I don't have a formal background of linguistics, but I'd like to know how a sentence or paragraph becomes meaningful to a reader, and how one can construct that. I think it falls to the areas of semantics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, lexicology or psycholinguistics, and I don't know which one I should read first.

To be specific, I want to gain more insight on my observations:

  • Striking quotes or proverbs always seems to have the form of contradiction. I know it is to create surprise, but I want to describe it linguistically. E.g.:

    • Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things
      Poetry is the art of giving different names to the same thing
      (Poincaré and an unknown poet)

    • The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
      (Mark Twain)

  • As a non-native English speaker, I find that sometimes simple words "straightforward" or "warmhearted" is more straightforward than advanced words like "uncomplicated" or "benevolent", because they usually express that the writer has really understood how the language works (word formation, grammar, etc) and escaped the suffering of finding the correct or impressive words. The words are the right words and "lightninged", but at the same time they feel like effortless and somewhat playful. So are hyponymous juxtapositions in Vietnamese languages, which I suspect is an influence of Taoism.

    Imagine there is a heatmap for every article, then a good writer will know where to put the heat sources (i.e. the jargon/right words) concisely and accurately; the readers will be attracted to those points and start thinking. But a skillful writer will play with it, cumulatively building up the tensions and make the "drops", making the right words seem to be so natural and intertwine with other surrounding words, yet doing so in a manner of effortless and relatable. Of course it would require the author to know what the readers are expecting.

  • My experience in explaining is to avoid starting explaining the term directly (e.g. the elephant is...), but move the term to define at the end of sentence or convert it to adjective or verb, and directly use the definitions of the terms build up it. This way you can explain an elephant to a blind men:

    When a thing that sometimes like a snake, sometimes like a tree, then we know that it's an elephant.

  • Every field seems to be so different, but in the end it's the vocabulary that make us understand each other. It all comes back to the idea of logicentricism or deconstructionism.

Do you know where should I start reading?

Related: What is the word for a hard-to-solve solution spoken intuitively and relaxedly? in ELU.


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