Monday, 12 March 2012

Surface Structure and Deep Structure - Snow

With our Canadian office opening in Calgary soon, this article by our colleague Clare Smale seemed very appropriate.

"The Sami people of Sweden, Norway and Finland have a language which lists hundreds of words for snow. In England we have just a few. If I was to ask you what the word 'snow' means, what would be the first three words that you would write down?

I would probably write something like white, precipitation (that's the geographer in me coming out) and frozen. IN NLP, the word 'snow' would be called a surface structure description. It's is a word that generalises, deletes and distorts all the different things that snow can be, in order to give one all-encompassing term that is easily understood. In reality, we all have a different interpretation of this word, probably including different pictures in our mind of 'snow' (maybe an Alpine view, skiers, a Christmas scene, a car stuck in a drift or many other possibilities). 

In the UK we get so little of the white stuff, that using a surface structure word serves us well most of the time. Even in the UK 'snow' can be confusing and interpreted in different ways - commuters, farmers, excited children, the emergency services and sports clubs will all interpret and react to a 5cm snow forecast in different ways.

To uncover the generalisations, deletions and distortions that the word 'snow' has created, we would need to ask more questions and drill down into the detail of all the different possible types of snow. The deep structure is everything we know about an experience. The surface structure is everything that has been deleted, distorted and generalised by our language and representational systems (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic)."

To read the rest of this article and find out more about Sami words for snow and some practical ideas for you, click here

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