Monday, 24 May 2010

campaign branding: pragmatics and you

Getting to understood can be a challenge when communicating.  This can be used to advantage in games as useful fluff to define a different culture (hat tip to Werewolf) and to encourage interaction and immersion. Everyone has experienced cognitive dissonance when the words aren't what's meant or when they've had a different persuasive effect to their intent or even the intent and the words. Communication and knowledge can be split into two streams.
  • Information - The words and their arrangement.
  • Context - The intent defined by relationship between the speaker/author and audience.
Most people get the first right yet the second is governed by a number of factors that can provide insight and inspiration and that may trip up the unwary.

Pragmatics is a field of linguistics dealing with how meaning is imparted in communication and where words may have a different intent or outcome depending on factors like context, emotion or intent, the relationship between speaker and audience, measure what isn't said (implicature) and what the message unintentionally reveals.

There are three elements to any communication.
  • What is said, it's delivery and ostensible meaning (locutionary effect) which may govern
  • The intent of the communication (illocutionary effect) which may express emotion ("Wow!"), request a course of action ("Your attention, please."), state a commitment ("I pledge my allegiance..."), state intent ("I pronounce you husband and wife") or understanding of reality ("I'm pregnant.")
  • The actual effect (perlocutionary effect) which measures the psychological impact and outcome of the communication ("Would you like a cup of tea?") may reveal the speaker as a tea addict or merely willing to share a refreshing beverage.
In some cases, different rules of grammar (use of tu and vous in French) and words (honorifics in Japanese), statements to perform a function ("This meeting is adjourned."), the message aesthetics (poetry, slogan), and the purpose (to facilitate interaction e.g. "Nice weather...") can all impart different meanings. 

All this variation can be distilled into simple rules for particular cultures and races.  A culture that reveres magic use honorifics based on the ability to wield spells.  A feudal culture insists on different patterns of speech in court to those on the battlefield.  An industrious culture may view small talk as frivolous or even disruptive.  Using these tools may lead to different, enjoyable interaction and provoke thought among your audience.

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