Though they lost the battle, their loved ones fought to their deaths to defend the South under this flag and preserve the culture it loved and regain the respect it deserved.

The descendants of enslaved Africans in America still face many challenges today because of the harsh realities of slavery, Jim Crow Laws and many other atrocities surrounding the status of Black Americans. The Black people who are conscious of the historical place of the symbol might see it and immediately associate it with the people or institutions that endorsed the enslavement or the oppression of Black people will not be reminded of dignity and a proud heritage, but of a long history of racist and cruel ideologies that have caused generations of Blacks physical and mental harm. They could interpret the flag to mean a symbol of...

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