Resources for Communication Problems

Sunday, January 27, 2008




Make sure you read and translate complete paragraphs!


The abstractness underlying meanings in general, …(complete paragraph includes lower half of page 333). The whole paragraph has to be read and translated together as a unit.…of the underlying process, the referents of words can so easily change ,meanings can be extended ,and categories are always open. Words tag the processes by which the species deals cognitively with its environment.

This theoretical position also elucidates the problem of translation or the equation of meanings across natural languages. If words label modes of cognizing, we would expect that all semantic systems have certain formal commonalities. For instant, if we hear a given word used in connection with a given object or phenomenon, we are able to intuit the general usage of that word-it does not have to be paired with 200 similar objects or phenomena before we can make predictions whether the name applies to a new object. Man’s cognition functions within biologically given limits. On the other hand, there is also freedom within these limits. Thus every individual may have highly idiosyncratic thoughts or conceptualize in a peculiar way or, in fact, may choose somewhat different modes of cognitive organization at different times faced with identical sensory stimuli. His vocabulary, which is much more limited and unchangeable than his capacity for conceptualizing, can be made to cover the novel the conceptual processes, and other men, by virtue of having essentially the same cognitive capacities, can understand the semantics of his utterances, even though the words cover new or slightly different conceptualizations. Given this degree of freedom, it becomes reasonable to assume that natural languages always have universally understandable types of semantics, but may easily have different extensions of meanings, and that, therefore, specific semantic categories are not coterminous across languages.

It does not follow from this that differences in semantics are signs of obligatory difference in thought processes, as assumed by Whorf(1956) and many others. The modes of conceptualization that happen to be tagged by a given natural language need not, and apparently do not, exert restrictions upon an individual’s freedom of conceptualizing. This will be discussed subsequently.

(2) Differentiation of categories

Since there is freedom, within limits, to categorize, there must also be freedom to substructure a category. Not only can the infant adjust his initial broad category doggy from all quadrupeds to the species Canis familiaris, but child and man alike are free to superimpose further classifications upon inclusive categories, and the criteria for the formation of these narrower categories or for the process of substructuring in general are as variegated as those for the initial categories. Thus differentiation may result from labeling the direction of attention to one aspect of the object (high, wet, bulging) or from differentiation some relationship that exists between the speaker and the object (this noun, that noun ). Instances of this type of differentiation process make it obvious that words cannot be attachment to things, but only acoustic markers of cognitive processes-signals of how the individual deals with the task of organizing input. Since languages may differ in the peculiar cognitive process that is being tagged lexically, the semantics of a language reflect merely one of many possible ways of dealing with the cognitive organization task.

Differentiation may result in peculiar hierarchies of inclusiveness-exclusiveness of categories or in contrasting categories as in antonyms, partially overlapping categories as synonyms, etc. the manifold structures produced by the basic freedom of differentiation points, once more, to the underlying dynamics of the semantic process. A lexicon is like a photograph that freezes motion. Differentiation is part of the organization processes, and it goes on continuously and in many ways. A natural language captures some of those ways, but it is not as fixed or as rigid a system as it may appear; in fact, it does reflect the ongoing creative or productive process if analyzed with care. Naming is a method and a process mare than it is a rigidly established relationship. The speaker who must communicate a peculiar form of substructuring a category will immediately take recourse to novel ways of naming, as we shall see from the empirical experiments described below.

(3) Interrelating of Categories (Transformations)

The transformational process of syntax discussed in Chapter Seven has its counterpart in semantics also. Just as certain structural principles underlying given sentence-types bear relations to one another, so do the similarity-principles that are the basis for the formation of categories. For instance, there are objects called knife, fork, and spoon. We may extract some common denominator from these and choose to give the abstraction a label, say flatware. Other objects, such as cork-screw, ladle, and rolling pin may be subsumed under the categorical label utensils. There are certain relationships between the two categories that are completely constant. For instance, certain similarity-relationships hold for any object that is part of flatware and any object that is part of utensils. The cognitive calculus with categories is easily reflected in naming habits. This goes so far as to enable us to write semantic rules that have the same formal structure as syntactic rules and that predict what kinds of words may be interchanged in sentence frames without changing the grammaticality of the sentence. For further details see Fodor and Katz (1963). The paragraph ends here. Do not cut the paragraph, when you read or translate.












No comments: