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IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Do Words Have Inherent Meanings?
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Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, August 20, 2007 - 02:37 pm Ankle US Boot 5 5 EU Plum 6 Joie Women's M 36 Rubee EqWtvPvwFBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

I suggesed an extensional way to discover "if" they do.
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 also suggested:

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.

I submit that we can take a dictionary definition without regard for the context as the standard formulation of an "inherent" meaning. But recognize that this "inherent meaning" get massaged and altered by speakers to fit a context and is subsequently interpreted by listeners in the context - as having the "core" "inherent" meaning that they, as listeners, used to massage the interpretaion to fit the heard context.

Neither the speaker's nor the listener's "meaning's" are the standard formulation, but both use the standard formulation in selecting the word from experience or to retrieve experience associated with the word, respectively. Recall that there is a difference in level of abstraction between 1 & 2 and 3, consequently "multi-meaning" involves three different "dictionary" definitions (1,3, & 3 above).

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, August 20, 2007 - 11:40 pm BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

It would seem that some people appear to be insisting that the word 'meaning' have a single definition. Since it "is" obviously a "concept by intuition" rather than a concept by postulation, it is subject to normal or otherwise distributions of usage, and that extensional techniques ought to be able to correlate the word with various formulations. If we accept that the word 'meaning' indicates a concept by intuition, then we can expect no concensus agreement with respect to any single formulation to express it. That does not mean that we cannot measure a relative invariant association with one or more specific formulations (statistical modes) and even map changes over time - consistent with the general semantics maxim that all "things" continually change. For now, I'm inclined to consider the term 'meaning' as having multiple dictionary definitions applicable at different levels of abstraction as "defined" somewhat intensionally by general semantics. At the risk of being boringly redundant,

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

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.
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A "dictionary definition", even in one particular dictionary, clearly evolves over time - as different editions show, and as Thomas Kuhn noted in writing about paradigm shifts.

More rapid change applies in applying the same dictionary definition in different contexts.

I hypothesize that even more rapid change applies in the case of the same dictionary in the same context with regard to different individuals; however, this is more difficult to measure, as we do not have direct access to the brains of individuals - we only have verbal abstractions from them, so said measure is indirect.

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Complicate this by any insistance that the word 'inherent' be interpreted as "unchanging" (contrary to the general semantics maxim that all things continually change). It would be inconsistent to insist that "inherent" meaning for a word be something that never changed.

"Inherent meanings" should, like anything else, be considered as relative invariances over a period of time or over other domains of change.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 01:28 pm Black Arrowhead Arrowhead N Diadora N Black 9000 Diadora 9000 w0np6t8HqBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

Systemic functional grammar
more

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 09:00 pm BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David wrote The "meaning" of any particular instance of a word/symbol is determined at the time of utterance, and is a function of the "usage" and the "context". In other words: Meaning = f(usage, context).

That accounts for general semantics "multi-meaning" levels 1 and 2, but it does not account for level 3 (different brains).

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, August 23, 2007 - 08:08 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

When using words, the "inherent" meaning (current statistical dictionary definition) is a "hidden variable". Recall that my characterization of it is a statistical abstraction that yields a "dictionary defnition". That "meaning" is absorbed by a person in his or her learning process and modified by his experience.

Something like: speaker's current usage(Speaker's current context (Speaker's historical experience(Speaker's Initial learning (source representation(inherent meaning)))))

Where the source representation may be a direct access by a dictionary look-up, An infrerence from a formulation context, or another's function as above.

I present these as a composition of multiple functions rather than as a single function with multiple parameters.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 01:06 am Leather Sandals Women's SET Beige TWIN MCGLCAT03129E wqxIvHaRxXBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

y = x * z

Retrieve the contents of the memory location named by x into a temporary register.
Retrieve the contents of the memory location named by z into a second temporary register.
Treat the contents of both registers as numbers.
Perform the operation named by * (usually multiplication) and store the result in a temporary register. (It might be a third one, or it might be one of the first two registers.)
Store the resulting contents in the memory location named by y.

The "operation" "*" may be "overloaded", that is, it my "mean" any one of a number of different operations depending on the data type of the named locations.

It can be integer multiplication, fixed point multiplication, floating point multiplication, vector multiplication, or others, depending on the data type, or it could be a combination depending on the data type of all three locations.

In some languages "*" could be a user-defined function.

Usage and context: data type of each memory location; the combination of data types used in the equation; what the programmer "intends" the data to represent; what the user inputs to the program, etc.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - 08:13 pm BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

Nora wrote, "I see no reason to use negative terms."

Some on this forum seem to assert that words have no meaning in themselves - no inherent meaning - and, to my way of thinking, that correlates to words cannot be negative or positive; only the speaker can be.

I've seen participants at general semantics seminars verbalize in manners that many could consider "bad behavior" and justify their use of any words at all with the notion that words don't have meaning.

I want to say that words have relative invariant inherent meanings endowed by the mechanism of time-binding. It's currently "PC" to not use the "n-word" and to write in neutral gender, and those notions seem to contrast sharply with the notion that words have no inherent meaning.
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If we refrain from speaking in certain ways, in other words refrain from using certain words, does this not give some empirical support to the notion that those words have some inherent meanings?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, August 30, 2007 - 01:01 pm BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

Ben wrote Words don't have inherent meaning-- .... You could call any meaning-ful word ..."

If "words don't have inherent meaning" how can you use the adjective "meaning-ful" applied to 'word'?
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A "meaning-ful" word without meaning?

This sounds unsane to me.
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Once we say words do not have any inherent meaning, then they cannot be "meaningful" or "meaning-ful".
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It cannot be the word that is full of meaning, because you just said they have no inherent meaning.

How would you re-formulate your statement so as not to sound like it is using an un-sane contradiction?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, August 30, 2007 - 09:38 pm Franco Franco SartoFranco Sarto Sarto Dark SartoFranco Dark Burgundy 6qRBgBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

Ben also wrote Words don't have inherent meaning--they stand for meanings.

What "meaning" can a word "stand for"?

I understand that I can look up a word in a dictionary and read a formulation expressing how that word has been used by a majority in the past, and, due to time-binding, how that word will continue to be used until some popular experience alters the pattern of its usage. That formulation remains relatively invariant for an extended period of time for most words (excepting slang, euphemisms, etc.)

With general semantics "multi-meaning" one level of "meaning" is its "dictionary definition" formulation. This level of meaning is not to be confused with another multi-meaning - an individual's semantic reaction in his or her brain. The term 'meaning' is not univocally used.

When Ben says Words don't have inherent meaning--they stand for meanings, I believe he equivocates; the first instance must be the "meaning in brain" and the second "meaning" must be the dictionary formulation (stands for).

Time-binding, however, includes the process by which speakers of a language acquire the ability to use a word consistently with how previous persons used it. Consistent usage translates to used in approximately the "same way", and we describe how to use a word "in the same way" by providing a dictionary formulation.

It's true that the physical frequency characteristics of a word need not have any relation to the formulated meaning, except possibly in the case of onomatopoeia, for example "hiss".
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Could this be what some of you "mean" by "inherent"? I think of the primary or basic "meaning" of a word as being its common time-bound formulation, and that is what I would apply the word 'inherent' to, and that is not in the physical characteristics of the speech used to express the word - its pronunciation.
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To quote Nora, yet another multi-meaning verbalization.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 31, 2007 - 06:25 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David wrote If words have inherent meanings, then we will refrain from using certain words

Incorrect.
The conditional is:

If we refrain from using certain words,then words have inherent meanings.

and the contrapositive is

If words have no inherent meaning, then we do not refrain from using any particular words.

This justifies the bad behavior of some general semanticists.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 31, 2007 - 06:43 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David wrote:
How can something be both permanently or necessarily involved and at the same time be valid for only an extended period of time?

Of course, this conclusion could be rejected if the time-binding records of 'necessarily' and 'permanently' contain usages which would invalidate the way I evaluate them.


One basic premise of general semantics is the notion of non-identity expressed in the form "all things are continually changing", consequently the Aristotelian notion of a permanent unchanging "essence" is not subscribed to by general semanticists. "All" such applications to normal dictionary definitions that include such a notion get "altered" to read "relative invariance" (over a limited period of time).

Traditional time-binding definitions, when "translated" into the general semantics paradigm, become altered formulations consistent with the general semantics ideology.

So the time-binding record for 'inherent', updated for general semantics would not use either the word 'permanent' or the word 'necessarily'.

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Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 31, 2007 - 07:33 am Shoes Slippers Beige bright Flops Leopard Fashion Sandals ZHOUZJ Summer Women Flip Flats Hnzx55qZpSBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David,

If words do have inherent meanings, this would not mean that we would refrain from using them. We might refrain from using some of them, but we would certainly use other ones.

This is an instance of P -> (Q or ~Q)
Which becomes P -> T, and this is always true.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 31, 2007 - 07:46 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

Ben, when you say a word "stands for" a "meaning", and you intend "meaning" to be your personal semantic reaction ("meaning" in brain), the "standing for" is not something I or anyone else can look up in the time-binding record. But the dictionary definition (formulation) is. I can look up the word you said if it is a word I do not know, and assuming that we are time-binders, using words more or less consistently with past time-bound usage, the "meaning" to the listener becomes the dictionary definition. This contrasts with the "meaning in brains" as the "something you want to express" - your semantic reaction, but meaning1 (formulation - dictionary definition) is not meaning3 (in brains - semantic-reaction).

We can avoid all this confusion about "meaning" by using the word formulation - which refers to something extensional that can be reviewed (and revised if helpful to do so).

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 31, 2007 - 09:10 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David wrote Meaning: Something which is expressed or represented by the majority of dictionary entries for relatively invariant periods to time and which represents current common usage among a majority of users.

General semantics definition of multi-meaning:
Meaning1: dictionary definition (formulation).
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Meaning2: dictionary definition used in a context (formulation).
Meaning3: Response in a brain to a dictionary definition used in a context (individual semantic reaction to dictionary definition used in a context).

"Something" (a hidden variable) "expressed" (abstracted by a person) or "represented" (mapped to or from) by "the majority of dictionary entries" (formulations) [abstracted from samples to verbal formulations by lexicographers] for relatively invariant periods to [of] time [It is not periods of time that are relatively invarient; the dictionary formulations remain "the same formulations" during a period of time, and the period of time is determined by when the dictionary definition changes. Should be "represented by relatively invariant dictionary entries over a period of time"] and which represents common usage (putative territory) among a majority of users [sufficient sampling to insure statictical significance].

My inclination now is not to use the word 'meaning' very often. I can say "I meant" as a shorthand for "let me reformulate or add to what I said".

At my first laboratory-workshop in general semantics, Walt patted my stomach.
I said, "Yes, I know, I have to do something about that."
Walt laughed and said, "What I meant was, 'There's a good fellow.'.".

To express my semantic reaction I say let us use formulation instead of meaning1 or meaning2 and semantic reaction for meaning3, and perhaps we should not try to create a single formulation to cover all three, lexicographers excused.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 31, 2007 - 09:14 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David. Very extensional post. Well said.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 31, 2007 - 10:11 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

I can't take credit for these. These were the policy of the institute since the days of Kendig when I first attended.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 31, 2007 - 10:18 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David wrote I think there is a more plausible explantion, namely that a decision to not use certain words (in certain contexts) is based on the speakers conclusion that none of the conventional/historical usages of a particular word are useful in the current context; therefore, using the word would not serve their purpose (a.k.a. help them convey their intended meaning).

I believe the speaker's conclusion is contingent on his or her expection as to how the listener will respond to the word, and that presumes that the listener shares in some way a similar semantic reaction to the word he refrains from using. It presumes commonality of response - shared "meaning". At the very least, a projection of a possible undesirable semantic reaction in the listener.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 31, 2007 - 11:00 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David wrote
Ralph wrote:
> I believe the speaker's conclusion is contingent on his or her expection as to how the listener will respond to the word <

I suspect that's likely to be true in the context of "formal" or "produced" communications, but I suspect it's more of an exception to the rule in most informal discussion/dialog.


I submit that when we practice consciousness of abstracting we remain aware that the listener abstracts as well as we abstract and we choose our words carefully. And in in significant relationships, people generally choose their words carefully especially considering the effect it may have on a "significant other".

We have a name for people who consistently fail to consider the feelings or desires of others (as they may project them) - "Bull in the china shop."

I'm sure we've all encountered such people.

Consequently, from my experience, I would dispute your assertion that we don't consider our listener's response in informal communications. Most of the time we have motives with respect to influencing the behavior of others (convince, tease, get support from, annoy, get understanding, and many more), and we are considering their likely reaction in our choice of words moment-by-moment, a significant part unconsciously, but with consciousness of abstraction, explicitly so.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, September 2, 2007 - 11:10 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David wrote In my opinion, they do amount to "too many", and they created ambiguity that was unnecessary and unproductive.

Multi-meaning and the multiordinality of the word 'meaning' denied.

You may quote me: Confusion is the first stage of learning.

We won't get a single, single-level, definition for the word 'meaning'.

David wrote Words acquire a particular quality by constantly being used in a particular way.
In Reference to Aristotle.

No way.

Words, as used, "are" imperfect instantiations, with poor "accidental" properties, of their Platonic ideals. Remember, the oracle said that one cannot say what is not (because to do so would be to deny the existence of the existent). In short, to use a name (word) gave existence to the thing named - a manifestation of word-thing identity. It's not the "word" that "gained" the qualities; it's the thing (named) that has imperfect instantiatiation of the properties of the Platonic ideal.

My curious "thought" in today's language formulates: the relation between the Platonic ideal and the "accidental" use beomes like "use" is "abstraction from" "the ideal".

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, September 2, 2007 - 11:39 am Sb Base Mens Nike Shoe Blazer Premium Se Skate wvSw8q7BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

Uncertainty (aka "ambiguity") remains a feature of the general semantics paradigm. We learn to live with it.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, September 2, 2007 - 08:37 pm BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David, My "No way!" was to the effect that your paraphrase of Aristotle imported and projected a mordern paradigm on Aristotle. Aristotle always spoke of the way that things are said to be, not about words. You said I suspect you could extrapolate from those quotes and make a reasonable inference about his thoughts on “words”.. Aristotle would not think the way you suggested; Such a thought pattern requires the use-mention distinction applied to words in general, and that was not available in the paradigm of Aristotle's time. Readers of ancient philosophy must refrain from interpreting ancient writings in terms of modern knowlege, distinctions, and paradigms.

I wote:
In "On Interpretation", Aristotle sets up his description of what we could call a formal structure for a part of language. In his opening remarks he makes statements which are remarkably reminiscent of Frege. Compare the Ackrill and McKeon translations of 16, a. 2-7.

Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols of spoken words. Just as all men have not the same writings, so all men have not the same speech sounds, but the mental experiences, which these directly symbolize, are the same for all,1

Now spoken sounds are symbols of affections in the soul, and written marks symbols of spoken sounds. And just as written marks are not the same for all men, neither are spoken sounds. But what these are in the first place signs of -- affections of the soul -- are the same for all;2
Aristotle suggested that different words may be used to express the same senses.
. . . all men have not the same speech sounds, but the mental experiences, which these directly symbolize, are the same for all, as also are those things of which our experiences are the images.1
McKeon's translation has '(mental) experiences' being 'images' of things, and as such is in conflict with our notion that 'images' are ultra-subjective and idiosyncratic. (Frege distinguished between 'images' and 'senses'.) Clearly the qualification that these 'mental experiences' ". . . are the same for all . . ." renders this conflict impotent by denying our connotation for 'image'. What Aristotle is talking about is the kind of mental experience that Frege called 'senses'.

Ackrill's translation also has these 'affections of the soul' being ". . . the same for all . . .", while he uses 'likenesses of actual things' to indicate the character of the relation between the mind and reality.
. . . written marks are not the same for all men, neither are spoken sounds. But what these are in the first place signs of -- affections of the soul -- are the same for all; and what these affections are likenesses of -- actual things -- are also the same.2
1. Richard McKeon The Basic Works of Aristotle, New York, 1941

2. J.L. Ackrill, Aristotle's Categories and De Interpratatione, Oxford, 1963

Words for Aristotle can best be described as "transparent"; one speaks accidental instantiations of Platonic ideals - which have the greatest (and perfect) reality - virtually no distinction between the word and the thing. Things acquire characteristics for Aristotle, not words.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, September 3, 2007 - 08:41 am 8 Reebok Training Shoe Regular 0 Women's Shoes Nano US 9 Crossfit Women's Pink Twisted White Black xIq1waIBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David, Aristotle: "are the same for all; and what these affections are likenesses of -- actual things "

For Aristotle, atual things are mirrored in the soul in exacty the sane way for all (men), and words directly represent those things, although different men may choose different ways of putting words together - "different writings".

Words then had existential import; to say a name entailed that the thing named existed, condequently it was a contradiction to say " is not".

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, September 3, 2007 - 12:28 pm BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David, See my T Strap 7 Girls Evening Minishion Shoes Women's Dancing Prom Party Black Heel 5cm Pumps Latin wqx7ECatZ and other philosophy papers.

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Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - 06:06 pm BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

To get some of the feel for the paradigm, see the developments leading to atomism. There's a whole chapter on Aristotle. See also Aristotle's formal language, Did Aristotle Lead the Way for Frege? and more.

Suppose you were limited in your language to the word "quantity" undifferentiated discrete (counting) or bulk (measure) terms. How could you understand such a point of view once you already use count and mass terms distinguished from each other? My wife had difficulty learning the difference between count and measuring terms because Russian has a single term that is used in ordinary language for both situations. Once anyone learns a new paradigm, "getting one's head around" a prior paradigm is not easy. The same is true for explict pre-semantic awareness exhibited in the language of the ancients. Words don't acquire properties from usage; the things the words refer to are "said to be" in such and such a way. To suggest that they even might think that words acquire characterists violates the paradigm, as the words transparently apply such characteristics to the things the words represent.

Earlier translations tended much more to import modern understanding and language than later ones, I surmise, because more recent scholarly work tends to be more aware of abstracting. Compare:

Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols of spoken words. Just as all men have not the same writings, so all men have not the same speech sounds, but the mental experiences, which these directly symbolize, are the same for all, (McKeon, 1941)
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Now spoken sounds are symbols of affections in the soul, and written marks symbols of spoken sounds. And just as written marks are not the same for all men, neither are spoken sounds. But what these are in the first place signs of -- affections of the soul -- are the same for all; (Ackrill, 1963)

How do we interprete a single translated text to reflect the "meaning" of the time?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, September 7, 2007 - 10:22 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David, for additional comments on the ancient paradigm see my post here. When Aristotle speaks of a word usage, he uses the form " is said in many ways". He does not say that a word acquires characterists. He does sometimes add what has been translated as "by convention". Aristotle's use of "said in many ways" indicates both ambiguity and multi-meaning, and we might translate such a usage by using "scare quotes" around the word thereafter in the translated text.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, September 7, 2007 - 02:18 pm Mukluks Boot Mukluk Manitobah Women's Winter Oak Keewatin FZ60wUqBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David started this topic as a spin-off from his post by misinterpreting my suggestion that extensionality and empiricism be applied to the question as as affirmative answer to the question quoted in the original Etc. article:

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

My answer suggested that we might find something through empirical testing, and that that might correspond to existing dictionary definitions.

Can this even be testable, in spite of the fact that the word 'inherent' is placed in "scare quotes", and thereby allowing for non-standard usage?

Key words in the question are 'exist', 'meaning', and 'irrespective of' (listener, speaker, and context).

Where do we find words displayed "irrespective" of listener, speaker, or context? In all such case that we find such a word, it "exists" in written form.

We find words in word lists (taken out of context) and in dictionaries. In these cases there is no speaker, no listener, and no context of use. In the dictionary cases the words are paired with formulations.

According to general semantics, the first level of meaning is dictionary definitions, and since we "found them" in dictionaries where there is no speaker, listener, or usage context, there is a trivial answer to the question: "yes". Words (not all) have meanings (dictionary definitions) that exist irrespective of speaker, listener, or context - in dictionaries.

I suspect, however, that this is not how most of you interpret this question.

As I noted in my first post in this thread, we might take an empirical approach. Let's take another look, however, at the question.

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

What can "inherent" (written in scare quotes) mean? and what can "meaning" mean in such an ambiguous context? Well, if we rule out speaker and listener, it cannot "mean" meaning3 ("meaning" in brains), and if we rule out context, it cannot "mean" meaning2 ("meaning" in context). What does that leave? It only leaves meaning1 ("meaning" in dictionaries). Once again, the answer is a trivial "yes".

What else can "inherent" (in scare quotes) "mean" with respect to "meaning" in a general semantics context?

It seems that some in these two discussion threads have taken "inherent" (in quotes) and imbued it with some other quality, as well as having done the same with the word "meaning".

First we have to say what we intend by the word "meaning", particularly when there is no speaker or listener involved. This in itself is problematic, because nigh all words are created by speakers (which includes writers who don't vocalize). Without "speakers" there are no words. That in itself makes the question nonsense. But assuming the prior existence of a culture with a time-bound record of "words", we can conceive of the anthropologist visiting a never before encountered language of an extinct culture. He (or she) will assume that the words have essential, but variable, "meanings" in the context of the now dead culture, and he or she will go about attempting to "crack the code" and build an English (or other live language) dictionary for the dead language.

Instead of an anthropologist, let's take a newborn baby hearing his mother's first cooing over him (or her). He or she begins the process of building a (neurological) "dictionary" based on exposure to sounds, and later writings. Due to relative invariance in the culture, most of the words he or she learns have relatively fixed basic "meanings" or usages. Others, such as slang, rapidly change - that is they have a much shorter period of relative invariance.

The original context of the question was painting a distinction between those who deplore the use of certain words in the culture as having acquired a "bad taste" and those who say taking offense to a word should be the responsibility of the listener.

This corresponds to not hearing and not reacting.

If others are restricted from saying, then I won't hear something that I respond negatively to. (meaning in words)

If I take responsiblity, then I can choose not to respond negatively. (meaning in people)
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In "reality" it's both; I say that because words are uttered by people with motives, and it's the people, motives, and context that we need to respond to. Our "gutter-mouth" friend can be as sweet and considerate a person as anyone we know, while our "politically correct" sophisticated associate just might be the coldest and mean-hearted of user of perfectly proper language of anyone.

Words do have culturally consistent meanings for a period of time, and some of these meanings are offensive to some, but we also can choose, with consciousness of abstracting, not to react to those associated meanings which we are aware of.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, September 7, 2007 - 08:40 pm Fashion High Women Wedges KemeKiss Boots Faux Black Warm Fur Heel Winter 76TxnAq5wBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

The verb 'mean' requires an animate subject, and a 'word' is not an animate subject. The formulation is literally trivially true.

How about "Words don't have meaning, only people do."?

Both the original and the revision are far too absolutist and single dimensional for me. I challenge it on that basis alone. It fails to reflect the difference in levels of abstraction between individuals and the cultural environment in which they exist. It fails to recognize the general semantics three-level multi-meaning notion.

At the cultural and time-binding level - words have meanings (dictionary formulations), but at the individual level, anyone can violate those cultural usages by simply not playing the time-binding game to one degree or another.

If words did not have cultural level meanings in the form of dictionary definitions, time-binding would be impossible. Time-binding depends on the reader understanding sentences and paragraphs based on his or her ability to combine the cultural standard normal meanings of the words in the sentences and paragraphs in order to "get" the "meaning" of the writer, while allowing for some variation and some error on some of the individual words. The speaker is not free to choose anything for words; if I say, "wkhvh zrugv kdyh qr phdqlqj", what would you get? The words must be recognizable, and they must conform to the grammar of the language. The first quatrain of Jabberwocky illustrates the grammatical structure requirement while using mostly made-up words, but, like an abstract painting, it has no explicit message that can be reliably independently translated by different readers. It produces a "feel" that it says something, but nothing concrete within the experiences of the readers. No culturally shared "meanings" for these words. No message to pass from one generation to another. No time-binding.

It is a fallacy to conclude that because the relation between the sound and letters of a word and the dictionary definition is arbitrary that words "have no meanings". They have "meanings" (dictionary definitions) imbued by the culture in which they are used.

Logically it does not follow that a realation between two things does not exist from that the relation between the two things is arbitrary. That is the fallacy those who claim words have no meaning are purpitrating. "Existing relation is arbitrary, therefore existing relation does not exist."

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Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, September 7, 2007 - 09:04 pm Toe AmoonyFashion White M US Bandage turf Plush Short Heels Artificial PU Round Low 5 with Boots and B Solid Womens 5 Close nR4rfRBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

David writes: Sounds good to me.

But not to me, for the reasons stated above.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, September 7, 2007 - 11:38 pm Ankle Flat Black Retro Women's On Flip Strap Buckles Slip T Flops Slippers Sandals Walking Elastic Exquisite XtqCqwZBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

No "reasoning" there; just assertions.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, September 8, 2007 - 07:11 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

Without dictionary definitions, that is to say formulations agreed to as to usage, convention, for a minimum set of words that comprise the basic grammar of communication, time-binding is impossible. Time-binding is symbolic communication over generations at a minimum, and that requires convential usage of symbols - words. No dictionary definitions at all, then no communication, and no time binding.

If you do not believe me, then consider how communication could work if EVERYBODY had a completely different private dictionary. No words have any conventional usage.

Author: Honor Honor Women's Women's Suede Dansko Dansko Blue Suede Blue Dansko Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, September 8, 2007 - 08:19 am BalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

"Dictionary definitions" represent conventional usage, and I apply it to oral cultures. It may be argued as to whether or not time-binding applies to oral cultures. I have done so. In this case spoken words with consistent conventional usage within an oral culture become the "symbols", though not (yet) written, for that kind of rudimentary time-binding. Put a group of individuals together, each speaking only one different language (no two speaking the same language), and no verbal communicatation can take place, until such time as the group begins to adapt sounds to a new convention of the group. Then, and only then, can "time-binding" begin in that group.

"Dictionary definitions" are not just the marks on paper. They are the representations of the spoken "words", and that level is the one for discussion when it comes to communication.

Without "dictionary definitions", that is to say, consistent conventional usage, time-binding is not possible.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 12:06 am Women's Pumps Blue Heels Color PU Round up Low Assorted Toe Lace Shoes WeiPoot 6dTqqBalaMasa Thick Pinker Horsehair Heel Boots Platform Matching Color Womens Metallic Winkle Bottom rgqwrO

The Sufi say one cannot tell someone something they are not prepared to hear.

I'm done beating this dead horse.

Y'all can have the last word.