Secondary Meanings and Knowledge

Rhea Sachdeva

Group members: Simren Menon, Liam Akras, Keely Ash

Date: February 27th-March 3rd

WOK Badge: Language


Today we got into groups and took the quiz. Most of us passed in the first glance so we went into the planning stage. We went through many different phases of planning for our Language project. There were so many ideas that we all put in but none of them were very viable. Our topic we wanted to work one was euphemisms and emotions, but we didn't have a good idea on what to do specifically. We suggested a google form in where people would have to pick how emotional they felt depending on the sentence, and the sentences differ on euphemisms or literal meanings. We hypothesized that people would have a stronger emotional response when being shone the literal meaning opposed to the euphemism. We also decided to focus on the question "How does language shape knowledge?" and focus on how the different type of language brings about different knowledge. For example, harsher words would give people a different situation and therefore different knowledge. Language is relevant to me because we use it to communicate shared knowledge and use it in our day to day lives.


We decided on doing a specific focus on secondary meanings and how it affects knowledge and emotion. To do this, we are going to ask one volunteer to draw someone who is a scaredy-cat and the other volunteer to draw someone that is scared. Although they both of the same literal meaning - or denotation - their connotation is different. We wanted to shift our focus from directly euphemisms, to both euphemisms and connotations. They are interconnected as euphemisms already have a specific connotation around them. Keeping our focus on secondary meanings, we are able to have a strongly connected and focused presentation on language.

I chose the elective reading about dyslexia, as I have a close friend with dyslexia and wanted to better understand it. It helped to open my mind in the world of dyslexic students out there, and better understand the struggles they have to go through. I've also never really read a text explaining just exactly what dyslexia is like, and I wondered how it affected a person's life. It was intriguing to learn that dyslexia is just like "word blindness", and while someone could listen to the words and comprehend it with ease, reading it was a different scenario. I have obviously heard of the stereotypes of dyslexia, but actually understanding what it is, was a great piece of knowledge to learn about.


For my extension proposal, I chose this: It is an easy to understand document about the differences between connotations and denotations, with copious examples and even some practice questions. The document states specific examples to demonstrate the difference between the two secondary meanings, and has very in depth explanations. It aided in guiding me with its simple yet elaborate reasoning.


"How does language shape knowledge?" is the question we decided to focus on. It is broad enough to encapsulate most of the topics throughout the chapter. For a response, I think I would say language shapes knowledge through both subtle and blatant ways. The subtle uses of connotation can change someone's knowledge of the meaning, as well as euphemisms. Also, language blatantly changes someone's knowledge on a situation as it is one of the biggest methods of communication between humans. Humans are highly communicative creatures and language is a hugely common method of knowing. Shared knowledge is directly gained through what others tell you or what is written in a book, and both of those strongly focus on language in order to tell their knowledge.

Overall I thought the project was a really intriguing process and I had a lot of fun learning about it. Language is a topic that is omnipresent, so learning about it was pretty interesting. I liked learning about euphemisms and connotations/denotations because it isn't a topic that often comes up when talking about language. If I had to do anything differently, it would be more planning stages. I thought this project felt more rushed than the others, but I think it was because we had trouble deciding on which project to do in the beginning. Once we decided on a project it was easy enough to work with it and develop ideas, but in the beginning we hit a rough start.

Some knowledge questions we gathered were: How do secondary meanings shape knowledge? How do euphemisms alter emotions? And, how do connotations and denotations affect knowledge? The first question was our broad knowledge question we used to do our project. We talked about how different connotations would change how people perceive a situation ,and therefore their knowledge in that instant. The second question is a tie in to a prior way of knowing we focused on - emotion. Euphemisms are often used to ameliorate situations and if people are going to be affected emotionally by the situation, then it is often beneficial for them to hear a euphemism. We hypothesized that people who would hear the euphemism would have a lesser emotional response than others who were told the absolute truth. Finally, the last question is fixated around connotations and denotations. These play a large role in how we gain knowledge through our language. The dictionary definition of a word and the hidden underlying meaning work hand in hand in our knowledge.

Created By
Rhea Sachdeva

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