Dictionary definitions

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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 10th, 2017, 8:51 pm 

Lomax » July 10th, 2017, 4:13 am wrote:
Again, you assume what we need to prove. Are the terms synonymous or not? How do we show that they are? In short, how do we find that the meaning is preserved?


It's not really necessary to prove analyticity, it's true by stipulation. I think Quine called it legislative postulation.


I don't follow. Would it be irrelevant if all and only bachelors could fly? Or would it mean we'd learned something about bachelors?


Bachelor isn't a natural category or kind out there in the world, it's just a definitional social classification. No empirical fact can change the definition.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 10th, 2017, 9:20 pm 

NoShips » July 10th, 2017, 4:30 pm wrote: Not even sure if I'm a bachelor any more. Damn your Vulcan logic, Quine.


Quine never denied analyticity, he criticized its applicability to theoretical science in response to Carnap's claim that all mathematics and much of science is analytic, but he certainly accepted that some statements are true by virtue of their meaning.

In Conversation with W.V. Quine - The Boolos Panel

"It's out in the thicket of higher scientific theory that I just can't see how to extrapolate it[analyticity]"
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Lomax on July 10th, 2017, 10:04 pm 

Sivad » July 11th, 2017, 1:51 am wrote:
Lomax » July 10th, 2017, 4:13 am wrote:
Again, you assume what we need to prove. Are the terms synonymous or not? How do we show that they are? In short, how do we find that the meaning is preserved?


It's not really necessary to prove analyticity, it's true by stipulation. I think Quine called it legislative postulation.

As the old question goes: How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Assuming you know the answer, you'll see why (Quine and) I have to agree to disagree with you on this one.

And -

Sivad » July 11th, 2017, 1:51 am wrote:
Lomax » July 10th, 2017, 4:13 am wrote:
I don't follow. Would it be irrelevant if all and only bachelors could fly? Or would it mean we'd learned something about bachelors?


Bachelor isn't a natural category or kind out there in the world, it's just a definitional social classification. No empirical fact can change the definition.

- I didn't say anything to NoShips about empirical facts changing the definition, beside what you just repeated back to me. I said it would be possible to learn non-definitional facts.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 11th, 2017, 2:01 am 

Lomax » July 10th, 2017, 7:04 pm wrote:As the old question goes: How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Assuming you know the answer, you'll see why (Quine and) I have to agree to disagree with you on this one.



I'm not sure we're actually disagreeing, we might just be talking past each other. I agree with you that we can learn new stuff about bachelors, I just don't think we can learn anything new about the concept because it's just a definition.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Lomax on July 11th, 2017, 7:31 am 

Well then it's the latter part we disagree about. I think that whatever meaning is, it comes from usage - or as Donald Davidson put it: understanding gives rise to meaning, not the other way around. So we can't just make two words synonyms by calling them so; we need some empirical way of determining whether they, in fact, are. Do you know the answer to the question about the dog?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on July 11th, 2017, 8:10 am 

NoShips » July 4th, 2017, 12:52 pm wrote:
I'm afraid I know almost nothing about it, Dandelion. Seems I didn't get that poetry gene.

But what kind of arguments did you have in mind?


Just a few thoughts about translation and Francoise Cheng’s work- no matter.

(This is by the by, but sorry my posts were such tangential musings, I’ve had some things on and not able to concentrate well, but my posts were partly because there had been mention of gravity as attractive, and correct me if I’m misleading, but I think, there is some possibility that at high densities gravity may not attract, and wondered about how, if desired, there might be a link if referred to for a sort of attribute that may involve change, like for a particular function, but a linking web may make this and other areas too, less problematic. And there is also curvature, which may involve these, and possibly other notions too which may involve events or change. And just maybe related to this and other suggestions, I thought the paper was also interesting for explanations about how event linked pluralities seem not easily or uniformly reduced.)

More topically I think, although Davidson’s notions may be different, Derrida wrote of a similar notion of iterability. I think this might involve change, stuff like requirement for terms to be in use to be accepted, used in different but similar ways so that meaning may be refined socially, etc., and with some similarity in different applications there may also be, even due to this,with different usages, different takes on what is meant at different times, places, situations, contexts, etc.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on July 11th, 2017, 11:40 am 

Just adding a link, "In 2006, Ashtekar and his colleagues reported7 a series of simulations that took advantage of that fact, using the loop quantum gravity version of Einstein's equations to run the clock backwards and visualize what happened before the Big Bang. The reversed cosmos contracted towards the Big Bang, as expected. But as it approached the fundamental size limit dictated by loop quantum gravity, a repulsive force kicked in and kept the singularity open, turning it into a tunnel to a cosmos that preceded our own."
http://www.nature.com/news/theoretical- ... me-1.13613
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 12th, 2017, 3:45 am 

Lomax » July 11th, 2017, 4:31 am wrote:Well then it's the latter part we disagree about. I think that whatever meaning is, it comes from usage - or as Donald Davidson put it: understanding gives rise to meaning, not the other way around.


The definition is the usage, it is the meaning. I don't see the distinction?

So we can't just make two words synonyms by calling them so; we need some empirical way of determining whether they, in fact, are. Do you know the answer to the question about the dog?


That's how words are created, they mean whatever we intend them to mean. We can make leg and tail synonymous, they're just words. We created two separate words because the distinction has utility.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on July 20th, 2017, 6:31 am 

Lomax hasn’t replied, so I’ll have an attempt at this- feel free to fix it.

I think for Davidson, although there seems acknowledgement that essence etc. is problematic, as maybe Quinean answers to the problem may also be, there is attempt to “go along” with notions of say, sentence truth, roughly, allowing for such things as metaphors, and adding notions of “understanding”. From this, I think Davidson allows for understood meanings to change which may involve some sort of rough overlap or encompassing other terms? So perhaps the above contrarily, e.g., might suggest that usage of terms as metaphors may give definitive meaning, or terms used while not understood, e.g. mistaken usage, or a sentence with no meaning that may be true but lack any meaning, may give definitive meaning.

Derrida also seems to acknowledge problems with intentionality, essence, etc., and differently from Davidson’s “going along” with such notions, holds these “under erasure” while in use, as if involved in such discourse from a more removed or external position, but perhaps allowing that even from such a position, use of such sort of logic may still disrupt or corrupt outcomes. (Incidentally, this is something I’ve wondered about in some arguments in various threads like this. Questioning the logic of arguments upholding notions or theories if from differing positions without alternative, may seem more or mostly about questioning or denying, the logic of the arguments against, themselves- although from a Derridean perspective, logic users including me may also be susceptible to some extent to own petard hoisting too, I think. I’m not sure how much if any immunity notions like “under erasure” allow.)

With iterability, Derrida adds citations and I think, an amount of alterity. This could include citing terms in new contexts with seemingly very different meaning, if any. Or an obvious example would be a married man playing the role of a bachelor in a performance. More realistically, much of the history of Christian marriage was vulnerable to a possibility of annulment, retrospective denial of life lived during marriage, yet, e.g., legitimacy of off-spring conceived in the non-marriage duration. Related meanings of bachelor and the now effectively obsolete spinster have changed a great deal from usage around the 1300s, changing with changing economic systems, class-ist, gender-ist, age-ist, nuclear family-ist, notions, etc. I think, from Derrida is a notion that each reception of terms brings some amount of different meaning, yet there seems to be some on-going similarity that is iterable despite differences. Iterability might involve some more subjective interpretation linking similarities, while differences may perhaps be less subjective, more external, distanced from essence and motivational notions- as some measure of meaning.

Regarding a question I had about function, I still haven’t thought it through and could be making quite a large mistake, and wonder about help doing so! It may be just an ad hoc measure, perhaps like Davidson’s understanding, or Derrida’s under erasure, perhaps also considered under erasure. Related to this, I think it is interesting that here there is talk of usage of language as though it is a functional artefact. Derrida suggests we are like texts, language emanating, experiences inscribed upon us, and perhaps more, inscribed memories, DNA, etc., may further this notion. I’ll list some reasons why I’m wondering about this. One is mereological concerns or about involving fewer assumptions, or at least, some restriction to a set of assumptions, so possibly easier to investigate. Others seem to consider these, e.g. from another link provided somewhere, Searle, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbthpbs6PJI from around 40:00 to 45:00 suggests similar concerns, but perhaps includes some presumptions. Along with this is reasoning that the paper I linked suggests that interpretations involving function may not be easily reduced. Another reason is that it may trace language linkage better and allow any notions of synthesis to be clearer. Another is a suggestion that functionality may be less problematic in terms of twin world scenarios (or otherwise more so, requiring inclusion of large system of functional relationships).

(Should have written Francois, before.)
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on July 23rd, 2017, 7:46 am 

I’ll have another attempt, this time with metaphor. I don’t know Davidson much and am not too sure about how metaphors are included, but think it is about what may be considered a flow from metaphor to literalism so that metaphors that are helpful will become stronger, but so that all language is metaphorical in strengthening and lessening extents.

This seems a little like something I also had in mind, thinking about such abstract notions as curvature or evolution and thinking of notions about more ordinary language that may involve processes and more formal language. Whitehead promoted the former and with this, and I think Halliday (1998?) suggested that the latter is a grammatical metaphor, and in the sense that no one direction of interpretation requires priority, a transfer not of words but grammatical clauses, a syntactic privileging of nouns and change of verb processes to noun things, or nominalising, that appeared with ancient Greek writing and early writing about science and maths. E.g. changing from “moving” to “motion” or other terms like “length”, “velocity”. It is described as some change from earlier works like Homer’s containing similes, often likening familiar process particulars with processes of higher realms such as gods and nature, to more monumental language reserved for technical or functional sorts of topics. In ways like this, the notion is that nouns were distanced, privileged, accorded stable attributes. If so, delineated in separations in this way may have allowed isolations of partial processes as cause and effect. I think a suggestion is that such language has increasingly also been used outside functional areas, applied to studies of life or used in daily life. I recall Halliday detailed some of Darwin’s usage of functional language in “The Origin…” and Natural Selection would be an example of this. I think there may be more interesting notions involved, but also perhaps this might explain some attribution of anthropocentric or life related qualities like intended cause to abstracted nouns that had been the reserve of distanced, formal language. So grammatically metaphorically attributing to abstract nouns like selection, so that perhaps other views than just such attribution are possible.
(2001, http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs ... 0.27.1.140.)

I was sort of thinking about something like these processes as applied to functional artefacts and extensions beyond these amongst other applications when suggesting nouns described by functional properties. Somewhere in another thread I described function as something like reduction of possible outcomes. Perhaps to describe some notions of evolution by functional properties it might be something like- reducing possible outcomes as repeatedly reducing possible outcomes to most likely outcomes for reducing possible outcomes to outcomes that repeatedly reduce possible outcomes repeatedly. I’m not sure, I could have just described function in terms of generalisations about Darwin’s notions, or something like collecting notions as modified iteration, but perhaps this illustrates a property that describes one valuable view.

And on a bit of a different tangent about metaphors, but also somewhat about notions I’ve touched on before about nesting within or without, or bracketing and willing disbelief and maybe also such measures as under erasure- a number of people have suggested notions of reverse metaphor. They’ve included Derrida, writing of Shelley’s poem, Benjamin, Blanchot, and others I think I’ve might have listed elsewhere at the site. This would be something like notions related to life as small regional notions, that could include intention and selection, etc., as reverse or nested metaphors, a small part of a larger scheme of experience, a continuum.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby mitchellmckain on July 23rd, 2017, 2:15 pm 

Sivad » July 10th, 2017, 7:51 pm wrote:Bachelor isn't a natural category or kind out there in the world, it's just a definitional social classification. No empirical fact can change the definition.


Not quite. I am the first to point out that science does have inherent topic limitations but you are being unnecessarily restrictive. There is such a science as sociology. In other words, we can observe and discover variations of marriage practices (and attitudes about the non-married life) in different corners of the globe. And that might very well include our own corner of the globe and the meaning which people attribute to the word "bachelor". Furthermore it can change with time as well as location.

Is there a difference? Yes. The softer sciences are going to have a subjective element for the simple reason that we are turning our attention backwards onto the observer to some degree and the subjective participatory elements of life become involved. In other words, to some degree, "bachelor" means whatever we say it means -- whatever we want it to mean, and thus, it cannot be completely separated from our desires and beliefs.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 23rd, 2017, 3:31 pm 

mitchellmckain » July 23rd, 2017, 11:15 am wrote:
Is there a difference? Yes. The softer sciences are going to have a subjective element for the simple reason that we are turning our attention backwards onto the observer to some degree and the subjective participatory elements of life become involved. In other words, to some degree, "bachelor" means whatever we say it means -- whatever we want it to mean, and thus, it cannot be completely separated from our desires and beliefs.


But once we have an exhaustive definition then that's it, right? There's nothing more beyond that? I think Lomax's disagreement has to do with a behaviorist criteria of verification but I'm happy to take a native speaker's word for it. Quine had a behaviorist account of analyticity where a statement is "analytic for a native speaker if she learned the truth of the sentence in the course of learning to use one of its words", and I guess that works but to me it seems like overkill.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby mitchellmckain on July 23rd, 2017, 4:20 pm 

Sivad » July 23rd, 2017, 2:31 pm wrote:
mitchellmckain » July 23rd, 2017, 11:15 am wrote:
Is there a difference? Yes. The softer sciences are going to have a subjective element for the simple reason that we are turning our attention backwards onto the observer to some degree and the subjective participatory elements of life become involved. In other words, to some degree, "bachelor" means whatever we say it means -- whatever we want it to mean, and thus, it cannot be completely separated from our desires and beliefs.


But once we have an exhaustive definition then that's it, right? There's nothing more beyond that? I think Lomax's disagreement has to do with a behaviorist criteria of verification but I'm happy to take a native speaker's word for it. Quine had a behaviorist account of analyticity where a statement is "analytic for a native speaker if she learned the truth of the sentence in the course of learning to use one of its words", and I guess that works but to me it seems like overkill.

Sorry but I don't see one bit of difference (except the one explained in my post quoted here ) from examples such as syphilis. In fact.... both are really dealing with the behaviors of living organisms which can vary from one case to another as well as change over time.

Also, definitions change over time as well. At one time, I might have argued that same sex marriage was an alteration of the definition of the word "marriage," and thus imply rewriting all our books in a rather high handed manner. But the meaning of words must follow the consensus in order for the language to function and I think we have passed the turning point with regards the meaning of the word "marriage."
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 23rd, 2017, 4:49 pm 

mitchellmckain » July 23rd, 2017, 1:20 pm wrote:
Sivad » July 23rd, 2017, 2:31 pm wrote:
mitchellmckain » July 23rd, 2017, 11:15 am wrote:
Is there a difference? Yes. The softer sciences are going to have a subjective element for the simple reason that we are turning our attention backwards onto the observer to some degree and the subjective participatory elements of life become involved. In other words, to some degree, "bachelor" means whatever we say it means -- whatever we want it to mean, and thus, it cannot be completely separated from our desires and beliefs.


But once we have an exhaustive definition then that's it, right? There's nothing more beyond that? I think Lomax's disagreement has to do with a behaviorist criteria of verification but I'm happy to take a native speaker's word for it. Quine had a behaviorist account of analyticity where a statement is "analytic for a native speaker if she learned the truth of the sentence in the course of learning to use one of its words", and I guess that works but to me it seems like overkill.

Sorry but I don't see one bit of difference (except the one explained in my post quoted here ) from examples such as syphilis. In fact.... both are really dealing with the behaviors of living organisms which can vary from one case to another as well as change over time.

Also, definitions change over time as well. At one time, I might have argued that same sex marriage was an alteration of the definition of the word "marriage," and thus imply rewriting all our books in a rather high handed manner. But the meaning of words must follow the consensus in order for the language to function and I think we have passed the turning point with regards the meaning of the word "marriage."



If there were no core meaning to words then language would be useless, wouldn't it? And transience of meaning kind of helps my case, definitions are intersubjective and nothing more. Words can be used in all kinds of unconventional ways but it's that core conventional meaning that gives them purchase.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 23rd, 2017, 5:04 pm 

dandelion » July 20th, 2017, 3:31 am wrote: So perhaps the above contrarily, e.g., might suggest that usage of terms as metaphors may give definitive meaning, or terms used while not understood, e.g. mistaken usage, or a sentence with no meaning that may be true but lack any meaning, may give definitive meaning.



Well if there wasn't a central usage there couldn't be metaphors or mistakes, right?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 23rd, 2017, 5:27 pm 

dandelion » July 20th, 2017, 3:31 am wrote:
Derrida also seems to acknowledge problems with intentionality, essence, etc., and differently from Davidson’s “going along” with such notions, holds these “under erasure” while in use, as if involved in such discourse from a more removed or external position, but perhaps allowing that even from such a position, use of such sort of logic may still disrupt or corrupt outcomes.


But the terms are still adequate to convey conventional meaning, just because language doesn't encompass the full range of cognitive content doesn't mean it can't accurately communicate any of it. I don't think anything is beyond language but some things might be too obscure or rarefied to have been designated a specific word or term.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on July 30th, 2017, 1:51 pm 

Sivad » July 23rd, 2017, 10:04 pm wrote:
dandelion » July 20th, 2017, 3:31 am wrote: So perhaps the above contrarily, e.g., might suggest that usage of terms as metaphors may give definitive meaning, or terms used while not understood, e.g. mistaken usage, or a sentence with no meaning that may be true but lack any meaning, may give definitive meaning.



Well if there wasn't a central usage there couldn't be metaphors or mistakes, right?


Ha! Good catch. Rather than the mistake mistake, sorry, maybe I should have said less helpful or something like that. Regarding metaphor, in the following post was a notion of plurality without necessary privilege of any lone interpretation, but yes, there may be more familiar, more often used choices at different times, etc. Does that work?

Yes, I think I agree if you are saying it is roughly possible to convey some amount, without any certainty about precise, stable, meaning. I’m not as sure about centrality, so I’ll try to explain how notions more like boundaries might be more helpful. Just historically, from the earlier example of a related problem, there are involvements of gender discrimination and discriminating orientations and sex discrimination (e.g., some usage without discrimination between males and females, like possible early usage and currently holding a lowest degree), state authority, and religious discriminations (including, e.g. a Church annulled marriage still recognised by state, so a bachelor may be married), age (e.g. bachelor sometimes discriminates teens, not “men”, but may also include older ages), temporality (e.g. stages or lifelong states such as usages in which second estate younger sons, unlikely to inherit and so at childhood no marriage/property security may be arranged, and this described a group of life-long bachelors), or from feudal to more market economies, differing economic and social discrimination, and discriminating experience (probate knight, or master’s degree), etc. From such sorts of things, I think with movement around boundaries there may be some cognizance of possibilities in contexts and that this sort of uncertainty may help re-use.

But yes, as there seems some rough conveyance, and that was sort of why despite the problems, I was wondering about limiting interpretations to function within some such logical rules.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 31st, 2017, 11:20 am 

dandelion » July 30th, 2017, 10:51 am wrote:
Sivad » July 23rd, 2017, 10:04 pm wrote:
dandelion » July 20th, 2017, 3:31 am wrote: So perhaps the above contrarily, e.g., might suggest that usage of terms as metaphors may give definitive meaning, or terms used while not understood, e.g. mistaken usage, or a sentence with no meaning that may be true but lack any meaning, may give definitive meaning.



Well if there wasn't a central usage there couldn't be metaphors or mistakes, right?


Ha! Good catch. Rather than the mistake mistake, sorry, maybe I should have said less helpful or something like that. Regarding metaphor, in the following post was a notion of plurality without necessary privilege of any lone interpretation, but yes, there may be more familiar, more often used choices at different times, etc. Does that work?

Yes, I think I agree if you are saying it is roughly possible to convey some amount, without any certainty about precise, stable, meaning. I’m not as sure about centrality, so I’ll try to explain how notions more like boundaries might be more helpful. Just historically, from the earlier example of a related problem, there are involvements of gender discrimination and discriminating orientations and sex discrimination (e.g., some usage without discrimination between males and females, like possible early usage and currently holding a lowest degree), state authority, and religious discriminations (including, e.g. a Church annulled marriage still recognised by state, so a bachelor may be married), age (e.g. bachelor sometimes discriminates teens, not “men”, but may also include older ages), temporality (e.g. stages or lifelong states such as usages in which second estate younger sons, unlikely to inherit and so at childhood no marriage/property security may be arranged, and this described a group of life-long bachelors), or from feudal to more market economies, differing economic and social discrimination, and discriminating experience (probate knight, or master’s degree), etc. From such sorts of things, I think with movement around boundaries there may be some cognizance of possibilities in contexts and that this sort of uncertainty may help re-use.

But yes, as there seems some rough conveyance, and that was sort of why despite the problems, I was wondering about limiting interpretations to function within some such logical rules.


Those seem more like problems between cultures that share a common language. Precise meanings may vary from culture to culture, but intraculturally meanings are relatively stable and well defined. We could take the central meaning to be that which is preserved between cultures that share a language or we could take it to be the most conventional usage within a culture.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on August 4th, 2017, 7:13 am 

Sivad » July 31st, 2017, 4:20 pm wrote:

Those seem more like problems between cultures that share a common language. Precise meanings may vary from culture to culture, but intraculturally meanings are relatively stable and well defined. We could take the central meaning to be that which is preserved between cultures that share a language or we could take it to be the most conventional usage within a culture.


That was just an example of some different historic English uses since the term arrived in England, which could be considered as restricted to England if that helped, and which might involve features grouped as cultures if you think that is a good description or, eras, ages, but just as differing cultures may not involve only sudden distinct change, neither might notions associated with them. Various associated notions may change at different rates, more often, slower, more constant, often more subtle changes in passing from one grouped culture to another. This could also suggest that anything that may seem like a stable meaning right now may also not be final, but as life and culture moves on, such notions will continue to alter. E.g., a market economy and associated effects didn’t just abruptly occur in one year/month/overnight etc., but was more about various processes of change ebbing and flowing throughout, and e.g., fares became market towns growing where pilgrim trails met, etc., while feudal practices persisted close by, and such blends, too, could have effects on thought and language used.

But this is all just a small example, and even if there was just strong demarcation, what is shared between cultures or what is most common seems quite arbitrary for something that could also be considered central, so I’m not sure if this works so well? There were studies more from the 1980’s and 90’s that centrality may not be so helpful. Langacker among others suggests that, rather than dictionary notions, terms are more points in networks stretching out like encyclopaedic entries, some of these overlapping in differing parts, without fixed boundaries, and which further, as placed in phrases and sentences, and greater contexts undergo many more changeable effects.

https://global.oup.com/academic/product ... b&lang=en&
Langacker is cited in this paper- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4612158/ , and some of this seems like it might be relevant in this thread and to various related topics, too. It seems interesting enough to link and might be good to discuss. I’ve referenced the author quite a lot here previously. Perhaps, if some of the arguments work well, it may offer something of a solution here.

(“Niche construction theory is a relatively new approach in evolutionary biology that seeks to integrate an ecological dimension into the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection. It is regarded by many evolutionary biologists as providing a significant revision of the Neo-Darwinian modern synthesis that unified Darwin’s theory of natural and sexual selection with 20th century population genetics.”)

“Cognitive linguists reject the truth-conditional account of linguistic meaning, and with it the distinction between pragmatics and semantics, in favor of an account based upon convention and entrenched usage. As Langacker (2004, p. 70) puts it, there is “no a priori reason to accept the reality of the semantics/pragmatics dichotomy.” He argues that this is because there are “gradation(s) of centrality in the specifications constituting our encyclopedic knowledge of an entity.” In other words, he argues that one cannot reliably distinguish “core meaning” from encyclopedic meaning, since all usage is to a greater or lesser extent encyclopedic.”
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on August 4th, 2017, 10:23 am 

Edit, sorry, just realised I’d read too quickly and should have said: That which is most common or that which is shared within cultures could seem a bit arbitrary, or too extensive and seem too uncontained to be central.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on August 19th, 2017, 7:40 am 

This could also suggest that anything that may seem like a stable meaning right now may also not be final, but as life and culture moves on, such notions will continue to alter. [...] But this is all just a small example, and even if there was just strong demarcation, what is shared between cultures or what is most common seems quite arbitrary for something that could also be considered central, so I’m not sure if this works so well?


I completely agree with you here, my whole point is that words only mean what we mean by them and nothing more. There's nothing beyond that. Meanings change from time and place, it's all relative. But I am pretty sure that the words we use do convey specific, well defined meanings. Meanings can alter radically from time and place but they are specific to time and place. Words and terms just are whatever we define them to be, there is no ultimate authority. Dictionary definitions are relative and subject to revision in that sense but they do also capture centrality for a time and place.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on August 24th, 2017, 2:38 am 

Sivad » August 19th, 2017, 12:40 pm wrote:
I completely agree with you here, my whole point is that words only mean what we mean by them and nothing more. There's nothing beyond that. Meanings change from time and place, it's all relative. But I am pretty sure that the words we use do convey specific, well defined meanings. Meanings can alter radically from time and place but they are specific to time and place. Words and terms just are whatever we define them to be, there is no ultimate authority. Dictionary definitions are relative and subject to revision in that sense but they do also capture centrality for a time and place.


Yes, I like a lot of what you wrote. I struggle a bit with some of the notions that may be involved, but think it may be difficult to pin down time and place with scale and precision, e.g. we wrote of possibly differing cultures, but there may also be exposure to different notions during, say, a life-time, like living in some sorts of family units, Ivanhoe perhaps read to a toddler, learning to read and learning of definitions, studying parts of Chaucer, watching some Jane Austen film, having gender neutral friends, etc., and an adolescent’s view may be very different when they 30 and when they are 80. Change may occur on even smaller scales again, but yes, it would seem that if continual complete change were the norm, as a norm it may not be change, instead that could seem to be a contradiction. So, I’ll try to be a bit thorough- if change involves some partial remaining of the same along with partial gain and loss on different occasions, then that which remains the same may vary at different occasions, but yes, may partially be the same to some extent.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby mitchellmckain on August 24th, 2017, 4:28 am 

Sivad » July 23rd, 2017, 3:49 pm wrote:If there were no core meaning to words then language would be useless, wouldn't it? And transience of meaning kind of helps my case, definitions are intersubjective and nothing more. Words can be used in all kinds of unconventional ways but it's that core conventional meaning that gives them purchase.


It is not the core meaning of words that makes language work but the consensus which makes it work. Besides, I doubt you can even define "core meaning" in an effective way. I am sure there are plenty of people would have said that the "core meaning" of "marriage" required male and female. The truth is that as language evolves, the meanings of words often change completely to something quite disjoint from the original. In the intermediate stage words have multiple usage and meanings. The change is inevitable because the way we think and categorize things changes quite a bit over time.

Your point about unconventional versus conventional is a moving target, and however much that may be important for speakers and writers in the here and now, it just has no substance in the long run. Words find new purchase in the new ways that people think because they must if they are not simply to become unused and forgotten.

If there is no consensus then communication becomes fragmented to the degree to which this consensus is lacking. And therein we find the inception of new dialects and different languages. Of course the most common historical reason for this is a barrier to communication such as distance or separation of some kind.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby neuro on August 24th, 2017, 9:12 am 

Very stimulating conversation.
I'd just add some marginal observations.
And I apologize in advance, because I am no expert. Don't know anything about.
Still, sometimes the perspective of a bystander, naive to the matter, may help shifting the perspective and stimulating some fresh thought.

Somebody brought about the term "synonym" as one possible kind of definition; I believe there are no synonyms in language. Although two words may refer to exactly the same "thing", they will never be used in a perfectly exchangeable way, which means that there are (marginal, emotional, affective, evocative, phonetic, musical, rhythmic) aspects that make one more appropriate than the other in a specific sentence and/or situation.

This may be one reason why defining "meaning" is so difficult.

One possible way to tackle the question is to consider that our brain cannot interpret any sensory input or experience but by comparing it with some innate scheme or previously encountered experience. We interpret by analogy, generalization, merging and contamination of previously acquired knowledge. We have language to communicate. And we use it the same way, trying to evoke or revive in others what we are thinking of, what we "mean".
Thus, words simply are attempts at evoking in others the same associations (cognitive, sensory and emotional) that are elicited in ourself by the object we wish to name.

So, one possibility is to define "meaning" as the attempt at generating in other people the same experience that is generated in ourselves by the object at hand.

Analytic and synthetic definitions would then simply be, respectively, the use of words that are necessarily associated to the object referred to, or the use of words that try to reproduce in others the same experience we have (had) of the object.

Still, "necessarily" in the above sentence may not hold in a different time, culture, universe. So even analytic definitions would sometimes need to be refined or revised.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Braininvat on August 24th, 2017, 9:37 am 

Yes, clearly our analysis of basic meanings can change. "Highest" in "world''s highest mountain" has no single referent until we determine what highest means. All three of these mountains could be the highest:

Everest
Kilimanjaro
Mauna Kea

If height is "distance from base to peak," the Mauna Kea is the only one that qualifies as "highest."
If height is "distance from base on dry land to peak" then Kilimanjaro.
If height is "distance of peak from sea level," then Everest. (Everest is only about 13,000 feet above its base)

Why does the consensus, on meaning, land on Everest. Because we agree that sea level is our reference point, because that addresses the true difficulty of climbing a mountain where the air is too thin to sustain life. Highest is thus equated with the greatest human accomplishment, not the number of steps from base to top.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on August 25th, 2017, 5:42 pm 

neuro » August 24th, 2017, 2:12 pm wrote:
...Somebody brought about the term "synonym" as one possible kind of definition; I believe there are no synonyms in language. Although two words may refer to exactly the same "thing", they will never be used in a perfectly exchangeable way, which means that there are (marginal, emotional, affective, evocative, phonetic, musical, rhythmic) aspects that make one more appropriate than the other in a specific sentence and/or situation.

This may be one reason why defining "meaning" is so difficult.

One possible way to tackle the question is to consider that our brain cannot interpret any sensory input or experience but by comparing it with some innate scheme or previously encountered experience. We interpret by analogy, generalization, merging and contamination of previously acquired knowledge. We have language to communicate. And we use it the same way, trying to evoke or revive in others what we are thinking of, what we "mean".
Thus, words simply are attempts at evoking in others the same associations (cognitive, sensory and emotional) that are elicited in ourself by the object we wish to name.

So, one possibility is to define "meaning" as the attempt at generating in other people the same experience that is generated in ourselves ...


Thanks, neuro, I really appreciate your help and will think about what you've said more. I think you have written about comparison with previous experience with other things before and nicely or aptly I think and hope I’ve kept it in mind and contributed with some accord with such notions. And I especially liked the way you explained interpretation, “We interpret by analogy, generalization, merging and contamination of previously acquired knowledge”.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on August 25th, 2017, 6:07 pm 

Braininvat » August 24th, 2017, 2:37 pm wrote:... Highest is thus equated with the greatest human accomplishment, not the number of steps from base to top.

I hadn't thought of it quite like that! I think there was some Chomsky link about this? And more, this could involve terms about spatial and temporal restrictions of interlocking ordered relations, and can conjure different notions depending on precision etc., and also there are some more possible considerations about mountains and Everest. I’ll include some links, more as an indication of how much may tend to be said on topic, although one is quite old and I think there could be more interesting papers than these-
http://www.columbia.edu/~av72/papers/P%26G_2001.pdf
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=BbI ... st&f=false
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