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    • Join Date: Mar 2010
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    Smile How do we understand?

    Hey everyone, sorry if it is similar to what I have previously posted, I just wanted to know your opinions for the last time on a similar subject please.
    Two students had just left a Physics lesson.
    One said to the other: "What do you think?"
    The other replied: "It wasn't as fun as the Biology lessons but we learnt so much more. I definitely know about the series circuits now, hehe."
    As I understand from my previous questions I have had answered on this forum, the "...we learnt so much more" part of the sentence must relate to the Physics lesson (meaning: "...we learnt so much more [in the Physics lesson]") and not the Biology lessons.

    I believe there are two possible meanings:

    1) The obvious meaning to me is that the student found the Physics lesson was not as fun as the Biology lessons however they learnt a lot more in the Physics lesson. The student then positively comments how he/she definitely understands something that was taught in the Physics lesson as if he/she actually means something like: "I definitely know about the series circuits now, hehe, [as the teaching in Physics was excellent]".

    2) However I guess the only other meaning (if anyone agrees?) could be the "we learnt so much more [in the Physics lesson]" could be meant in a sarcastic way therefore actually meaning "we learnt so much less [in the Physics lesson]. I would assume the student would then mean the following comment in a non-complimentary way as if he/she actually means: "I definitely know about the series circuits now, hehe, [as that's the only thing we learnt - the teacher spent too much time teaching series circuits]"

    My question is as a listener (assuming these comments were spoken), how do we know what the student actually means from his/her opinion of the Physics lesson? Lets assume that the student means 2 (negative opinion regarding the Physics lesson). The lesson wasn't really obviously bad so how does the listening student know that he/she means their comments in a negative way (meaning 2) and not a generally positive way (meaning 1) regarding the Physics lesson?

    Would it be the tone of voice of the student (how certain words are pronounced) for example in order to indicate "we learnt so much more" [in the Physics lesson]" was actually a sarcastic comment, the word 'so' would be pronounced in an obviously unenthusiastic way? In addition/alternatively the user may have to roll their eyes after saying that comment and/or the other comment "I definitely know about the series circuits now, hehe" to indicate they are not impressed. I guess as well it would depend on the type of person, if they were always sarcastic and likely to moan - the listener would therefore expect a negative comment.

    I was just interested in how the speaker of the opinion would inform the other listener that their opinion was either positive or negative regarding the Physics lesson in this example. I feel (if anyone would agree?) the student is more than likely going to mean meaning 1 (generally positive opinion of the Physics lesson). So in order to instead mean meaning 2 (negative opinion of the Physics lesson) it would have to be said in a very specific way. Would you agree?

    Thanks guys for your time and help, sorry about the long post and thanks for any previous help .

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    Re: How do we understand?

    If the speaker's being saracstic, there would normally be a few clues- the intonation would be a bit different- there could, for instance, be heavy extra stress on the first syllable of 'definitely' to show that the real meaning was different from the face value of the words.

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