The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics

By Irving J. Lee | Go to book overview

Interpretation1

I. A. RICHARDS AND CHRISTINE GIBSON

We have all suffered from the kind of confusion illustrated by the exclamation, "What a (w)hole Harvard is!" The speaker had one idea in his mind and his hearer another. Most of us, too, have our stories about children's misunderstandings of prayers: "Lead us not into Thames Station," and so on. (Shades of the deep Shelter! What division will there be between those who had to go through all that and those who did not?) These mishearings come at the foot of a ladder that reaches up as high as Jacob's. On the lower rungs of it we are most of us fairly safe, though children are not. A little girl meeting for the first time

There is a green hill far away
Without a city wall

was deeply (and rightly) puzzled as to why a green hill should have a wall at all. Without as "outside" had not yet come within her ken. There might be these notable differences, however, between our examples. In the first, there could be solid grounds of prejudice to explain the mistaking of whole for hole. In the second, mere unfamiliarity with the word temptation might be enough. But in the third, the word without was familiar enough in one of its senses. In fact it was this very familiarity which prevented the possibility of another sense from coming up. Had the word been quite new, had it been ayont, say, there would have been no trouble. Context would have made the reader take it in her stride. It was because the word was already reserved and booked for another sense that the relevant sense was turned away.

A similar case higher up the ladder occurred when Chateaubriand translated Milton fast in Paradise Lost ( I:11-12)

Siloa's brook that flowd
Fast by the oracle of God

____________________
1
Reprinted from Learning Basic English by I. A. Richards and Christine Gibson, pp. 87-89, by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York. Copyright, 1945, by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

-160-

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The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - The Recognition of Words as Such 1
  • Everything Has a Name 3
  • The Phenomenon of Language 6
  • Symbolic Pointing 7
  • The Mobile Word 15
  • Two Types of Names 19
  • Precision in Natural Language1 23
  • Part II - The Functions and Purposes Of Language in Use 29
  • The Three Forms of Discourse 31
  • The Condition of Clarity1 41
  • The Functions of Poetry 48
  • Behavior That Language Makes Possible 57
  • Talking About the Weather 59
  • Part III - Matters of Fact, Fiction and Opinion 63
  • Matters of Fact and Opinion - George Cornewall Lewis 65
  • The Semantic Conception of Truth - Alfred Tarski 67
  • Every Man His Own Historian 71
  • Literature as Revelation 78
  • Knowledge by Definition 82
  • On the Logic of Fiction 92
  • Fictions, Hypotheses and Dogmas 101
  • Part IV - Questions and Answers 109
  • The Nature of a Question 111
  • "Footless" Questions 121
  • The How and the Why of Things 129
  • Part V - The Ambiguous Word 135
  • On Definition 137
  • Nominal and Real Definitions 139
  • How is "Exactness" Possible? 141
  • Definitions and Reality 149
  • Interpretation 160
  • Ambiguity and Its Avoidance 164
  • Part VI - The Recognition of Differences 173
  • Of General Terms 175
  • Realists and Nominalists 178
  • On Knowing the Difference 180
  • The Passion for Parsimony 184
  • The Individuality of Things and The Generality of Language 188
  • Part VII - Verbal Fascination 205
  • The Attributive Attitude - Ellis Freeman 207
  • Riefication 214
  • The Context of Associations 224
  • Part VIII - The Structural Patterns and Implications Of a Language 245
  • Perception and Language 247
  • An Experimental Study of the Effect Of Language on the Reproduction Of Visually Perceived Form 251
  • Language and Thought 262
  • Languages and Logic 273
  • Part IX - Escape from Verbalism 287
  • Sensation and Cerebration 289
  • An Address on Words and Things 295
  • Experience with Languages 305
  • Two Kinds of Knowledge1 309
  • Preparation of the Child for Science 310
  • Significs 336
  • Index 359
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