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Redundancy and Convention
Redundancy means sending the same or similar information through several channels. For example, when you say "yes", you may also nod your head. In the sentence below, the blue elements all indicate the plural. If you leave one out or don't hear quite right, the other cues will still clue you in.
The 3 girls are going to the store together.
The German phrase "The girl wore a red blouse" or literally "The maid-little was a red blouse wearing." has many redundancies:
Das Mädchen hat eine rote Bluse getragen.
Two "e" endings on the words for the and red tell us that "Bluse" is a feminine noun. The two nouns are capitalized, so that unlike English, the reader is given a redundant clue where the main noun elements of the sentence are. And finally, there are two signs indicating the gender-neutral status of the word for girl. Mädchen ends with the diminutive "chen", and all words with that ending take the gender-neutral "Das".
This French introduction translates literally as I myself call Melanie.
Je m'appelle Melanie.
Generally the more important it is to understand a particular sign, the more redundant it is. (For example, this is why traffic lights are designed to be highly redundant and conventional.)
Redundancy relies on convention, because conventional knowledge tells you what to expect—and therefore helps fill in the blanks when you miss part of a message. (Therefore, it's no accident that the design and placement of traffic lights follow the same conventions most places on the planet.)
For example, if you beckon someone to come towards you and ask them to join you at your table, even if the other person doesn't hear you, they will understand what you want.
In low context situations redundancy must be made explicit and conscious. For example, instructions for a procedure may be taught redundantly: written, illustrated, filmed, demonstrated, practiced.
In high context situations, redundancy is usually embedded in convention. It is understood with minimal explanation, as in greeting motions, or some types of learning-by-imitation where no one teaches you directly. The greater the amount of convention, the more agreement there is and the less clear the actual statement has to be. Insiders to a context don't have to say as much because the high-context situation already contains sufficient informatio. The redundancy of language isn't needed. (Hall)
Mass media are highly redundant. The structure is predictable, recycling the same images, storylines, combining talk and images that reinforce each other, and underscoring people's conventional views. When media are new, people have trouble understanding them. For example, there was difficulty seeing the images in impressionist paintings, or finding melody/harmony in the Beatles until that way of listening or seeing became familiar and conventional. Then the mind grasps it more quickly because song A repeats the structure of song B, picture C looks a lot like picture D. (Fiske)
In terms of intercultural communication, greater explicit redundancy is necessary to make sure your message is getting across. Likewise, outsiders may not know how to "read" environments or the subtext of a statement because they don't have the repeated background experience which gives a "hook" in the mind to hang the new communication on. They may need extra explanations and assistance. Information must be made explicit, repeated, demonstrated more than an insider would require.