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Explorations in Language and Meaning - Essay Example

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This paper "Explorations in Language and Meaning" discusses the issue of determining word meaning is highly abstract and very much difficult to determine. It analyzes the linguistic concepts of Referential Theory, Image Theory, Polysemes, and Homonyms…
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Explorations in Language and Meaning
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Download file to see previous pages These connecting words are referred to as the base word’s extensions. For instance, the extension of a word like Seoul, Korea would be Seoul, Korea. For a word like water, it would refer to every incarnation of water – rivers, lakes, oceans, drinking water. To determine the semantic meaning using a referential approach requires the actual physical referencing to a real-world object (i.e. defining the word finger by pointing to your finger).

Referential Theory becomes convoluted when you consider that not all words have direct relations to real-world entities. For instance, what would be the referent for a word like ‘the’? Linguists argue that ‘the’ isn’t necessarily a word that requires semantic definition, but is rather a grammatical entity. Another objection to the theory is the problem when words refer to imaginary things. For instance, what would be the referent for a word like ‘moronic plant.’ Clearly, plants do not exhibit the same intellectual qualities as humans, yet this word is not entirely non-sensical, as it could be imagined by a cartoonist. Other entities that don’t lend themselves to direct interpretation are terms with ambiguous connotations. When determining the direct referent for a term like ‘passion’ it’s possible to point to passionate people or experiences, but the exact nature of the experience remains vague. For linguists, this makes determining objective meaning impossible.

A classical example is Hesperus and Phosphorus, the Latin names for the Morning Star and the Evening Star. Since these two words both refer to the planet Venus, Referential Theory holds that the two words mean the same thing. But the Romans who used these words believed that Hesperus and Phosphorus were two different stars, so from their point of view, they didn’t mean the same thing. (p. 52)

Considering contemporary pragmatic approaches to the philosophy of truth, Referential Theory equates truth claims to the scientific claims of a particular society.  ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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