Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Is-Y White Hats and Is-Y Black Hats

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Is-Y White Hats and Is-Y Black Hats

Article excerpt

IN RECENT ISSUES OF ETC., we've been treated to arguments for E-Prime and to arguments for E-Choice. In presenting my two-cents worth, I shall abandon the faintly carnivorous metaphor and switch into the hollywood Western mode: good guys wear white hats and bad guys wear black hats.

The principal E-Prime advocate, Dave Bourland, places black hats on all uses of the verb be. Korzybski explicitly goes along with putting a black hat on the "is of identity." As I read his statement in Science and Sanity, he means by "is of identity" only the copulative use of forms of be followed by a noun or noun construction. This use definitely gets a black hat from him.

This doesn't mean that he avoided such use of be consistently. He admits that he has not sufficiently retrained himself in this aspect of being invariably conscious of abstracting. But he used this verb frequently in other ways. I think he would put white hats on the following uses.

The "is of existence." "I am here." This has no connotation of identicalness.

The "auxiliary is." "I am writing this letter." This is has no more connotation of identicalness (of is and writing) than its root verb, "writing," has.

The "passive is." "This letter is being written to ETC." This use may lack semantic clarity, but it has at least two useful functions. One, to conceal the doer of the deed: "This letter was written." Two, to describe simply a clearly observable operation. "A computer was used to type this letter."

The "is of identity" and the "is of predication" used with a consciousness of abstracting qualifier. …

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