Lack of Lexicon

By Ahmad A. Rehman, AMM 2

Many moons ago, in the tender years of my life, I was faced by an academic challenge that was supposed to define my future, the SATs. The SATs were a test that needed to be done well, in order to cement my place in the world of higher education. The emotional trauma of the test aside, it was a difficult procedure with many different aspects to be considered, like the vocabulary lists. These were lists of strange, seldom used words that one had to show mastery on, to demonstrate you are college admission worthy.

For years after I would resent the system and question the logic of the testing services that would want students to memorize useless lists in order to score well on a test that was supposed to uncover scholastic aptitude. I was adamant and very vocal in this belief until I met Qudsia.

Through a mutual friend, I met a young lady who was studying at the Karachi University for a Masters degree. As our conversation progressed, I expected this lady to be doing the run of the mill degrees that most Pakistani youth studies. Disciplines and studies that offer a great “scope” for the future are what we usually find in our youth. At best, being a female, I half expected her to be studying some stereotypical subjects like psychology or fine arts. To my dismay, she was in fact studying linguistics. Not being too familiar with the subject, I asked her to explain. She replied in her own off-hand way that linguistics is what defines how societies evolve.

Confounded by this simple statement, I started thinking about this in greater depth. Being a management student, I was always trying to understand undertones and patterns that govern how corporate Pakistan works. It struck me that, perhaps, answers lie in language or limits thereof.

Maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Let me explain, suppose a two years old baby recently trying to learn how to speak. He tries to convey his needs and wants, but doesn’t have the words yet. He gets frustrated and starts to eventually break down crying, until some one points out different objects that he may want. Once some one figure out what his pining is for, he gives him back this look of “I can’t believe it took you so long to figure this out.” This two year baby is currently limited in what he can express and communicate based on his vocabulary. The better his ability to express himself, the more effective he becomes in the external world around him. But does this limited vocabulary have effects on his internal world? It is possible.

This two year old baby does not have the vocabulary and understanding of connotations of many words that describe abstract emotions and phenomenon like jealousy, or hatred. The more complex those abstract notions get, the more limited this baby becomes. As he grows and develops an understanding of abstract complexities like politics between people or the struggles of power between any interpersonal relationships, the more his behaviors will develop in certain ways. Now he is uncaring of impressions and managing other people’s expectations of subtleties. These will develop as his ability to relate to these concepts increases. In other words, as his ability to understand and internalize certain words increases his knowledge of what is out there in the world, it will enable him to deal with it accordingly. He evolves his behaviors and his actions accordingly.

Interestingly the same is true for adults. The more you have in terms of vocabulary, the more you are able to understand in terms of the abstract. Imagine an alien from the galaxy Frooshmaya has just arrived on earth. He meets you and starts to learn about earth. You start to have a conversation about music, and explain to him that there are different varieties out there, like jazz, blues and bhangra. He stops you and asks you to explain what is bhangra. See if you can explain clearly what bhangra is. See if you can put the emotions of someone passionate about bhangra into your explanation. See if your explanation can give our alien friend an insight. Probably, you would be struggling in a clear explanation, not because you don’t know what bhangra is, but you may not have the words to explain that mix of abstract feelings, perceptions and intricacies.

You have different feelings and perspectives on literally every single aspect of your daily lives. However without the proper words, communicating these concepts externally is limited. So your internal experience of Bhangra is something that is unique to you, I can never know what it is in its entirety. Just like my perception on a sunset is mine alone.

Okay so externally we are limited in expressing ourselves based on our vocabulary, now lets try internally. Imagine you have a fight with a friend about a topic that is not really close to the heart but due to the situation everything got blown out of proportion. When you go home, there is a feeling of remorse, mixed with anger, and frustration. However, how we internalize this event in itself is based on how well we can deal with abstract complexities. You may feel angered by the event, however your friendship has a long history that does not allow you to make your heated transaction something that is a permanent closure. Again languages don’t have a word for this exact feeling. So when it comes to internalizing these events we look around for best fit words that describe how we feel and then due to a lack of better words, we adhere or adjust ourselves to the words we have chosen to describe events to ourselves. The next day on the phone, we tell our friends, we were disappointed about the fight, because we don’t have words that can actually describe our frustrations and exact state of mind.

Now being a management student, you are probably thinking, why is he commenting on this stuff. What is the relevance of linguistics to corporate Pakistan. This concept is applied in all parts of management and culture building. Subordinates don’t have the right vocabulary to describe internal states to bosses in a manner that can help resolve communication gaps. Bosses don’t have access to vocabularies that can help them effectively convey their beliefs in a manner that could actually inspire people. Since the words we use around us currently are so limited and don’t capture the essence of the message, our belief in them starts to diminish. Every time something is said to inspire, people shy away from letting it sink in, because they believe these are just empty words. Empty words do not hold a semblance of reality. And they are not able to capture the abstract value that the conveyor tries to convey. Think about this quotation “To utter a word is to strike a note on the key of the imagination”.

By expanding our vocabulary to include different connotations and depths, we can make inspired melodies that soothe the heart and boil the blood to action. Without them, we become mediocre as companies and corporate cultures. We live an existence of frustration and limitations. Those of us who are able to convey depth and stronger meaning, may stand a better chance of growth and progress.

My suggestion to managers around Pakistan is simple:

  1. Enhance your vocabularies.
  2. Treat words you hear with more introspection and try to probe the sentiments being conveyed by others.
  3. Also try to use different words in trying to clearly communicate feelings.

In conclusion, just like two year old baby, currently the concept of limited vocabularies does limit many organizations in Pakistan. This also holds true for societies. Qudsia was right, linguistics help societies evolve.

But then again what do I know? 😉

18 Replies to “Lack of Lexicon”

  1. Exclellent article!

    It is a fact that in managment words play a vital role and without good,strong and proper vocab,you cannot deliver your message properly..i agree on that..but in case of emotions and feelings…these things cannot be described completely in words rather they can be only felt by us…you dont need a “I LOVE YOU” to say thay you love him/her…your eyes and your deeds will tell the whole thing..!

    Inorder to utter completely your ideas to someone you need not just the voabulary…you also need to feel the situation with its full intensity…anywayz very well written article and i am impressed by your excellent usage of words!

  2. great article….i envy you for the wa wa vocabulary of yours.It is true that language plays an important role in development of any culture or society which in turn is dependent upon a single persons achievements, and there are many poor souls out there with amaizing skills but the only draw back for them is lack of vocabulary…language problem as i like to call it…

  3. Uff mere Khuda… Ahmed, i needed a dictionary to read this, and that’s a pretty major accomplishment (for you).
    there’s an urdu shaer that says the exact oppsite though:
    yeh alag baat ke mimbar pe ja ke kuch na kahein
    khamosh log bala ke khateeb hote hain

    Sometimes it takes more than words to get things across. Sometimes even words mean nothing. Human interaction is a crazy thing.

    But anyway, keep writing!

  4. oh k hira, believe me its not that grandiloquent that you need a dictionary to understand the whole article lolz but, anyway thank you very much for the compliment.

  5. Ahmad Rehman..bro ure full of surprises..i guess ure idea stands true to its very delicately used words.. and i must say..time spent reading ure article here…was an experience in its own..keep up the gud work..

  6. well i belive that being in managment or in Sciences. we all need to evolve and to evolve what better way can it be then language. I truely agree with the idea of getting the new words being used more frequently in our lives but how can it be made is also an issue and if a person wants to really catch up with new words and be a bit catchy to people in his circle then the best way is by reading books and writing your thoughts. The more you write the better you shall be able to make your thoughts conveyed to masses and the better understanding of the new words that you just learned will be there ……….

  7. This Is Just A Rambling Thought Shower That I Have Had On A Given Topic, Now Its Completely Up To You How You Want To Evolve Your Communication? But, One Thing I Like To High Light Is That I Didn’t Write This Article To Address People The Ways Of Learning Or Enhancing Their Communication Skills. The Main Motivative Factor Behind Writing The Article Was To Make People Acknowledge About The Fact That Proper Language Is Not Only Important Element That A Person Needs Along With It Vocabulary Plays A Massive Role In Development Of Any Culture Or Society Which In Turn Is Dependent Upon A Single Persons Achievements, And There Are Many Poor Souls Out There With Amazing Skills But The Only Draw Back For Them Is Lack Of Vocabulary. Your Sentence Should Have Some Weight And Only Then Any Person Can Advance Far In Any Realm Of Life. Especially In Today’s Fast Pace Life.

    So, Rahim Bhai Thank You For The Advice Of How To Improve Our English Which I Believe All Of Us Knew That Way Of Yours So Please I Request You To Give A Relevant Comment Rather Than Stooping To A Kid Level And Present Such Common Ideas Which Is Very Well Known By Other. Ok

    Just Enjoy And Form An Opinion Relevant That It. Maybe It Will Help In Making Sense Of The World Around Us. Maybe It Won’t. But At The End, Please Remember, This Is Just Food For Thought. But Then Again What Do I Know? 😉

  8. lolz by the way, miss or mr neemz who are you by the way are you from 1st year.dont be afraid no buddy is going to kill you i promise please write your full name while posting comments. thank you,

  9. Mr. Rehman your comments make no sense what so ever to the above discussion, albeit I will give you that you are trying to be communicative! 😛
    Ahmad looks like your Article is working on other people man! 🙂

  10. ahmad, did you know that in English writing every word DOES NOT begin with a capital letter, only every sentence. You could start with that.

  11. ya i know but i like writing every word in a capital letter since, i have learn wht title case is all about .

    as for ali hakeem
    dude i dont mind whether it work for others or for me. i dont mind at all.

  12. i m sorry i wrote wrong message to ali hakeem i take my words back sorry again and replacement of those senseless comment once again. i would say that i m happy my article is having affect on people though i m passing stupid comment but,anyway it is working that is enough for me ..

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