Miscommunication: Phonology and Message

Sometimes it is not easy to transmit the intended meaning to a person during a communication process. Miscommunication is a phenomenon that people experience almost every day.
It is even used for marketing or present in comedy shows. Miscommunication can arise through various incidences, for example in an intercultural communication, where people have different conventions, or when a word is ambiguous and the context unclear. Sometimes people also do not listen because they think the aspect is not relevant to them.One of the most frequent types of miscommunication are those based on slips of the tongue or slips of the ear. When people do not understand words, sentences or whole passages, the brain tries to fill the gap with known structures. Consequently, misunderstandings arise. In the following we want to concentrate on miscommunication that emerges through the transmission of the message in the auditory channel.
There are various aspects that can lead to miscommunication through mistakes in the transmission of a message.These aspects, like the difference of hearing and listening, the exchange of letters or problems with the intonation etc. , are going to be dealt with in this paper. First of all we are going to present how a message is transmitted in communication and which phonological aspects play a role. Then miscommunication is going to be treated. We want to show how miscommunication can arise and afterwards analyse some misunderstandings and show how they could have come up. 2.
Phonetics and phonology – the transmission of a message Communication always takes place between two or more people who are trying to get a message across.During this communication process, different aspects are important. As we talk about oral communication, which is about the transmission of sounds, phonetics and phonology play a role. They are a main aspect in the transmission of a message. Phonology means ”die Entstehung, Ubertragung und Wahrnehmung, also die materielle Seite der Sprachlaute“ (Grasegger 2004: 7) whereas phonetics “untersucht die Funktion und die Eigenschaft von Sprachlauten als Elemente eines Sprachsystems, also die funktionelle Seite” (Grasegger 2004: 7).In the following we want to concentrate on the transmission of the sounds or the message. We want to have a look at the phonological aspects and prosodic aspects that play a role in the transmission process.
But first of all, we are going to present Shannon and Weavers communication model. 2. 1. A communication model The process of communication can be presented as a model. One, the prototypical model, was developed by Shannon and Weaver in 1949. They reduce communication simply to the process of transmitting information (Chandler o.A.
: 1). This model consists of five elements, an information source producing a message, a transmitter encoding the message into signals, a channel, a receiver decoding the message and a destination where the message arrives (Chandler o. A. : 2). Thus, a sender and a receiver always exist in a communication process. The sender is the information source who intends to transmit the message by his mouth (transmitter) through a channel. Here the message is transmitted through sound waves and maybe also body language.
The ear receives the sound waves (receiver) and the listener decodes the message by interpreting verbal and non-verbal information and constructing a reality of what the meaning could be (www. worldtrans. org : 1). As sender and receiver do not share the same feelings, experiences, perceptions and ideas, the message can be interpreted differently by the receiver (ebd. ). Consequently, miscommunication can arise. Regarding the Shannon and Weaver model, some possibilities where miscommunication might emerge are in the channel, where noise is a dysfunctional factor (Chandler o.
A. 2), on the listener’s side or during the process of encoding a message on the speaker’s side. However, there are other aspects that have to be considered in communication. We also need to know how the speaker succeeds in producing a sound and how the listener reconstructs the message. At this point phones and suprasegmental features play a role. When the speaker wants to encode a message, he takes a phoneme as a basis and produces a phone that is transmitted through the channel. According to Grasegger 2004 the speaker disposes of a creative function, a sending and listening function in his brain.
The sending function in the brain thinks of a message that reaches the speech-organs through nerves. There the sound is produced by tongue, breath, palate etc. (Grasegger 2004: 17-31). The sound passes the channel through sound waves and reaches the ear of the listener. The task of the listener is now to reconstruct the message, which means recognizing the individual words, extracting their syntactic relationships, determining the semantic structure of the utterance and its relation to the discourse context as well as recognizing emotions (Cuttler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 142).However, few cues are available to signal where one word ends and the next one begins. To understand the message, the listener has to find the individual word boundaries (Cuttler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 143).
The brain decodes and reconstructs the message. The sounds, the “Signifikat” (Grasegger 2004: 11), stand for a special concept, the significant (Grasegger 2004: 11). In the following we are going to concentrate on this phonological and prosodic part the of communication process. 2. 2. Phonological elements of communicationAs already mentioned, phonological elements are important in the transmission of a message since phonemes are a unit of linguistic and perceptual processing (Clark/Yallop 1996: 318). During a communication process, the speaker produces sounds.
These sounds are not transmitted individually but in bigger units. The smallest and primary unit of production and perception is the syllable. It can be described as “symbiosis of consonant and vowel which acts as the effective vehicle for the transmission of linguistic information” (Clark/Yallop 1996: 318).Phonemes never have a meaning themselves. Their primary function is their distinctive function, the differentiation of meanings of speech units like words. If a sound has a distinctive function can be proved by replacing it by another sound. That means that a sound has a distinctive function when you take the example ‘Kanne’ and replace the [k] by a [t] so that the meaning changes (Grasegger 2004: 81).
The articulation is not important when it does not have a distinctive function. Such words that differ only in one phoneme are called minimal pairs.By changing this phoneme, the word gets a different meaning (Grasegger 2004: 83). Thus, miscommunication can easily arise at this point since if the listener does not hear a part of a word or sentence, his brain replaces this gap (Clark/Yallop 1996: 318). Another aspect that is important during the transmission of sounds is that two words with two different meanings can sound similar and have to be understood in the context (Bu? mann 2002: 284). Thus, the role of sound in communication is the transmission of a meaning. However, a single sound does not convey a meaning, but a combination of sounds.
The sounds (signifikat) stand for a meaning or concept (significant) that the listener has to decode. But if some sounds are replaced during processing in the brain and these sounds form a minimal pair the meaning can be changed. Later on we want to deal with some examples how miscommunication can arise because some sounds are replaces or their position in a word is changed. 2. 3. Prosodic elements of communication As we have seen, not only phones, the smallest segments of sounds, are important for the transmission or reconstruction of a message, but also uprasegmental features, phonetic expressions that include more than one segment. These are pitch, volume and duration which are linked to bigger units like syllables, words, phrases and sentences (Grasegger 2004: 63).
However, prosody is normally used as a synonym for suprasegmental features such as pitch, tempo, loudness and pause (Cuttler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 143), although Grasegger defines prosody as the linguistic function of suprasegmental features which is to differentiate meaning on the level of words, phrases or sentences, or to structure an utterance rhythmically (Grasegger 2004: 63).So it is rhythm and intonation what helps differentiating meaning (Clark/Yallop 1996: 322). According to Cuttler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997, “the prosodic structure of an utterance exercises effects on the timing, amplitude and frequency spectrum of the utterance and these are dimensions of sound itself; any utterance, indeed any part of an utterance corresponding to any linguistic component to a phonetic segment even must have a certain duration, a certain amplitude and a certain fundamental frequency” (Cutler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 142).Consequently, if a speaker intends to emphasize a segment, frequency, pitch, intensity and duration, or one of these parameters, have to differ from the accentuation of other segments so that the listener is able to understand the difference in meaning or rhythm, since languages like English are “perceived in the durational interplay of prominent (or ‘stressed’) syllables and weaker or less prominent ones” (Clark/Yallop 1996: 323). However, few cues are available to signal where one word ends and the next begins. Elements that structure sentences etc. hythmically and determine their meaning are for example quality and accentuation.
The speaker could change the meaning of an element by changing the duration, called quantity. That means, that for instance long vocals convey a different meaning than short vocals (Staat; Stadt) (Grasegger 2004: 72). The accentuation helps defining word boundaries. An accent is the stress or emphasize of a syllable, a word or a sentence to emphasize it (Grasegger 2004: 73). Stressed syllables normally have a higher frequency, a higher volume and a longer duration than non-stressed syllables (ebd. . Its function is to structure an utterance so that the listener has the possibility to differentiate meaning by distinguishing different positions of stress like ancora and ankora in the Italian language (vgl.
Grasegger 2004: 74). A “Satzakzent” (Grasegger 2004: 75) emphasizes words in a sentence and thus has a contrasting function. In the sentence ‘Peter searches a book’ , for example, the speaker can emphasize different units such as the book, Peter, or searches to make clear who he is talking about, what Peter does or what he is searching for.This kind of stress in a sentence is related to intonation. Intonation is another prosodic element that can be defined as “Verlauf der Sprechmelodie innerhalb einer lautsprachlichen Au? erung” (Grasegger 2004: 76). It is the „Form der Tonhohenbewegungen im Verhaltnis zur mittleren Sprechstimmlage eines Sprechers“ (ebd. ).
During a unit of intonation, the pitch rises or falls. The boundaries of a unit are defined by different phonetic elements like the distension of a syllable at the end of a unit or a linguistic pause, an interruption that has a structuring function (Grasegger 2004: 76).Thus, the characteristic of intonation is structuring an utterance as well as its distinctive function since the difference in pitch conveys meaning. A rising intonation at the end of a sentence normally is a question whereas falling intonation a statement. A demand or an order is expressed by “steil abfallender Intonation” (Grasegger 2004: 77). So the content and meaning of a sentence depends on the position of the accent and the rise or fall of pitch. Moreover, syntax and prosody are closely related so that the suprasegmental features may be influenced by the position in the syntactic structure.
So we have, for instance, longer pauses before major syntactic boundaries (Cutler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 162). Furthermore, intonation (pitch, volume etc. ) show the emotional condition of the speaker and thus have an expressive function. A question, for example, can also indicate doubts or surprise of a speaker. (Grasegger 2004: 77). So prosodic elements that are important for the differentiation of meaning or structure the sentence through a certain rhythm so that they influence the accentuation of a message and the understanding of the listener are pitch, volume, duration and pauses.They help identifying words (Cutler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 148).
Prosodic problems can lead to serious reductions of the understanding, what is going to be treated later on. 3. Miscommunication – Problems in the auditory channel After looking at the communication process and the transmission of a message through the auditory channel, we now want to have a look at the emergence of miscommunication. In the following we are going to treat some aspects that can influence the transmission of sounds in a negative way so that the message is not transmitted correctly.Miscommunication can be caused either by the speaker or by the listener. That means by slips of the tongue or slips of the ear, because the receiver did not listen or on account of channel problems. However, we first want to deal with the difference of hearing and listening.
3. 1. Hearing and Listening One aspect through which miscommunication can arise is the difference between listening and hearing. People hear or perceive sounds the sender is trying to transmit. However, we have to listen and reflect to understand the message.Hearing can be defined as attending to the sounds which come to the receiver at certain frequencies and intensities. Thus, the receiver cannot influence hearing but avoid listening since this is a higher cognitive process under the receiver’s control (Truax 2000: 20).
There are three levels of listening attention. One of them is ‘listening in search’ which is listening at its most active. It involves a conscious search of the environment for cues. Detail is of the greatest importance for this kind of listening.The listener needs the ability to focus on one sound to the exclusion. That means that in a noisy environment, the listener has to focus on the sound the speaker is producing and not on the background noises. The second level is ‘listening in readiness’.
This depends on associations being built up over time so that the sounds are familiar to the listener. Consequently, they can be identified even by background processing in the brain. So, for example a mother does not wake up when trains are passing by but when she hears her baby crying.The last form of listening attention is ‘background listening’. That means that people are aware of sounds that are not important for getting the message so that they do not listen. One reason for this is that they are usual occurrences and therefore expected and predictable so that people do not listen to them actively (Truax 2000: 19-22). The more of these sounds are perceived, the more miscommunication is possible since an increase in the noise level means more psychological tress, greater fatigue and consequently an increase in performance errors on account of the extra load of information processing when the brain has to shut out noise (Truax 2000: 19).
Thus, miscommunication can arise involuntarily when people do not distinguish between hearing and listening or lack the skill of listening in readiness, for example. If somebody lacks that skill, he cannot distinguish between important or less important sounds so that an overload of sounds is possible. So people maybe do not hear a letter, a word or a sentence. Slips of the ear can also happen when you lack concentration.However, it is also possible to tune somebody out because you do not like the person or since you are bored or tired (Myres/Myres 1992: 139). Another problem that can arise in communication is that immediately after people have listened to a person talking, they tend to remember only about half of what they heard, no matter how hard they thought they were listening (Myres/Myres 1992: 138). Furthermore, the association one has to a sound can differ.
That means that the listener does not associate the same meaning to a sound as the speaker does.So a reason for the loss of information or the understanding of wrong information are for instance highly redundant and basically uninteresting sounds that are perceived and do not encourage sensitive listening since they seem irrelevant for the listener. This can described as a listener- based and interactional- related problem. Consequently, problems can arise when the listener concentrates on background noises, when he thinks sounds are redundant or when he lacks concentration or listening skills. There are also problems on the phonological and prosodic level that lead to miscommunication with which we want to deal later.The problems or types of miscommunication mentioned above are listener based, the last one is based on an interactional and a listener problem. However, miscommunication can also emerge through problems in the channel, during the interaction or on the sender’s side at which we want to have a look now.
3. 2. Channel- based and interactional- related miscommunication The main channel- based problem that influences the communication process negatively is noise. If there is too much noise in the background, the listener often perceives only bits of what the sender is talking about.Consequently, the brain tries to restore the missing segments by top-down contextual prediction (Clark/Yallop 1996: 318). What kind of misunderstanding arises, that means if it is based on prosodic or phonological aspects, depends on the missing segments. Another problem that may arise, is the overlap of turns meaning that for example two people are talking at the same time caused by problems in turn taking.
Thus, the speaker A cannot concentrate on the sounds the other speaker (speaker B) is producing and does not understand passages of his speech. This can be categorized as channel and interactional-related miscommunication.To avoid misunderstandings or miscommunication it is necessary that sender and receiver establish a common ground. The speaker wants to know if he has succeeded in transmitting the message and waits for evidence that the listener has to give by asking a question or using continuing contributions like ‘yes’, ‘uhuh’ or ‘I see’. If miscommunication arises at this point, it can be categorized as an interactional problem. 3. 3.
Sender and receiver related miscommunication Miscommunication is always a problem that arises either on the speaker’s side or on the listener’s side.If there are channel problems, the misunderstanding comes up at the listener’s side. However, the sender’s pronunciation can also be a reason for miscommunication, for example when he stutters, does not pronounce the word correctly or clearly and does not stress correctly etc. Regarding these kind of problems, we distinguish between two categories of problems, prosodic and phonological ones. 3. 3. 1 Prosodic problems Prosodic problems are “Abweichungen in der Realisierung segmentubergreifender bzw.
suprasegmentaler Eigenschaften lautsprachlicher Au? erungen“ (Grasegger 2004: 78).That includes problems or dysfunctions of pitch, volume and intonation that influence the intonation of a sentence and consequently its meaning. Prosodic problems influence the perception negatively and lead to incomprehensibility. Problems that can lead to misunderstandings are stuttering and variations in pitch and accentuation (Grasegger 2004: 78-79). Miscommunication can arise when people do not detect the right word boundary. For example, when a word is spread over a strong and a following weak syllable, listeners tend to divide the former syllable at the onset of the second strong syllable.Englishmen often tend to insert boundaries before strong syllables or leave boundaries between weak syllables out (Cutler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997:146).
The reason why such miscommunication emerges is that strong syllables often signal the onset of lexical words (ebd. ). But the “strong weak distinction is primarily based on a segmental property, vowel quality, rather than on a stress distinction (Cutler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 148). However, not every language makes the same distinctions between strong and weak syllables (ebd. ). Whereas the rhythm of English sentences in stress-timed, French sentences are syllable-timed.As the segmentation procedures are part of the “processing repertoire” (Cutler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 148) of the listener, an Englishman and a Frenchman talking can produce miscommunication by applying their strategies to detect word boundaries (vgl.
Cutler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 148). Furthermore, miscommunication can arise when a listener does not perceive the stress of some words, it is possible that he does not interpret the meaning correctly, for example in the vocal quality distinction (Cutler/Dahan/Donselaar 1997: 155).If the receiver does not get the sentence accents or the intonation, he probably does not know if it was a question or an order or, taking the sentence ’Er ist nicht einmal gekommen’ (vgl Grasegger 2004: 78), if he did not come or if he came several times. A misunderstanding can also come up when the speaker does not stress correctly. Usually, the listener who does not get the right words does not ask but adds the rest of the sentence so that a misunderstanding can arise. 3. 3.
2 Phonological problems Phonological problems are phonetic deviations on the word level.That does not include the pronunciations, the phonetics, but the wrong choice and order of elements a word, for example. We distinguish between paradigmatic problems and syntagmatic problems. Paradigmatic problems include the choice of the wrong elements, syntagmatic ones the wrong sequence or order of elements. The latter could be that people understand ‘papel’ instead of ‘apple’. An example for a paradigmatic problem understanding the word ‘Jacoc’ instead of ‘Jacob’ (Grasegger 2004: 123). Additionally, there are four different types of phonological problems: elision, addition, metathesis, substitution.
Elision means that the speaker leaves out segments of a word or a whole syllable. In general one omits syllables that are not stressed. An example for an elision is saying and/or understanding nana instead of banana. Normally consonants are left out, in general the last consonant of a word like street which becomes stree. Addition means that the speaker or listener adds a consonant or a vocal so that apple becomes papple, zebra zebera or Tablett Tablette (Fromkin 1980: 35-36). It is also possible that you have an elision and an addition in a word or that you double a syllable.A metathesis is a problem in sequencing so that the speaker exchanges syllables or puts them the other way round.
So Blatt is Balt or ‘fork’ ‘frok’. The last type of phonological problems, the substitution, means that the speaker has the same number of syllables but replaces one syllable by a different one. It is often replaced by another syllable that sounds similar like ‘Jacoc’ and ‘Jacob’. It is also possible to leave something out and replace a syllable or a letter (Grasegger 2004: 123-127; Fromkin 1980: 47).The first segments in a word and the first syllables are more likely to be affected by speech errors since they are more focused on during speech production (Fromkin 1980: 48). According to Clark/ Yallop 1996, errors on the level of a syllable are detected far more readily than segment errors (Clark/Yallop 1996: 319). When the listener does not perceive one syllable, the brain tries to replace the missing syllable by a segment that could fit (vgl.
Clark/Yallop 1996: 318). However, these processing in the brain might fail, especially when the words sound similar.Another aspect that can lead to miscommunication are these homophones. They are a type of lexical ambiguity, “homonyme Ausdrucke verfugen uber identische Aussprache bei unterschiedlicher Orthographie und Bedeutung” (Bu? mann 2002: 284) like ‚their’ and ‚they’re’. Consequently, misunderstandings can easily come up when for example the context is unclear and the word the speaker used sound similar but has a different meaning. This kind of miscommunication can also be categorized as message-related miscommunication.These problems can be listener-based so that not the speaker changes elements of a word but the listener understands the wrong elements, for example because there were also channel problems or he did not listen or sender-based because of slips of the tongue, for example.
4. Analysis of miscommunication In the following chapter we are going to analyse some misunderstandings according to the features we have listed above. For the collection of data I used the diary method and searched in the internet. One example is taken from the internet, another one is a situation I experienced during the last weeks.The last example was originally broadcast on television some years ago that I remembered and wrote down. By analysing the examples of miscommunication, we want to come up with some possibilities how the misunderstanding could have emerged. 4.
1. A phonological problem The first misunderstanding is a situation I experienced some weeks ago. It took place on the dance floor during a training unit so that there was much background noise (people talking and music). The sender arrives and tells that he never wants to do it again with Korten, which is the last name of an absent person.M: Das mache ich nie wieder mit dem Korten! A: Was machst du nicht mehr mit dem Korken? This misunderstanding can be categorized as a phonetical miscommunication. The words Korten and Korken, that means [t] and [k], are a minimal pair since they have a distinctive function and change the meaning of the word. The misunderstanding is based on a paradigmatic problem, the choice of the wrong element, sound, in the word.
The listener substituted the letter [t] by the letter[k]. One possibility how the misunderstanding could have arisen is in the channel.On account of music and loud voices in the background, the receiver had to listen in search but could not understand the whole sentence because of the extra load of processing in the brain or a lack of concentration. Probably she only got the first passage of the word and the last syllable was added through brain processing as Korten and Korken only differ in one sound. Furthermore, the context was missing. M arrived and started the sentence with the word “das” which normally refers to something that had been said before. In this example a reference was missing because this word was used at the beginning of the communication.
Additionally, the person “Korten” M was talking about was absent so that the listener did not expect M to talk about him in this context. M also used an article to refer to a person what you normally do not do in the German language unless you are speaking a dialect. So we can categorize this miscommunication mainly as acoustic misunderstanding which is based on substitution of a consonant and probably came up on account of a channel problem. 4. 2. Hearing and Listening This example was taken from the internet. It is a telephone call an old woman made to the police because she wanted to know if there was a thunderstorm in Neuss.
1)P (police): Hallo? (2)W(woman): hallo? (3)P: Hallo, hier ist die Polizei (4)W: Hallo, ich kann gar nichts verstehen! (5)P: Ne? Dann mussen Sie mal richtig zuhoren! (6)W: Ich wollte fragen, aah, wo die Nacht das Gewitter war. (7)P: Das…war uber Bochum. (8)W: Was?! (9)P: Uber Bochum? (10)W: Saarbrucken? (11)P: Auch (speaks up) (12)W: Wo denn? (13)P: Wo solls denn hin? (14)W: Was? (15)P: Wo das Gewitter denn hin soll? (16)W: Wo das gewesen ist? (17)P: In Deutschland (18)W: Ich hab’ Sie jetzt aber nich verstanden, wirklich nich, sind Sie mir nich bose! (19)P: Ne, bin ich nicht (20)W: Wo war das denn? 21)P: Uberall! (22)W: Uberall? (23)P: Ja, … und das war nass. (24)W: bass (25)P: Nass! (26)W: …. Ist denn viel passiert? (27)P: Nein. (28)W: Viel passiert? (29)P: Nein! (30)W: Nein? (31)P: Nein. (32)W: Nein,… Ja, entschuldigen Sie bitte, ich bin 99 Jahre alt und ich hab’ eine Tochter in Dusseldorf, in Neuss wohnen und ich hab’ noch nix gehort.
(33)P: Da war nichts. (34)W: Was? (35)P: In Neuss war nichts! (36)W: Da was es? (37)P: Nein! (38)W: Nein? (39)P: Nein, in Neuss kein Gewitter. (40)W: Gewitter? (41)P: Nein! (42)W: War da das Gewitter? (43)P: Nein! (44)W: Nein? Ich hab’ kein Wort verstanden!Ich habe extra an die Polizei gewandt, dass ich Antwort krieg! (45)P (schreit): Ja, da war kein Gewitter! (46)W: Was? Bitter? (47)P: Da war kein Gewitter (48)W: Gewitter? Wo? (49)P (lacht) (50)W: Hier? (51)P: Nein! W legt auf. (source: www. radiopannen. de) In general, this miscommunication seems to be listener and channel- based. However, there are several factors that lead to this miscommunication.
Concerning the channel, the woman probably does not hear very well because she is already old. We can suppose this because she always asks ‘was? ’ and says ‘ Ich hab’ kein Wort verstanden’.She was also nervous, because she had not heard of her daughter, what could influence the listening process. In addition to this fact, the telephone connection was bad and crackling in the wire could be heard. Perhaps the woman also lacked the skill or concentration for listening in search. In line 47 and 48 the woman did not listen to the beginning of the sentence and just paid attention when the man was talking about the thunderstorm where she was interested in. Obviously, she applied the wrong strategy, listening in readiness so that she heard what he was saying but only recognized the word ‘Gewitter’.
The same can also be supposed for line 35 and 36. Moreover, we also have some misunderstandings that are based on prosodic and phonological problems as in line 39 and 40. Here we have a prosodic problem. The woman did not get that the police officer stressed the word ‘kein’, so that she thought there was a thunderstorm. In line 24 the woman understands ‘bass’ instead of ‘nass’. This is a paradigmatic problem that is based on the substitution of [n] by [b] because they are minimal pairs and the words sound similar.In line 45 and 46 she understands ‘bitter’ instead of Gewitter.
Here she is not able to define the right boundary because the stress of ‘bitter’ and ‘Gewitter’ is on the last syllable. Furthermore, we have an elision of the letters [g] and [e] and a substitution. [w] is replaced by [b]. Concerning the misunderstanding in line 9 and 10 where the woman understands Saarbrucken instead of Bochum, we have to guess that this arose because she could not understand the word on account of channel problems and ‘Bochum’ was replaced by another town in brain processing.So we can conclude that this miscommunication is based on various kinds of misunderstandings that are probably mainly influenced by channel problems such as a bad connection and an old person who is hard of hearing and maybe also lacks listening skills. 4. 3.
Prosody and homophones The following example for miscommunication was broadcast on television in 1959. A reporter called Heinz Maegerlein talking about sports pronounced the sentence: Maegerlein: Tausende standen an den Hangen und Pisten which was interpreted by the spectators as: Tausende standen an den Hangen und pissten. vgl. http://de. wikipedia. org/wiki/Heinz_Maegerlein) This misunderstanding can be interpreted as a message-related, listener or speaker-based miscommunication. It is a prosodic and phonological problem.
As the words ‘Pisten’ and ‘pissten’ are homophones, the spectators added an ‘s’ to the word so that it also becomes a paradigmatic problem. On account of the words being homophones, the misunderstanding is message- related. That is why the speaker has to put the emphasize on the right syllables and the pauses in the right position. Therefore, we also have a prosodic problem here.Either the speaker must have put a wrong stress on the words or the spectators did not get the right intonation. To get the message across correctly, the speaker is not allowed to make a pause after ‘Hangen’ (Tausende standen an den Hangen […] und Pisten) since it would emphasize ‘und Pisten’. Thus, as the words are homophones and therefore in

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