Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Poetry Ring

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Poetry Ring

Article excerpt

Few topics are more central to the discipline of general semantics than language, specifically what language does for us, and what language does to us. And it is a commonplace to say that language and, more generally, the capacity for symbolic communication, is the defining characteristic of the human species. In his classic work on general semantics, Language Habits in Human Affairs (1941; second edition edited by Sanford I. Berman, published by the International Society for General Semantics, Concord, California, 1994), Irving J. Lee argues, "to be concerned with language as used by living people is to bring us to the heart of things human" (p. 3). Acknowledging the close relationship between language as a symbol system and speech as its primary manifestation, he goes on to note that "without language, written and spoken, the silence of the day would be broken only by shadowy forms, primitive cries and grunts, the sounds of the winds and the waves, the rustle and murmur of moving things" (p. 3), Later, he invokes the concept of time-binding that is foundational to general semantics as a system: the idea that language enables us to accumulate knowledge, pass it on from generation to generation, eliminate error in the process, and make progress as a society. "To see the uniqueness of man's time-binding capacity is to begin to realize the significance of language. …

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