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Avoidance in Language Production

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Avoidance in Language Production

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.ABSTRACT One of the most remarkable features of language is the fact that it is an effective force in communication. Yet, still in some situations, avoiding certain linguistic items is necessarily needed in communication among different interlocutors in order not to break communication. The current work is open to one major objective: unearthing an interesting linguistic phenomenon, namely avoidance with its two main types: verbal and nonverbal. The verbal aspects have been tackled by shedding light on five main types of avoidance, morphological, syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, and semanticopragmatic avoidance, side by side with the reasons that lead to avoidance in one of the aforementioned linguistic fields or another. As for non-verbal avoidance in linguistic settings, again three main types of avoidance, viz. positive (represented by two manners) and negative avoidance have been studied in detail. The present paper ends with some concluding remarks that highlight the main points attended to in the preceding pages of the research. 
ADAB AL-RAFIDAYN, VOL.(60) 1432/2011
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Avoidance in Language Production
Dr. Hussein Ali Ahmed

& Dr. Huda Fadhil Isma'eel
2011/9/19 
2011/11/14 
ABSTRACT
One of the most remarkable features of language is the
fact that it is an effective force in communication. Yet, still in
some situations, avoiding certain linguistic items is necessarily
needed in communication among different interlocutors in
order not to break communication. The current work is open to
one major objective: unearthing an interesting linguistic
phenomenon, namely avoidance with its two main types:
verbal and nonverbal. The verbal aspects have been tackled by
shedding light on five main types of avoidance,
morphological, syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, and semantico-
pragmatic avoidance, side by side with the reasons that lead to
avoidance in one of the aforementioned linguistic fields or
another. As for non-verbal avoidance in linguistic settings,
again three main types of avoidance, viz. positive (represented
by two manners) and negative avoidance have been studied in
detail. The present paper ends with some concluding remarks
that highlight the main points attended to in the preceding
pages of the research.
The present paper is abridged from the Ph.D.thesis entitled"A Synthetic
Approach to the Study of Avoidance in Language Production" by Dr.
Huda Fadhil Isma'eel supervised by Asst. Prof. Dr. Hussein Ali
Ahmed..
 Dept. of English/ College of Arts/ University of Mosul.
 Dept. of English/ College of Arts/ University of Mosul.
Avoidance in Language Production Dr. Hussein Ali Ahmed & Dr. Huda Fadhil Isma'ee
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I. Introduction:
In everyday communication, language is used variably
by different speakers in the expression of varied thoughts and
feelings while addressing different audiences. Such variation
in language use is characterized, in the main, by a plethora of
different linguistic means and techniques resorted to by the
locuters, i.e. speakers who usually bear in mind that although
the main goal behind any event of communication is the
conveyance of information, yet they should also bind by the
rules of communication, namely politeness, formality and
appropriateness that make the messages sent more
understandable, plausible and better fit the situations or
contexts.
Avoidance is said to be part and parcel of the techniques
already referred to. It is said that avoidance guides speakers to
say what should be said and get rid of the unsaid. As such, in
our attempt to approach the linguistic phenomenon of
avoidance, we have endeavoured here to capture a significant
characterization of the phenomenon first through the
presentation of its nature and meaning and then by considering
its two main types, namely verbal and non-verbal avoidance in
terms of its occurrence in varied linguistic settings.
II. Aims of the Research:
The current research paper aims at a theoretical
presentation of a quite common phenomenon in linguistic
settings, namely avoidance. It further tries to shed light on the
two main types of avoidance, namely verbal and nonverbal
avoidance. Finally, reference is made to some subtypes that lie
under the umbrella of the two main types of avoidance already
highlighted.
III. The Nature and Meaning of Avoidance:
It is worthy to note that, according to Krashen (1987:
51), avoidance is a linguistic phenomenon whose historical
roots go back to the realm of applied linguistics as it was first
brought to light by the pioneer Schachter (1974 cited in Liao
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& Fukuya, 2002: via the net), and in due course, it has cut
across different disciplines other than linguistics such as
cognition, psychology, sociology, etc. Consequently, this
passes some of the trouble spots for a researcher in collecting
the seminal materials and in finding a suitable framework to
adopt.
Avoidance, as a term, is problematic and vague. Its
meaning varies from one situation to another. As such, it
becomes problematic in the sense whether to make a
distinction or not and even how to make it between avoidance
and other terminologies. Yet, one can say that avoidance
belongs to the experiential world of the language community.
As such, it cannot be viewed as a creativity of the native
speakers of any community. Rather, it should be viewed as the
outcome of much experience with the written and/or spoken
form of any speech community.
Avoidance is distinctive in terms of its equivocal nature
starting from its definition, description, and analysis for being
a dynamic significant means used by people to convey
different messages everywhere and at any time. It voices the
following: The said and the unsaid, The done and the
undone.
IV. Verbal Aspects of Avoidance in Linguistic
Settings:
When it comes to distinguishing avoidance as a
phenomenon in various linguistic domains, a shift of emphasis
can be noticed on seminal queries which are waiting for
answers like: What are these linguistic domains? Which
domain is the starting-point for avoidance, and why?
“The study of avoidance as a linguistic phenomenon is
of fairly recent origin”(Irujo, 1993: 205). Schatcher (1974) has
first brought to light the phenomenon of avoidance behaviours
in second language acquisition, especially what is embodied in
error analysis of second language (i.e. learners of the target
language). Since then, her study has drawn the attention of
many researchers who have pursued investigating this
phenomenon (Liao and Fukuya, 2002: via the net).
It must be noted that the works of these researchers have
the task of patiently clarifying each particular type of
Avoidance in Language Production Dr. Hussein Ali Ahmed & Dr. Huda Fadhil Isma'ee
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avoidance, whether verbal or non-verbal, as it arises in
different linguistic levels as far as the present domain is
concerned.
In what follows, verbal aspects of avoidance will be
covered with focus being on various linguistic fields, namely
morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics:
a. Morphological Avoidance:
In verbal communication, the user of the language finds
himself, in some cases, in need of fulfilling certain
communicative needs by adopting or even inventing certain
mechanisms to reduce the full-length words into certain
abbreviated forms. Thus, what is intended here is to focus on
the morphology or word formation in language and to explain:
first, why? and second, how? the speaker or even the writer is
after avoiding the use of full words and substituting them with
various short cuts. A set of terms seems to be pertinent to the
discussion here which helps us to understand what is beneath
one of these mechanisms which is avoiding saying lengthy
words or phrases.
Reasonably enough, 'acronyms' is the focal point in this
part of the discussion. The origins of acronyms are a little
unclear due to the shortage of good articles about the history
and development of acronyms. The term acronyms,
etymologically speaking, “is derived from a combination of the
Greek words akros, meaning top, and onyma, meaning name”
(Dringer, 2005; Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: via the net).
In spite of acronyms‟ widespread use in daily life
nowadays, this use is relatively a modern phenomenon. In
other words, acronyms are known to have been used in Rome
dating back even earlier than the Christian era as Cannon (1989
cited in Shultz, 2006: 411) says: “It has been noted that these
types of abbreviations, i.e. acronyms occurred during the
Roman Empire with SPQR used for Senatus Populusque
Roamnus”. (This acronym is used to refer to the official name
of the Roman Empire).
Since at least the middle ages, acronyms have also been
used in Hebrew, particularly when referring to several
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important rabbis. For instance, Rabbi Moshe Ben Nahman is
known as the Ramban. Even Jesus, Yehoshuah is called Yeshu
in short by intimates (Via the net).
In modern times, acronyms have been increasing since
the beginning of the 20th and 21st centuries. Many acronyms
originated during the two world wars; others have been formed
as short names for government agencies and international
organizations(Adams, 1973: 136).
b. Syntactic Avoidance:
Various studies highlight the existence and the potential
causes of avoidance behaviour in second language learning as
far as the syntactic aspects of language are concerned. One
must reckon, then, with instances to explain such a behaviour
when discussing some of scholars‟ views:
Schachter (1974) marks the birth of avoidance as a
phenomenon in linguistic studies. Her contribution can be
summarized as follows: In comparing the errors in relative
clauses made by native speakers of four different languages,
namely Chinese, Japanese, Persian and learners of English as a
second language, she has found that the difficulty of producing
relative clauses for both Chinese and Japanese learners is not
determined by the number of errors made by the learners.
Rather, it is determined by the number of relative clauses
produced. This number is much smaller in the production of
the learners of the first two, i.e. Chinese and Japanese groups
than the last two groups, i.e. Persian and Arab formerly
mentioned.
In line with these observations, Schachter concludes the
following two points: First, Error Analysis, as a prevailing
field, is incapable of explaining what is meant by avoidance.
Secondly, “if a student finds a particular construction in the
target language difficult to comprehend, it is very likely that
he will try to avoid producing it” (Schachter, 1974).
Kleinmann (1977, 1978) tested other different English
grammatical structures, viz. passive, present progressive,
infinitive complement, and direct object pronoun against the
performance of two groups of intermediate level learners:
native speakers of Arabic and native speakers of Spanish and
Portuguese. The results show that there is an interaction of
Avoidance in Language Production Dr. Hussein Ali Ahmed & Dr. Huda Fadhil Isma'ee
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linguistic and psychological variables in determining learner
behaviour in a second language in that structures which
otherwise would be avoided are likely to be produced
depending on the affective state of the learner. (Kleinmann,
1977: 93).
Kamimoto, Shimura, and Kellerman (1992) propose that
for the purpose of investigating whether avoidance is a reason
behind the underproduction of any group of second language
learners, one must consider the following: The form, the
distribution, and the function of first language linguistic entity
which are supposedly avoided in second language. To add, one
must look at the means used to prove whether and to what
extent such linguistic entities are used in second language; i.e.
their uses and functions in contexts.
Observing these different views concerning the factors
behind avoidance, as a behaviour in second language learners,
it may be of interest too to argue that the structural linguistic
differences in the first language and second language and the
psychological states of the learners are considered to be
important factors behind avoidance, as Schachter and
Kleinmann respectively claim. Yet, Kamimoto et al.‟s attempt
is more significant than other studies due to the following:
(1) It focuses on the learner‟s knowledge of the linguistic
entities in the first language.
(2) It follows that it makes a bridge between such a
knowledge of learners and their avoidance behaviour in
the second language. So, there is an implicit match
between linguistic entities of the firs language and their
counterparts in the second language.
(3) Knowledge of the first language implies not only a
mastery of the forms and structures of linguistic features,
but also their functions and uses in different contexts in
the second language.
It should be noted that it is not enough to simply
designate avoidance as a safe strategy adopted by second
language learners to avoid making mistakes on different
linguistic levels. Let us consider how avoidance and the design
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of English as a foreign language texts interlock together.
Avoidance of sexism is a case in point here.
Sakita (1995) examines the prevalence of sexism in the
textbooks of English education in Japan, and its effect on both
teaching and learning. Essential questions beg answering here:
What are the various aspects of sexism in these books?, and
What is behind the prevalence of sexism in these books?
Based on a survey of 10 textbooks widely used in
Japanese Junior and Senior high schools (all published between
1989 and 1992), Sakita‟s findings show different aspects of
sexism; i.e. gender imbalance, or demeaning women in these
textbooks with different proportions at different levels of
learning.
Viewing these different proportions, we can now turn to
the second question raised earlier and its answer would be as
follows. The prevalence of sexism in such textbooks springs
from the following facts:
(1) The English language, it has been claimed, is sexist
(Cherry, 1988 and Sakita, 1991 cited in Sakita, 1995: via the
net) and possesses male-as- norm elements.
(2) English is said to be the only foreign language through
junior and senior high schools in Japan. It is, also, taught in
most of the elementary schools.
(3) Building on (1) and (2), the only foreign language Japanese
children learn, by definition, has sexist features (cf. Sakita:
Ibid.). According to these points, we approach closely a
significant problem: teaching English with its sexist features to
Japanese children affects their world-view as far as gender
imbalance is concerned. This matches what Trudgill (1974: 25)
states: “a language can affect a society by influencing or even
controlling the world-view of its speakers”. Consequently,
such features are reinforced gradually in the Japanese society
due to the fact that though “sexism is a cultural bias, yet
expressed in and reinforced by the language people learn from
childhood on”(Florent & Walter, 1988).
This severe inequity clearly exists in English textbooks
designed for Japanese learners, thus involving omission of
women in the sense that far more women appear without
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occupations, or they had limited stereotypical jobs assisting
males. Stereotypical roles became clear both in adjective usage
and activities and topics: physical state, size, and reputation are
associated with men, weakness and attractiveness with women;
intellect and education are never fairly talked about for
women; … only women take care of somebody, do housework,
go to parties, talk long, receive flowers and are concerned
about marriage; …the offensive use of girl for adult women
introducing women by first name or no name, but men by full
name, …. (Sakita, 1995: via the net).
In the same vein, some space of the present research is
devoted to shedding light on another syntactic device, viz.
ellipsis. It seems convenient to discuss first, the nature of
ellipsis in order to manipulate the relation that may hold
between ellipsis and avoidance.
Syntactically speaking, “ellipsis is purely a surface
phenomenon” (Quirk et al., 1985: 536). In other terms, the
ellipted part, whatever its syntactic function is, does not
indicate any change in the meaning of the sentence itself; it is a
matter of changing the form only (cf. Thomas, 1987: 1; Carter
& McCarthy, 1995: 145 and Selders, 1995: via the net cited in
Wilson, 2000).
Ellipsis may, also, be described as grammatical omission
compared with other kinds of omission. There is, for instance,
the phonological loss of a certain syllable in a word known as
aphaeresis as in the familiar form of because, often spelled
‟cos. Clipping of words is regarded as another instance of the
process. Flu which is clipped from the word formation
influenza is described in terms of phonological units (i.e.
syllables) rather than in terms of morphological units (i.e.
morphemes) or grammatical units (i.e. words) (Quirk et al.,
1985: 883-884). It is presupposed that the following reasons
play a role in omitting parts of a sentence whether in spoken
or written language:
1. Unique Recoverability:
The sense of ellipsis implies that words can be ellipted
under one condition viz. when the words are uniquely
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recoverable. In other words, there is no doubt as to what words
are to be supplied, and it is possible to add the recovered words
to the sentence. Given the sentence, for instance,
(1) She can‟t sing tonight, so she won‟t (sing).
(based on Quirk et al., 1972: 536),
it is presupposed that the verb ‟sing‟ is ellipted due to the fact
that the ellipted item is uniquely recoverable from a previous
clause in the same sentence. In addition, what is uniquely
recoverable depends on the context (Quirk et al., 1985: 861-
862).
2. Reducing Redundancy and Avoiding Repetition:
Ellipsis is most commonly used to reduce redundancy
and avoid repetition. In this respect, ellipsis is just like
substitution. It is possible, then, to avoid repetition not only by
ellipsis, as in sentence (3), but also by substitution. Sentence
(4) is a good example:
(2) She might sing, but I don‟t think she will do so.
(based on Quirk et al., 1972: 537)
The use of the proform represented by "do so" is but a
substitute of the verb sing to avoid repetition which is not
favoured in speech or writing; it is even avoided for stylistic
reasons (ibid.).
3. Attracting Attention to the New Material:
By omitting certain items that are shared, attention is
focused on new material as in the dialogue:
(3a) Have you spoken to him?
(3b) (I have) Not yet (spoken to him).
Sentence (3b) shows that omitting those items mentioned
between brackets will lead speaker A to focus on the items
which are newly mentioned in the speech of speaker B (Quirk
et al., 1972: 538).
4. Economy:
Another important motivation that one can assume here
is economy. The speaker always needs to convey his/her
message faster with less effort. Consequently, the s/he tends to
omit parts of the sentence.
c. Semantic Avoidance:
The belief that idioms, as a significant part of the
semantic structure of English are avoided on the part of
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learners, has no clear evidence for the researchers in the 1970s.
Instead, much of the evidence available is observational and
indirect indicators. For Henzl (1973), one of such indirect
indicators is the learner‟s belief that idioms avoidance is
language specific; hence, not transferable to second language.
This springs from the fact that idioms are not common in the
“foreigned talks”; that is, teachers may not use idioms when
addressing the learners. In their two experimental studies in the
Netherlands, Jordens (1977) and Kleinmann (1977) present
another indicator. When idioms have first language
equivalents, second language learners may judge them as
ungrammatical structures. This indirectly indicates their
reluctance to transfer them to the second language. Hence, they
avoid using them (Irujo, 1993: 205-206).
Moving to the 1980s, the use of communication
strategies, including avoidance, in acquiring lexical terms has
been documented in several studies (Bialystock & Frohlich,
1980; Poulisse et al., 1984 and Paribakht, 1985). Still,
avoidance in the use of idioms has never been concerned with.
Nevertheless, second language teachers‟ viewpoint is
that even their most advanced students tend to avoid using
idioms. This avoidance might be due to the fear of not getting
the idioms right, since learners know that idioms do not
literally mean what they say (Irujo, 1993: 205).
Now, one question that may be debated is the following:
Does avoidance occupy a place in second language learning,
as far as this particular linguistic area (i.e. idioms) is
concerned? This query may be answered positively and/or
negatively by considering different factors. Going back to the
most obvious slogan of second language teachers mentioned
earlier, it can be said that idiom avoidance is, truly, there in
second language classes taking into account:
the classroom as a major learning setting,
the age of learners of second language (i.e. different ages at
different levels of learning),
the background knowledge of the learners; and
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the curriculum developed by teachers for each level of
learning, giving no clear alternative strategy for learners to
produce idioms. It is also, a no- answer, as a proof, which is
originally worked out by Irujo (1993) in her experience
where
culture is an additional setting for learning
age of learners of second language is advanced (in our case,
advanced fluent bilinguals)
curriculum developed by teachers must match the advanced
level of the learners.
So, there is already an alternative may be literal
means of expressing the same meaning of idioms in second
language by paraphrasing.
d. Pragmatic Avoidance:
Studies on transfer, as far as language teaching and
learning are concerned, have usually focused on different types
of linguistic entities of the first language and the second
language. Still, such works have totally overlooked transfer of
the communicative functions of these entities in the two
languages in question.
Nowadays, however, there is a large body of research on
the patterns and regularities of talks talk between students
and teachers in the classrooms, talk between learners, and talk
between learners and proficient speakers in natural settings
outside classrooms. Some of these works have pedagogic
focus, learning focus, or communicative focus, much of which
is mainly concerned with what people say- their linguistic
products rather than how they say it or what the linguistic
process is. Transfer of the communicative competence has
become relevant in most of the investigators‟ studies plus the
various strategies of talk and situations. It is worth considering
that research in this area has tackled, interalia, among different
situations, talk speech acts, as one of the basic issues, which is,
in turn, a principal topic in pragmatics (Fraser, 1981: 435 and
McDonough, 1995: 16). It is possible, then, to find areas
where pragmatic avoidance plays a significant role in English
as a second language or English as a foreign language classes.
For the present researcher, both Fraser‟s (1981) and
McDonough‟s (1995) contributions, as available materials,
Avoidance in Language Production Dr. Hussein Ali Ahmed & Dr. Huda Fadhil Isma'ee
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may help to act and think more reasonably for the purpose of
connecting three terms avoidance, pragmatics, English as a
second language or English as a foreign language.
e. Semantico-Pragmatic Avoidance:
As the title suggests, speakers are controlled by certain
rules or principles when communicating with each other. Some
are said to be universally oriented; some others are culturally-
oriented varying from one situation to another or from one
speaker to another. Any attempt, then, at answering the query
raised in the title must take into account the semantic and
pragmatic nature of these rules. In many respects, it seems
somehow exhausting to cover the infinite set of aspects of what
is called, in the researcher‟s terminology, the unsaid in
humans‟ interaction.
To avoid repetition and redundancy, the researcher aims
to catalogue some instances that explain how the meaning of
the unsaid (which could be a lexeme, an expression, an idiom,
etc.) and the whole circumstances that necessitate the unsaid
(including the speaker, channel of communication, the hearer,
etc.) modify the way avoidance works in two highly
interwoven fields, viz. semantics and pragmatics.
Diachronic and synchronic investigation of vocabulary,
expressions, phrases, etc. used by speakers in different
communities draws on the following fact: some sets of
vocabulary or expressions related to different fields are
embraced under what is called the unsaid if their emotive
connotative meanings are carefully diagnosed. The following
range of instances are good candidates:
1. The Religious Unsaid:
Ardó (2001: via the net) says: “Perhaps it is not too far-
fetched a statement to say that most of us like to think of
ourselves as (more or less) rational, articulate and disciplined
human beings”. In accordance with this rationality, it is a
universal fact that humans regard with great respect or
reverence every single entity related to religion. Hence, people
prefer not to mention such entities in an ad hoc way or on
trivial occasions. Some examples are pertinent here: names of
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Almighty Allah, God or gods, also names of prophets like
Mohammad (PBUH), Jesus, Saint Mary in Islam and
Christianity, respectively.
2. The Superstitious Unsaid:
On the basis of superstitious beliefs, people strive not to
use or utter vocabulary related to black magic, witch curses,
etc. Beliefs like these may affect a wide range of linguistic
phenomena, and thus, include animal names. It is wolf, for
instance, which the peasants in the Ukraine term as uncle or
nice little dog (Smal-Stoki, 1950 cited in Saville-Troike, 1982:
200).
3. The Social Unsaid:
One may not take to the risk of prosecution if one uses
one of the words, topics, or actions which are very private and
personal on all occasions. This is clearly shown in the language
of sex. Certain parts and functions of the body, words of bad
connotation, even swear words are considered obscene. These,
in turn, as Greenberg (1966: 245) states "are unrestricted
universals since they are governed by social and cultural
factors”. Still, one might wish to say, like it or not, such social
unsaid remain universal features across space and time,
especially swearing (Ardó, 2001: via the net).
4. The Unsaid Disease:
Serious fatal diseases or infectious diseases which are
highly spread in communities, whether in ancient times or
nowadays, are not much favourite to talk about, so is uttering
the lexemes identifying the disease itself even in civilized
communities. Such diseases include T.B., Cholera, Measles,
Cancer, and recently Aids.
5. The Unsaid Death:
To a greater or lesser degree, people do not prefer issues
related to death. Thus, names of dead people, funeral
ceremonies and burying, undertaker, coffin, and grave are not
directly referred to.
6. The Unsaid Naming:
Names of people may sometimes create some problems.
An English professor, for instance, unwilling to call any
Avoidance in Language Production Dr. Hussein Ali Ahmed & Dr. Huda Fadhil Isma'ee
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student named Jesus in the class is usually rechristened Jessie
by the second week of class (Saville-Troike, 1982: 202).
A palpable semantic trait of these examples and of many
others is that the unsaid or the unspeakable or the undone are
connotatively bad, dirty, unacceptable, unpreferrable,
unpleasant, fearful, etc. They are given a technical term in
semantics, viz. taboo. Etymologically, it is a Polynesian word
which Captain Cook introduced into English then it passed into
other European languages (Ullman, 1962: 204). It is simply
defined as “a word that is used for something unpleasant” and
“because the word is associated with a socially distasteful
subject, it becomes distasteful itself” (Palmer, 1981: 10 and
92). Here, avoiding the bad connotative meanings of entities in
the world comes into picture which is not an up-to-date
phenomenon as Turner (1973: 116) remarks “throughout
history there has been a desire to avoid naming the fearful and
unpleasant”. But, why avoid tabooed words? Commonly,
tabooed words are avoided by people cross-culturally due to
social, psychological, religious, idiosyncratic or cultural
factors. By definition, all these factors are encapsulated in what
is called pragmatics. So, the phenomenon of avoidance does
work properly in the two interwoven fields, namely semantics
and pragmatics.
No doubt, one wishes to know an answer to a question
like: Is there any safe strategy to avoid mentioning or using
tabooed words in communication? In most, if not all cases,
tabooed words are abandoned and a harmless substitute or
alternative, a euphemism, is introduced to fill the gap in
communication (Ullman, 1962: 205). As a technical term,
“euphemism” is viewed by scholars as “a softened, agreeable,
or indirect expression used instead of the one that seems too
harsh, indelicate or direct” (Anderson & Stategberg, 1962:
139).
Such is the case, it seems, that taboo and euphemism are
two faces of the same coin, so to speak. This can be explained
in terms of politeness purposes which govern universally
different cultures; tabooed words are undesirable and
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euphemism is used as a remedy instead. Besides, it is possible
to suggest that avoidance could be viewed here as a super-
ordinate strategy which subsumes euphemism as a subordinate
strategy as far as politeness is concerned.
V. Non-Verbal Aspects of Avoidance in Linguistic
Settings:
So far, we have remarked that avoidance in second
language settings commonly lends itself to the definite nature
of learners‟ behaviour, as a dynamic safe strategy in the
process of learning, which involves avoiding certain linguistic
features verbally. Yet, it may seem out of keeping that some
faces of non-verbal avoidance can be viewed to function either
positively or negatively, in the same area. Such faces
sometimes could be methodologies for teachers or strategies
for learners. Some instances will be sketched here:
1. Positive Avoidance: Non-verbal Teacher vs. Verbal
Learner:
Silence is a dynamic methodology frequently observed
in teaching foreign languages. This is proved in La Forge‟s
observation of classrooms for more than five years, especially
during group learning activities (1977: 373). La Forge
examined the different reactions towards silence of learners-
Japanese, Spanish and American groups- engaged in
Community Language Learning or even in ordinary classes.
Basically, his work is based on cataloguing silence from three
different perspectives: silence on the part of the teacher,
silence on the part of the learner, and silence when called for
by the Community Language Learning contract (e.g. during
reflection period or evaluation period after the given tasks).
More basic or revealing in the argument here is the first
perspective leaving the other two, particularly the second one,
for subsequent discussion.
Now, the principal meaning of silence or social
silence”, using the author‟s terminology, is a psychodynamic
phenomenon referring to “what goes inside and between
folks” (Stevick, 1976: 119). In his definition, Stevick points
out two types of silence; the first type is related to silence
within learners, and the second type is related to silence
between teachers and learners, respectively. Accordingly, one
Avoidance in Language Production Dr. Hussein Ali Ahmed & Dr. Huda Fadhil Isma'ee
16
finds oneself in the thick of psychology, within the realm of
foreign language teaching, that controls both types of silence to
achieve different purposes on the part of the learner and
teacher. A question, then can be brought essentially under this
heading: How is it possible to test silence as a dynamic
psychological methodology used by the teacher?
2. Negative Avoidance: Verbal Teacher vs. Non-verbal
Learner:
The sound of silence, here, may shout another message
different from that used by teachers in the class as shown
above. This time, the researcher attempts to encode this
message tracing silence on the part of the learners starting from
childhood; that is, early stages of learning moving to more
advanced stages so as to magnify, briefly, the function of
silence in English as a second language or English as a foreign
language classes- a strategy adopted by learners.
Teachers may label some of the English as second
language children as untalkative, non-verbal or silent in the
class. In this sense, the child would not reply to any type of
questioning; rather, responding with lowered eyes and heads
and silence. Tracing those signs, or even, the silence adopted
by children may explore and map many areas related to that
atmosphere of teaching English, whether as second or even a
foreign language for children; above all is psychology.
The psychodynamic effects, remarked earlier still play a
significant role on the part of the member of Community
Language Learning groups, especially what goes on inside the
learners. This can be proved simply in what is called reflection
period, which simply means that the students are given the
opportunity to appraise the learning experience they practice
given after each type of the activities in the Community
Language Learning contract. This helps the teacher a great deal
to assist the learner in pointing out the problems and suggest
remedies.
ADAB AL-RAFIDAYN, VOL.(60) 1432/2011
17
3. Positive Avoidance: Listening A Healthy Technique in
Classes
Listening, as opposed talking or speech, is another good
candidate to be included in the set of the non-verbal faces of
avoidance. It seems on the surface that listening is like silence,
yet there is a virtue in being obliged to draw a distinction
between the two terms, especially what concerns the field at
issue. As noted earlier, silence implies the meaning of an
obligatory avoidance of verbal or oral production on the part of
both teachers and learners in the class achieving different
purposes. It is on the one hand, a methodology used positively
by teachers to provoke learners‟ speech. On the other hand, it
is a safe strategy adopted by learners to avoid making mistakes
for fear of talking or for any other reason.
Though listening implies silence in the sense defined
above, yet this silence is controlled by rationale; it involves a
set of processes which are positively evaluated to facilitate
learning more than speaking or talking. Thus, for a group of
applied linguists, listening comprehension, as a methodology
or approach in language teaching, influences the process of
learning, and it is given the priority over talking or oral
production methodologies. In this line of thinking, such a
group argues against opponents who widely hold the opposite
view. Basing their analysis on the accumulation of research-
both of theoretical and experimental nature- which strongly
suggests this priority, Gary & Gary (1981) review and expand
the arguments to include delaying and reducing the oral
practices while providing for increased listening practices.
VI. Conclusion:
In the present abridged research paper on avoidance, an
attempt has been made to have a new format of the original
copy of the work starting with the suggestion of a new title,
namely "Avoidance in Language Production". This has been
followed by having a way of presentation and organization of
the sections different from the methodology adopted by the
researcher of the original work.
When it comes to the contents, avoidance has been
attended to in the first place as a technique that guides
Avoidance in Language Production Dr. Hussein Ali Ahmed & Dr. Huda Fadhil Isma'ee
18
speakers, in their verbal performance of language, to say what
should be said and get rid of the unsaid, and also in their
nonverbal performance, i.e. when silence dominates the
situation, As such, it has been highlighted that avoidance, as a
term, is problematic and vague as any variation in the
communication situation or the linguistic setting, entails a
different meaning of avoidance. Added to that, in terms of its
occurrence in any verbal linguistic settings, five main types of
verbal avoidance are usually distinguished, namely syntactic,
morphological, semantic, pragmatic, and semantico pragmatic
avoidance with vivid indication of the ways that avoidance
takes place. As for non-verbal avoidance, that is represented,
in the main, by the silence phenomenon, reference has been
made to three sub-types of this type depending on the
nonverbalness and/or verbalness of the teacher or the student..
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Article
Foreword Introduction OVERVIEW: THE NATURE AND STUDY OF SILENCE The Pace of Silence in an Integrated Theory of Communication PSYCHOLOGICAL AND ETHNOGRAPHIC VIEWS OF PAUSING The Machine Stops: Silence in the Metaphor of Malfunction Psychological Correlates of Silence and Sound in Conversational Interaction The Two Faces of Silence: The Effect of Witness Hesitancy on Lawyers' Impressions Some Reasons for Hesitating SOME MEANINGS AND USES OF SILENCE Silence: Anything But Joyful Noise and Reverent Silence: The Significance of Noise in Pentecostal Worship Silence and Sulking: Emotional Displays in the Classroom SILENCE IN CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE Silence and Noise as Emotion Management Styles: An Italian Case Eloquent Silence Among the Igbo of Nigeria The Silent Finn SILENCE AND NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION Interaction Structured Through Talk and Interaction Structured Through silence' Some Uses of Gesture APPENDIX A Sampling of Sources on Silence Author Index Subject Index