Language Gaps between the Generations

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Language is in a constant motion; its development is connected with the history and culture of the people. “Language is a living organism. And just as any living organism, it experiences evolution” (Anitei). Each new generation brings something new, not only in the social structure, in interpretation of reality, but in the ways of expression of understanding the language. “The cooperative infrastructure of human communication, including conventional linguistic communication, thus not only arises from but also contributes to humans’ uniquely cooperative, cultural ways of living and thinking” (Tomasello 344). The contemporary reality is characterized by the rise in political, economic and social problems. Language is very sensitive to changes in society, which results in changes of the vocabulary: it expands as a result of new and borrowed words, it changes its composition. Modern language situation as a whole is characterized by such features as:

  • broadening of participation in mass communication with a different language and the level of awareness of speech culture;
  • weakening of censorship and self-censorship;
  • increase of the personal origin and dialogic communication;
  • expansion of spontaneous communication, not only personal, but also oral and public,
  • change the flow parameters of oral forms of mass communication, creating the possibility of direct communication from the speaker to the listener, and listening to feedback from the speaker;
  • changing situations and genres of communication in the area of public and private communication;
  • increasing psychological rejection of bureaucratic language of the past (Newspeak);
  • the emergence of the desire to develop new means of expression, new forms of imagery, new circulations to strangers.

In these circumstances, the problem of verbal communication between representatives of different generations - old and young - is particularly acute, because all the conscious life of a man passes through the native language, and its present condition, the current language situation, when in the mass consciousness of the observed facts and linguistic processes are assessed as destructive and disastrous for the language, when faced with different language culture media, different linguistic consciousness, certain life experiences, values, ideas, specific verbal communication, become a cause of misunderstanding and rejection. It turns out that the language of the person of older and younger generations are not one and the same. Conscious life of older people went through that language, which is characterized by the interference of opposed (contrast, polarization effects on parameters: we have - they have), there are two lexical systems (one - for the name of the phenomena of capitalism, the other - socialism). Its vocabulary was rich ideologically, was fulfilled with socially sensitive words. At that time, there has been an impact on the public consciousness through the language.It is natural that linguistic identity formed in such conditions negatively perceives a new "linguistic taste era": the modern "linguistic chaos" vulgarization and slang language, neglect of linguistic norms. With the change of the reality and the resulting care liability, usual names associated with the active period of life of older people, create a sense of loss of soil, alienation and discomfort in communication. "The language of the personality" of the younger generation is formed in a different political, social and linguistic situation. Fundamental social changes have resulted, on the one hand, in the change of conditions of language changes in its structure, due to extra linguistic factors, and on the other - the formation of a new world view, attitudes, language, culture and language awareness of modern media of the national language. The result is a speech communication difficulty due to the presence of age gaps of cultural foundation due to certain complex knowledge about the past of people, the system of representation in the national and world culture, etiquette, behaviour. Mismatch cultural foundations of the older and younger age groups may be the cause of the gaps of varying depth. There are: gaps associated with the historical past; a reference to personalities; the gaps associated with a number of" targeted misunderstanding "on the part of the young, and from the older; etiquette gap.

Language of the elderly is saturated with certain intentions and accents. Motivating reason of certain connotations, along with the context in which the older generation lived its socially stressful life,  is shaping its associative apperception background, acts, and the fact that older people in the period of their youth, with its romanticism, impulses, flights of imagination and inspiration, contributes, in part, to idealization and hypertrophying positive side of events. For the elderly, in turn, there are language difficulties associated with an objective process "changing clothes speech", with the new upgrade of the nominative stock units. Physical, material objects for an elderly person symbolize a wide range of values, acquiring its value-conscious colouring. Symbolic language spoken by the older generation is a system of signs by which era exercised decrypt a reality. Relaxed style of behaviour of young people often leads to confusion and resentment among the older generation. “Young people with speech, language and communication needs have poor conversational skills, poor non-verbal skills and poor social perception, all of which can hinder their ability to form friendships with their peers and may lead to them becoming marginalized” (Nacro).

 Communication through gestures (nodding a greeting, "gesture" invitation to come along, and the refusal by gestures) is possible for older people in case of being with close friends and unacceptable in relations with strangers.

Thus, the problem of communication between generations is caused by the objective social factors. However, apart from this, there are also subjective, actually age based reasons of the problem. It is the nature of the speech flow of elderly (pace, structure), typical for this age form of verbal communication, and restricted favourite topics of conversation.

Rate of speech of the older and younger generations do not match. These elderly people are slow, thorough. At the same time, the flow of speech is spontaneous; there is frequent distraction from the main topic of conversation, the memories evoked by the association, comments on events, and their own assessments. “One of the most prevalent theories in aging research is that a generalized slowing in brain function with age is responsible for most, if not all, of the age-related declines in problem solving, reasoning, memory, and language” (Schneider 261)

The subject of conversations of the older generation is the everyday problems and conflicts that arise in their treatment of the different social services, among neighbours, relatives. The story of the important events for an elderly person is full of details, a detailed description of the situation, time, and circumstances. For the younger members of verbal communication all this is superfluous, cluttering up the conversation and goes away from the subject. Of the two types of verbal communication - phatic and informative - older people prefer the first. Phatic communication is not to transfer or receive certain information, and the establishment of verbal contact, setting relationships, satisfaction of the need to communicate. The purpose of this communication – is to speak, to express themselves and find understanding. Loneliness and abandonment of the elderly, the lack of attention to the older part of the younger generation are the causes of such communication for the sake of communication. It is important that it is met with understanding on the part of the listener, not becoming dissonant.

Taboo discussion topics, avoided by the elderly, are about death, about sex and autobiographical memories. The fear of death is inherent in people of any age (it should be noted that the fear of death is an important function in influencing the desire to preserve own life and to respect the lives of others.) However, the young does not seriously take the “death”, death is just a name, part of conversation, the argument in the dispute. Often death is no more than a way to designate an absolute expression of a feeling. The ease with which young people operate with the notion of death indicates a more infantile, immature stage of human development. For an older person the word death is filled with concrete meaning. Recognition of time they spend in the world, they are afraid not so much of moving into the other world, but of pain and suffering, mindless vegetable existence prior to death. That is why older people are more likely than younger people to turn to religion to find solace, alleviation of mental and physical suffering.
Salacious topic of conversation among older generations is sex. By education, the rule of social stereotypes, certain traditions at the time of their youth, they do not accept and condemn not only the freedom of the behaviour of young people, opening up their sex life, and heightened attention to this area of human existence. Thus, the problem of speech communication  between generations is generated by objective reasons - social change in society, and subjective, age-verbal behaviour of people of different age groups. Knowledge and consideration of these causes in everyday speech practice (especially social workers), the correct use of speech strategies and tactics, the desire for a harmonious dialogue not only relieve acute problems, but also will strengthen the spiritual ties between generations, the preservation of the cultural fund.

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