Saturday, October 17, 2015

When we get caught up in semantics 

Salleh Said Keruak 

It appears that some people would rather spend precious time debating semantics rather than focus on the more crucial issue of development and improving services. And because of that some have taken issue with my use of the word ‘prefer’. 

Basically, semantics is the branch of linguistics and logic concerning the meaning of words. The two main areas are logical semantics -- concerned with matters such as sense, reference, presupposition and implication -- and lexical semantics -- concerned with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them. 

When I said 71% of subscribers ‘prefer’ the entry-level package for fixed broadband offered by Telekom Malaysia, which starts at 386 kbps, I was not using the word ‘prefer’ in the context of liking. I was referring to statistics where 71% subscribers choose the lower package over the others. And statistics do not lie. 

Cost is certainly the main consideration here and Malaysians put cost as the prime consideration when choosing any service. If not then 71% would not be subscribing to this service. Therefore ‘prefer’ does not mean the liking of a lower Internet speed but about putting cost as the preference to speed. 

One must look at the use of words in the context it is used and not look at it in isolation because in different situations words would have different implications. If I say I prefer not to talk about it, this would mean I have a dislike of discussing this issue and not mean I do not like talking. So please do not make an issue of a non-issue. 

Anyway, if anyone finds my use of the word ‘prefer’ offensive, then I retract that word and replace it with ‘rather’ or ‘choose’. Based on the usage of these words they all more or less mean the same. But then ‘rather’ or ‘choose’ do not imply liking, as some may have interpreted the use of ‘prefer’. 

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