Can We Create Our World through the Language We Speak?

Can We Create Our World through the Language We Speak?

    Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronen from The Fielding Graduate University and the University of Massachusetts, respectively, presented their theory in 1978, called Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM). They were of the view that events and objects of our social world can be collectively created through the process of communication. According to CMM, persons-in-conversation co-construct their social realities and are simultaneously shaped by the worlds they create. To put it another way, every conversation has a future or afterlife. Our interaction today has a strong impact on tomorrow’s social reality. Having this perspective, Pearce and Cronen wanted to explore what are we making together? 

    The reason why Pearce and Cronen termed CMM as a practical theory is that it can help to make life better for real people in the real world. They maintained that to help real people understand flawed patterns of interaction and identify critical moments in our conversations, this theory would offer ample tools. This theory should suggest ways to talk by the dint of which a better social environment can be created. CMM provides many concepts, descriptions, and models which can be used by therapists, mediators, social workers, consultants, and teachers to help others in the real world.

    John Burnham, who is a consultant family therapist in Birmingham England, once reported one of his cases that can help us understand CMM as a practical theory better.

    There was a boy who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (a mild form of autism). His parents came to Mr. Burnham to talk about their son and how they handle him. Mr. Burnham discovered the fact halfway through the session that the boy and his parents were trapped in a repetitive pattern of behaviour. This pattern is termed strange loop by CMM. This means that if the parents acted compassionately and forgivingly because of Asperger’s diagnosis, the patient’s (14-year-old boy) behaviour improved. This led the parents to think that this is not Asperger’s. Resultantly, if they altered their behaviour and became less compassionate and unforgiving towards their son, his behaviour deteriorated. This led them to think that this is Asperger’s.

    As soon as Mr. Burnham explained this dilemma, the parents had a sudden flash of insight about the whole matter. They could not escape the loop as long as they were concerned about the question of whether or not their son had Asperger’s syndrome. Mr. Burnham redirected them to contemplate a different question: What relationship do you want with your son? This approach turned out to be profoundly beneficial, and they began to report many positive changes in their relationships with each other. They then moved on to ask, When is it useful to think of this odd behavior as Asperger’s, and when is it not?

    Besides the strange loop concept, labelling theory of sociology is a useful way of elucidating CMM. According to labelling theory, a person in society develops a personality that conforms to how others term or classify him in that society. If others speak well of him or her, he or she may act properly and vice versa. This theory corroborates CMM assertion that our conversations today, shape our tomorrow’s realities in the world.

    According to Pearce as communication creates a relationship among people, the experience of persons-in-conversation is the primary social process of human life. Pearce maintains that this fundamental concept is at variance with the current educative and tweedy view of communication “communication as an odorless, colorless vehicle of thought that is interesting or important only when it is done poorly or breaks down”. He does not see this as just an activity that the interlocutors do or a means of achieving some ends. Rather, their communication literally forms who they are and creates their relationship. Thus, communication is performative.

    In fine, language helps us to shape the real world in which we live. As it helps the interlocutors in pinpointing important junctures in conversation which has the capacity to bring about either positive or negative results, it offers people the tools through which they can make their world better.

Knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom 

–Roger Bacon 

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