IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: E-prime and Word=Thing Identifications
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, August 18, 2007 - 11:08 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote, 1. Do words have "inherent" meanings that exist and apply irrespective of speaker, listener, or context?

Suppose we take a "scientific" empirical, extensional, approach and do research.
Pick some words. Ask a lot of people what the words mean. Do statistical analyses and abstraction. Examine the results to see if there are any consistent normal distributions. If there are, would tight distributions with a small standard deviation be a measure of an "inherent" meaning?

How would we control for "context"? How would we control for the distinction between "speaker" and "listener"?

Would we have experimenters who staged speaker-listener pairs and interviewed the speaker and the listener about a word used?

I submit that we already have something that approximates the "inherent" "meaning" that would be discoverable - presuming that by "meaning" in this context we are talking about a formulation about the word in question - namely "dictionary definitions".

I would not be so quick to answer 1 in the negative - if we are to be extensional about it. Intensionally, however, it's one of the great beliefs circulating among general semanticists - that words have no meaning; only people have meaning.

I would not test such a hypothesis among dock-workers, bikers, street gangs, etc., if I were you.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 01:53 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote To me, the "inherent meaning" to which you refer is analogous to an "average". In my experience, averages don't do a very good job of representing the individual. I think having an extensional orientation implies interacting with individuals, not averages or dictionary defintions.

David originally wrote 1. Do words have "inherent" meanings that exist and apply irrespective of speaker, listener, or context? in which he specefied irrespective of ... listener, or context.

Interacting with individuals is contextual.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 02:52 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David asked, by way of quoting Steve Stockdale, if words have "inherent" meaning that exist and apply irrespective of speaker, listener, or context.
I proposed an extensional method that would remove effects of speaker, listener, and context, and suggested that dictionary definitions would result.

David replied dening the possibility of any such extensional result that might be achieved by asserting "I don't consider dictionary definitions as 'inherent meanings'".

Can we agree to any kind of extensional empirical study that might find formulations for such meaning? Or are we to intensionally assert a-priori that no such extensional result can be valid?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 06:42 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

General semantics provides for "multi-meaning" at three levels of abstraction - discussed at various seminars.

1. Different Dictionary definition.
2. Same dictionary definition in different contexts.
3. Same dictionary definition in the same context in different brains.

1 and 2 refer to formulations, while 3 refers to semantic reactions.

Do those who claim "words don't have meaning, people do" deny 1 and 2?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, August 19, 2007 - 09:03 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Thank you, Nora.
This is why I continually check the "time-binding" record of usage. Time-binding only works to the degree that commonality of usage permits understanding by a reader of a writer; idiosyncratic usages and interpretatations "degrade" the effectiveness of time-binding.

Achieving some commonality of usage "is" easy with extensional instances when we can hold up something and assert a name-sound. But, the more abstract the word usage, the more difficulty we have with achieving effective time-binding.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, August 20, 2007 - 01:18 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote, perhaps you could start another thread

Why suggest that others do what you can do yourself? Do you somehow percieve others as having some prior authority in the area?
Why not start a thread yourself? If it interests you, feel free to do so.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, August 20, 2007 - 02:06 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

I recall:
1. Is of identity.
2. Is of predication.
3. Is the Auxillary verb.
4. Is of existence.

Now we talk of "is of attribution".

"Predication" is a syntactic notion in which "is something" is predicated of the subject.
"Attribution" is a semantic notion in which whatever "is something" refers to is projected by the writer to apply to the referent of the subject.

In aristotle's time the general paradigm did not differentiate between the syntatic and the semantic. They were one and the same category - namely aspect of "being" that meant that words have extential import. Words are so tied together with their referent as to be undifferentiated.

But over time, and the differentiation between syntax and semantics, the first three is's have become syntatic while the fourth is semantic. It asserts existence of its subject explicity.

The advocates of E-prime, which claim we identify the referents when using the is of identity, seem to have presumed that we have lost some of the direct differentiation between word and thing.

"Castro is a communist." Supposedly one "naive" reader of this will immediatly attribute all the sterotypical characterists of "being a communist", and no other characterists, to Castro. He or she will do this, according to E-prime advocates, without a second's hesitation or thought. In order for that to happen, there can be no "abstraction" from reading the word communist other than an instant recall of the stereotype followed immediately with "painting" Castro with this opague meaning, thereafter seeing only the stereotype. The same thing, they would argue, occurs when someone says "John is a democrat" or even when one just happens to "think" he is "French" - and we've just switch to the "is of predication".

What's the difference between "attributing" the stereotypical characteristics of some class using an adjective or the noun name of the class?

We sometimes use nouns as adjective and adjectives as nouns, especally in English where we don't have word form changes to indicate the difference.

It seems to me that if we are experienced enough to want to use the word "attribution" instead of "predication", we are recognizing that we project the characteristic onto the subject. But, by the same token, we seem to also focus much more on the referents of the words than on the words-reference relation. Somehow the words become "transparent" so that we "see" the referent rather than the word - in this case what the subject refers to and what the predicate refers to. But the more transparent the word is to us, the less consciousness of abstraction.

Predication brings with it a focus on the words.
Attribution brings with it transparency of the words to focus on their referents, and that, it seem to me, is moving in the direction of confusing the words with the referents - identification. When we immediately see "characterists" projected onto the subject through transparent words, we lose much awareness of the word-referent relation, that is, we lose much awareness of the abstracting process.

You must become a fast reader - so fast that you no longer "see" the words, but you grasp the "meaning" or "reference" by processing whole blocks of text, several word phrases at a time, in each eye movement.

I read slowly, always have, sometimes repeating phrases and whole sentences multiple times, processing each word in multiple cycles of responses.

Fast reading requires high-speed identification.
To understand what is read requires "identification" of the multiple levels of meaning of words and incorporating those responses into a coherent whole - identification by responding to the words in terms of their meaning. But responding to the words "too much" in terms of their meaning - as if the words were the referent? What the best balance?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 09:29 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David, is this your attribution theory.

You missed my point entirely.
There is no dispute that attribution "projects" the view of the person. The question is to what are the attributes "attached", and that question can perhaps be clarified by bringing in the use-mention distinction.

In "Grass is green". "greenness" is said to belong to the referent, that is, the plant, that the word green is "used" to represent.

In "'grass' is green." "greeness" is said to belong to the word itself, that is, that the word grass is "mentioned".

In "David wrote, 'That is your interpretation, Ralph.'", your name is used to refer to you and talk about something you wrote.
In "Your name is 'David'", your name, "David", is mentioned, because the sentence is about what your name is.

"An adjective is predicated on the subject" describes the relationship between words in a sentence. It is not about anything the words refer to.

By contrast, a property/characteristic/trait expressed by an adjective is attributed to the referent of the subject of the sentence.

Referent(predicate adjective) is attributed to referent(subject noun).

The function of reference is to direct the speaker/reader not to the words, but to the referents of the words.

"Grass is green" uses words transparently.
"'Grass' is green" uses the subject opaguely, because the talk is not about the referent. "'#####' is green".