Disclaimer: English Kinda Thing

The sole purpose of the "English Kinda Thing" is to document my attempts to correct my own mistakes in standard English usage and to share the resources I find. In no way do I attempt to teach nobody English through these blurbs--just as I intend not to teach nobody to be a neurotic and psychotic handicap in Ratology Reloaded or Down with Meds! :-)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Russell, B. (1921). Words and meaning

This chapter of Russell gives a good explanation for the destined nature of limited my words--不可說.

Russell, B. (1921b). Words and meaning The Analysis of Mind (pp. 188-212). London: G. Allen & Unwin.

"It is natural to think of the meaning of a word as something conventional.  This, however, is only true with great limitations.  A new word can be added to an existing language by a mere convention, as is done, for instance, with new scientific terms.  But the basis of a language is not conventional, either from the point of view of the individual or from that of the community." (p. 189)
"How these [language] roots acquired their meanings is not known, but a conventional origin is clearly just as mythical as the social contract by which Hobbes and Rousseau supposed civil government to have been established.  We can hardly suppose a parliament of hitherto speechless elders meeting together and agreeing to call a cow a cow and a wolf a wolf." (p. 190) lol
"The essence of language lies, not in the use of this or that special means of communication, but in the employment of fixed associations (however these may have originated) in order that something now sensible ... may call up the "idea" of something else.  Whenever this is done, what is now sensible may be called a "sign" or "symbol," and that of which it is intended to call up the "idea" may be called its "meaning." (p. 191)
"In language there is no direct way of designating one of the ultimate brief exitents that go to make up the collections we call things or persons.  If we want to speak of such existents... we have to do it by means of some elaborate phrase, such as "the visual sensation which occupied the center of my field of vision at noon on January 1, 1919." Such ultimate simples I call "particulars." (p. 193)
"[We] are concerned rather with whole systems to which the particulars belong and of which they are signs." (p.193)

Understanding a word?
"We may say that a person understands a word when (a) suitable circumstances make him use it, (b) the hearing of it causes suitable behaviour in him.  We may call these two active and passive understanding respectively." (p. 197)
I have used words like cognition, theories, and belief a million and a time before I came to realize that I didn't have an inkling of what they means. lol
"It is not necessary, in order that a man should "understand" a word, that he should "know what it means," in the sense of being able to say "this word means so-and-so." (p. 1970)

The following really spoke for the processing it takes for me to comprehend what it means to be psychotic.
"To say that a word has a meaning is not to say that those who use the word correctly have ever thought out what the meaning is: the use of the word comes first, and the meaning is to be distilled out of it by observation and analysis." (P. 198)
"Moreover, the meaning of a word is not absolutely definite: there is always a greater or less degree of vagueness.  The meaning is an area, like a target: it may have a bull's eye, but the outlying parts of the target are still more or less within the meaning, in a gradually diminishing degree as we travel further from the bull's eye.  As language grows more precise, there is less and less of the target outside the bull's eye, and the bull's eye itself grows smaller and smaller; but the bull's eye never shrinks to a point, and there is always a doubtful region, however small, surrounding it." (p. 198)
Gotta say that Russel's writing surely gives me the lol every so often. lol
"The relation of a word to its meaning is of the nature of a causal law governing our use of the word and our actions when we hear it used.  There is no more reason why a person who uses a word correctly should be able to tell what it means than there is why a planet which is moving correctly should know Kepler's laws." (p. 198)
Ways of understanding words
(1) On suitable occasions you use the word properly.
(2) When you hear it you act appropriately.
(3) You associate the word with another word (say in a different language) which has the appropriate effect on behavior.
(4) When the word is being first learnt, you may associate it with an object, which is what it "means," or a representative of various objects that it "means." (p. 199-200)
(5) Words may be used to describe or recall a memory image: to describe it when it already exists, or to recall it when the words exist as a habit and are known to be descriptive of some past experience.
(6) Words may be used to describe or create an imagination-image: to describe it, for example, in the case of a poet or novelist, or to create it in the ordinary case for giving information--though, in the latter case, it is intended that the imagination-image, when created, shall be accompanied by belief that something of the sort occurred. (p. 202)
"The [5 and 6] ways of using words, including their occurence in inner speech, may be spoken of together as the use of words in "thinking." (p. 202)
"To understand the function that words perform in what is called "thinking," we must understand both the causes and the effects of their occurrence.The causes of the occurrence of words require somewhat different treatment according as the object designated by the word is sensibly present or absent.  When the object is present, it may itself be taken as the cause of the word, through association. But when it is absent there is more difficulty in obtaining a behaviourist theory of the occurrence of the word." (p. 203)
"When we understand a word, there is a reciprocal association between it and the images of what it "means."  Images may cause us to use words which mean them, and these words, heard or read, may in turn cause the appropriate images." (p. 206)
"If a word has the right associations with other objects, we shall be able to use it correctly, and understand its use by others, even if it evokes no image. The theoretical understanding of words involves only the power of associating them correctly with other words; the practical understanding involves associations with other bodily movements." (p. 210-211)
"Two instances of the same word are so similar that neither has associations not capable of being shared by the other." (p.211)
"When we come to the consideration of truth and falsehood, we shall see how necessary it is to avoid assuming to close a parallelism between facts and the sentences which assert them." (p. 212)
"Those who have a relatively direct vision of facts are often incapable of translating their vision into words, while those who possess the words have usually lost the vision.) (p. 212)

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