The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics

By Irving J. Lee | Go to book overview

Perception and Language1

GRACE DE LAGUNA

It is to be assumed as a methodological postulate that there is a general correlation between the range of perceptual content of an organism and its behavior-system. This does not mean, of course, that for every possible item of perceptual content there is a corresponding item of response. There is no one-to-one correspondence of element to element. Indeed we cannot think either of perceptual content or of behavior as analyzable into discrete elements. The correlation that is to be postulated is a correspondence of patterning--a correlation of organized functional systems. Any distinction which an animal is able to perceive in its surroundings will, under appropriate conditions, discriminate in its behavior. And any distinction which remains undiscriminated in its behavior we must assume not to characterize its perceptual field. This postulate has usually been applied with reference to sensory discrimination: to determine, for example, the color vision of fish, or the auditory sensitivity of the frog. But the postulate has a much wider applicability than this: namely, to the organization of perceptual content. The type and degree of organization that we can observe in the behavior of an animal is evidence of a corresponding type and degree of organization of its perceptual field.

Speech is a unique form of behavior peculiar to man. It is highly organized. Man does not speak except as he speaks a language, and language has a characteristic and complex structure. Moreover, in speaking man is not indulging in a set of vocal gymnastics. Speech is, as it were, geared to mesh with all other human activities. The language that a man speaks applies to the things and events that he experiences, and its systematic organization reflects the organization of what he sees and hears and feels.

____________________
1
From Human Biology, Vol. 1, No. 4, December, 1929, pp. 555-558. Reprinted by permission.

-247-

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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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