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Language meaning in memory

Updated on April 28, 2015

Language has many important aspects. First it conveys messages from the sender to the receiver and allows for communication to take part wether it be in verbal, written, or signed forms. Second it conveys meaning. Third it offers explanation for events and time to be portrayed in symbolistic representation. Language also plays an important role in the way we store information in memory. Without language memory would be full of nonsensical information with no rhyme or reason. There are parts of language that allows for information to be gathered, organized, and conveyed in a manner in which others can process it.

Having said all that the main focus of this discuss will be on storing language in memory. Try to imagine what a tree would be called if it wasn't named a tree? Would it be called an elephant? Probably not because there is already a named creature for elephant. Imagine what it would be like if you had to make up a new word for an object or thing overtime you encountered it? Not so easy I would imagine. I can see that language serves several important key elements in communication but that most important is memory storage. Storage of known language or vocabulary is vital to communication.

There would be little if not nothing done in a day if everything was named something knew overtime it was encountered. You couldn't be sure that a tree was a tree from person to person and even with pictorial representation you would have a hard time deciphering which type of tree. Pictures would help but are still a form of language in a manner of speaking. It is fascinating to think about how much we rely on language and words for everything we do. This may be stating the obvious but we would be lost without some consistent form of vocabulary and grammar.


Besides storing language in meaning in semantic memory there are also those times when we use language to story episodic memory in stories and events of what happened on our last night out or outing. These events use a tremendous amount of language. Try this exercise once write down the total amount of words it took to store one event in your memory. You may need to write it down first and then count the words. Now retell the story and see if there are the same amount of words. There may be a slight difference in the amount of words used because we don't remember word for word or detail for detail events more likely generalities.

Having said all that try describing a tree or two different trees. Not that easy is it. A tree has bark, roots, leaves, branches, buds, broken braces, new grown. acorns or no acorns, and maybe is a fur tree or deciduous in nature. Trying to describe these tree characteristics isn't easy and there are many different avenues that you could take to get the point across. Look at how many descriptors it took to describe a tree and that is not including color of the leaves or shapes of the leaves and animal species who may inhabit the tree. Funny how there are more than 20 different ways you could go about this process. If you had to continually do this in describing a tree it would take up considerable time. That is why trees were given names and universal knowledge of there make up was described. It is a form of shorthand in describing trees. The same could be said about people.

Not so easy to think about having to describe people all the time. Would show how observant you were in the meeting. Did they have blue eyes or hazel? A beard or goatee? A dress or a skirt on? Interesting to know that when people are named people use generalities to assume they know a general picture of what they look like. Not that that is what they looked like at the time of the meeting but people use references to know whom you are talking about. It is also cues to know what is appropriate for the given individual.


Language does a lot of things. It helps identify certain characteristics, names, varieties, and general statements about a description so that it can be easily referenced when needed. This would be difficult having to do so in multiple words without names or types of trees (from the example). It is clear that we use clues about a person to store meaning from words into our memories. Whether this is semantic memory or episodic memory isn't important and even the naming of those further illustrates the need for words. Semantic memory referring to the meanings of words and details and episodic memory relating to events and happenings. It would be a different world if neither of these types of memories existed and memory was stored in long descriptions of everything.


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