Theory of Knowledge: on a Prescribed Title Essay

One of the various methods of understanding used among all living organisms is communication. Many methods of communication are built up over time to form languages. Language is formed from various rules, but consists mainly of vocabulary. Vocabulary affects how easily one person communicates with another, which in turn affects how much a person is able to know. If the vocabulary of a certain language does not contain words that describe a given event, or if a language has not developed words that are complex enough to be used to form a meaning of equal value, it is then impossible to impart that knowledge to another person.

The extent of vocabulary in a language is determined by what information and knowledge can be shared, using that specific language. Vocabulary can also limit how we communicate with one another because using certain words to describe something may make understanding it much more complex. For example, when one uses abstraction they take away individualistic value to the subject to which they are referring. Does one abstract a cow to the point where they are nothing but a farming asset, or not abstract the cow enough to the point where it is only a large mass of particles and organisms?

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When there are multiple meanings for the same word, or if something is able to be interpreted in various ways, words and phrases may often be misunderstood and used incorrectly. Areas of knowledge (AOKs) such as language, art, and mathematics are prime examples of why vocabulary can limit how much we know. Literature, as well as other forms of art, can be interpreted in various ways. Math contains various methods, which may be used to reach the same conclusion. Questions begin to arise, such as “Does vocabulary always help us to communicate? and “How can we avoid these flaws in communication? ” Although communication through the use of language—and therefore the use of vocabulary—can be limiting, it is often more useful than not to improve our span of vocabulary so that we may communicate with others and improve our knowledge base. With a higher level of vocabulary we are able to use words with less debatable definitions and easily communicate with one another. Knowing what exactly vocabulary entails is the first issue that arises when approaching the question of whether or not the vocabulary that we have shapes what we know.

Vocabulary is found to be a part of every language, whether it is body language, oral language, written language, or pictorial language, along with many forms of art. The vocabulary of one language may be misconstrued in another language, and a piece of art may be interpreted in various manners. For example, when considering two different languages such as English and Scottish, merely using a translator can be a huge mistake. The rhythmic structure of one sentence is completely lost when it is translated into the other language, and the meanings often change when a word in one language does not exist in the other one.

Tartle is a Scottish word which, when explained in English means “the act of hesitating while introducing someone because you have forgotten their name”. The idea of trying to explain this to someone in English would be understandably difficult, since we do not have a word of equivalent value. We have only a phrase, which still may not completely explain the word’s meaning. This is also prominent in the vocabulary of mathematics, which includes an alphabet of numbers and symbols, that when mixed together may form equations and/or codes.

Flaws may be apparent because there are various methods to reach a conclusion, and therefore, if a student does not understand a method that is taught, he/she will automatically rely on the method that is understood. When this occurs, if the student is ever asked to explain the method that is misunderstood, there may be a flaw in communication. Another AOK in which vocabulary is proven to be fraught with mistakes is art. The vocabulary in art may be as simple as color patterns and brush strokes or as complex as texture and smell.

Artists often compose with the intention their art being interpreted in various ways, so that one piece of their work may mean something completely different to each individual person. Art as an AOK presents flaws based on perspective in vocabulary as well as the reasoning behind why an extended vocabulary may help one with overcoming the flaws. The more we know about multiple languages, art forms, and mathematical strategies will help us to overcome the issue of not being able to express ourselves. This may aid us in the understanding of the expressions of others.

Despite how expansive one’s vocabulary may be, the role it plays in various languages still has many flaws. Not only is it difficult to understand someone’s views when they are expressed using a foreign language, but it is also difficult to express our own ideas through the use of verbal, written, and body language. Language must play an important role in trying to express one’s self through literature. Diction and syntax must be analyzed carefully, as they may contain hidden meanings through symbolism and contain the tone of a passage, which may give the reader a more emotional connection to the writing.

Pieces such as Candide, which are translated into various languages, lose value with each translation because the original vocabulary is changed. The translator, John Everett Butt, even included an introductory passage in his translated version of Candide explaining how the French version and the English version may be interpreted differently. “A faithfully literal rendering of the French would often offend an English ear by its very baldness, and it has therefore been found necessary to expand the French in such places” (Butt 13).

This not only changes the piece, but also how the writer may have been trying to analyze rhythm, syntax, or spelling patterns. We may also be subject to misinterpretation through body language. If we move in a certain manner, or if we make a specific gesture, we may appear to be projecting a certain characteristic or seem like we are trying to communicate something. For example what is commonly known to be the peace sign, the index and middle fingers are raised and parted while the others are clenched down, is known in the United Kingdom to be an insult.

Movements such as these may define our characteristics in a different manner than a verbal or pictorial depiction. The pictorial language is much more similar to art in the sense that communication through pictures may be interpreted multiple ways. Different colors, shapes, and media may give someone a very different view of another person than a written description would. An example of this would be caricatures; a satirical cartoon which is made in order to warp the appearance of the subject. To base an opinion off of a caricature may be result in a completely different opinion than an opinion based off of a photo.

This leads to the role vocabulary plays in art and the flaws that are evident in vocabulary when observing art as an AOK. Whether a piece of art being observed is a photograph of the White House or an abstract piece such as Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory,” the piece can be subject to various interpretations. The vocabulary used in art may range from the type of brush stroke to the method of shading. Every word that can be applied to an artist or their work adds another aspect to their piece which every individual may criticize and analyze appropriately.

Many artworks are created with a specific meaning, but are interpreted differently by the person viewing it. For example, the American political cartoonist R. J. Matson composed a piece titled “Blagojevich Guilty” which depicts a man with his head down wearing an orange prison suit with the word guilty in all capital letters in the background. The man depicted, Rod Blagojevich, was the governor of Illinois and lost his job due to the fact that he committed federal corruption charges.

Had this piece been viewed by someone from Brazil, they would likely not understand the meaning behind this cartoon as well as someone from America. Vocabulary may also be faulty with art because individuals could over-analyze a piece to give it a meaning that they can relate to. If an artist uses bolder colors in order to make a piece more noticeable, it could be interpreted by someone viewing it as an attempt to make a more modern piece. In reality, it may only have been created because the artist wanted to release their boredom in a productive manner.

An example that I see on a daily basis is my sister. I often find myself finding ways to interpret her doodles, and when I question her intentions behind the piece, she will say “Oh, I was just doodling” or “I was just bored”. Similar to art and literature, vocabulary in mathematics may be open to various interpretations. Though math is often thought to be absolute, that idea may only be applied to the answer, and not the method used to solve the mathematical problem. The vocabulary within mathematics includes symbols and numbers.

Each piece must be defined and understood in order to solve an equation that includes the specified pieces. If a symbol is misunderstood, then the answer found for the equation is likely to come out completely different from the actual answer. This limits what we know significantly because if there is more than one way to find the same answer, and only one method is understood, then when an individual is asked to list multiple methods, they are not capable of doing so. For example, whenever I am taking a math test I always use graphing, even when the question does not require a graph to be made.

I find it easier to plug numbers into a graph than to plug numbers into an equation, but when I am left with no choice but to use the equation I am left at a disadvantage. Another way the vocabulary of mathematics may be limiting, depending on how in depth the vocabulary is, would be the use of symbols. There are multiple ways to depict the use of multiplication, though if not all depictions are known, this could lead to a problematic lack of understanding. Whether it be an x, parenthesis, a dot, or an asterisk, if it is unknown to the student who is being questioned, they are likely to answer the question asked incorrectly.

Without knowing this type of vocabulary, we may not be able to pass on to the next generation the knowledge that is necessary to solve problems in real life situations that include mathematics such as construction or calculating compound interest. When vocabulary is taken into account through these three different AOKs, we are able to see not only how it limits what we are capable of knowing, but also how we are able to communicate what we know. These knowledge claims bring about knowledge issues (KIs) such as, “Is the vocabulary in literature easier to communicate than the vocabulary in mathematics? These KIs may be answered based on the conclusion that both have their individual flaws, which may be compared through the measurement of which is more complex. The claim that vocabulary is able to communicate our knowledge as well as limit our knowledge is true. Without vocabulary we are unable to communicate with and understand one another. All in all, vocabulary is limiting because “human vocabulary is still not capable, and probably never will be, of knowing, recognizing, and communicating everything that can be humanly experienced and felt. ” (Saramago) Word Count: 1,958

Works Cited

Matson, R. J. “Blagojevich Guilty. ” Cagle. com. The Cargle Post, 27 June 2011. Web. 19 May 2012. <http://www. cagle. com/news/matson-2011/page/5/>. Saramago, Jose, and Margaret Costa. The Cave. New York: Harcourt, 2002. 264. Print. Voltaire. “Introduction. ” Introduction. Candide. Trans. John E. Butt. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1954. 13. Print. Wire, Jason. “20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from around the World. ” Matador Network. Matador Abroad, 9 Oct. 2010. Web. 05 May 2012. <http://matadornetwork. com/abroad/20-awesomely-untranslatable-words-from-around-the-world/2/>.

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