We Assign Meanings to Messages

William Lutz (Editor), “What Do We Know,“ Beyond Nineteen Eighty-Four: Doublespeak in a Post-Orwellian Age, (Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 1989), p.30:

As research in perception (i.e., the process of information getting from outside of us through senses to inside of us) unequivocally demonstrates, however, messages do not move like letters through a postal system. They do not “contain” meaning. Messages consists of “cues”; i.e., words or numbers or other signals or symbols that suggest to us which meaning we might assign to them out of the corpus of meanings that our experience has enabled us to accumulate and that our consciousness permits us to recall. This a very different kind of process from the one represented by the transport theory of communication. What it means is that we do not “get” meanings from messages, we assign meanings to messages, and can do so only as our experiences and purposes in a given context permits.

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