ENG 3U 2013: Inference and the Other

Lecture Halls at Kom el Dikka via Flickr, by isawynu

Remember our discussions of direct and indirect language? Direct language is easy; we can easily understand what the speaker/writer wants us to know. Indirect language, however, is more challenging. We need to use logic to infer the real intent.

Think about the following quotation from Michelle Obama’s speech:

And he believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care…that’s what my husband stands for.

The literal meaning is incredibly broad. Still, I can infer that the First Lady is referring to abortion; my logic is based on two observations:

  • Michelle Obama is pro-choice
  • Many pro-choice supporters use phrases like ”making choices with our bodies” when they describe their stance

Inference is not limited to language. Let’s examine a few album covers, and use logic to infer what we can about the music and the musicians. Mr. Bouchard will leave each of these album covers up on the screen for roughly a minute. Please write any inferences you can make about the musicians (and their music) in your notes. 2-3 points per album cover, please:

  1. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/25/Lucinda_Williams-Sweet_Old_World.jpg
  2. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/8/8f/The_Baby_Huey_Story_The_Living_Legend.jpeg/220px-The_Baby_Huey_Story_The_Living_Legend.jpeg
  3. http://www.1000recordings.com/images/artist-u/uncle-tupelo-897-l.jpg
  4. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/79/Paw-Dragline.jpg
Inference, however, can be tricky. Our logic may be faulty, or our observations may be inaccurate.
 Consider this video:
  • Mr. Bouchard will show you the first half of the video; when he pauses the video, please write 4-5 observations (or inferences) about what has happened so far.
  • Mr. Bouchard will show you the rest of the video. Please write down the correct descriptions of the 4-5 events you identified in the previous step.

Finally, Mr. Bouchard will show you this video about body language and inference. About half-way through the video, Mr. Bouchard will stop the video and ask you to demonstrate the body language used in the photo examples. When the video is over,  I’d like you to write a paragraph in which you define your own body language, and explain what those around you might infer from your nonverbal communication.


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