The nature of language is such that not only does it contain words and phrases but also a dimension of meaning that allows for words to carry more than one meaning. The study of Semantics and Pragmatics in linguistics addresses this dimension very well and any linguistic student would have studied these at both the basic and advanced level. Linguists by practice and understanding of language naturally develop and eventually posses the ability and sense to always take care when interpreting meaning of words or meaning of a written text- there is always a slim chance that they will jump to conclusions. Of course there are non-linguists who also have this take on words and text, and are very good at communication because of it. The small and deep meanings of words become very important especially in the areas of our lives that carry consequences for us and others at different levels, such as religious and legal. If we fail to understand a clause in the law we fall prey to being penalised by those in charge of enforcing that given law, if we fail to understand a religious rule this may affect our practice and ultimately our relationship with God. Thank god there are experts and scholars who dedicate their lives in helping others understand religion and its intended practice and lawyers to decipher the laws. I came across the following blog post written by Hamza Yusuf (he is the teacher in video on the ‘Arabic linguistic beauty and complexity’ page) titled: ‘ the importance of being ambiguous or the sin tax of ignoring syntax’ even before understanding the title the first thing that grabbed me was this clever wordplay. The sentence itself conveys the meaning of the words and his intention of writing this piece (the overt rhyming of sin tax and syntax both sounding the same and yet their meanings are not connected). The other reason I wanted to share it with my readers was because it is written by a religious figure, someone usually associated with religion and not linguistics. But what he proved was that he knows how to write, he knows the nature of language and meaning and that he demands readers to be sure of the meanings of a text before jumping to conclusions. He did not curse or invoke wrath from above on those who disagreed with him on a previous post he put up, instead he showed how they misunderstood him. This post is not to praise or show complete agreement with everything he writes, rather it is to highlight how linguistics and semantics can be applied in real-life; how it can live outside the text-book. This is sociolinguistics taking place at the highest level, the variable here and the reason of discussion is language use and interpretation. The post he wrote is very long, as you can imagine, I have once again only taken out the relevant parts to share here (after expressed permission and of course without editing on my part) so please feel free to go back and read the rest.
The Importance of Being Ambiguous Or the Sin Tax of Ignoring Syntax by Hamza Yusuf