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Robert P. Pula
General s.-.ntlcs derives 1'1'011 the work of Alfred KOrBy"-Jel (1879...1950),
a Polish think.r who 0&_ to the United States In 1915. 'ft). tera general s.-.n..
tlcs (whlch should not be confuled1l1th ...nUc., .. 11.ite4 lift8\11.tlc dlscl...
j;il'jie) ref'era to a .et of prop08itlon. propoaed by JCOl'Sy'bekl &Il4 by
hla into a .yetea, t;'e.
I.'-Pl" fit proposltion.. Slnc. Korsy'bekl publlahed his
_jor work, .!!! Sanlti, .ln1933, aany ether writen trained ln -.ny flelds
have cOllUlMtnted on and added to his.orlu however, S91!9C! and. Ban1tl re_lns the
JIlost 1;horoughly worJeed out .xpoaltiClft of' •••ntics.
Korzybakl was concerned wlth .tructttre. and how they interact. By .tructure
he lntended "a cOlll'plex of relation.," 1.e., how anything ls 'put together' ...nd
what 1ts underlyln-: 1I!chanla.. nt1ght be. hOlt it worb. Everything we know,h.
clal_d, shows .0.. structure and that structure ('!i!i the 'thing in ita.lf') i.
all we can Imp". Anything we are conc.rned about c&n be .xaained for ita .true..
ture. If"We relate two or aor.t already 1cnown etructurea.... are then 'XIUl11111'11
another, broad'r ('higher ord.r') atl"UCture ..- but .t111 .tncture.
'our atructurea that J(oreybakl focus.ed on were I
structure1 -- the hUJl&ft n.rvous ayatea (braill, .te.)
atructure2 -- (huan .yabol .yetl..)
structure, -- the non-verbal wOJ;'ld ('rea1itY'1 whateftr 1. Rot syMbols
but 1••yaboll..d about) .
structure4 -- beh&vlor, what ... sa- lncl\1diag so-called 'thlnklng'. .
These four structures can be seen a. sub (lowro.l\'l.r) structure. 0"1' a
order) strueture I th'y consil tute a ..coaplex of relatlens", their
interactlol\8cu be exaJlln.d6to provid. in.ight. lnto btnt b--.na 'tick'. Tbi.•
• x&JIllnat1on, 81Rce it Involves 'vall.tions, '.e.nt10 reacU..·, .tc•• i. what
l('onybsk1 calle4 ...ntics.
Structureo' Gelleral s.-.ntica
But 1C0rzybaki 1nslsted that exall1natlon was and 1. not Havlll« lite.
tra1ned &8 an engine.to, he ..a very .uch COllcemed with aPRJ:&et=lO!l!. Hl_ oon-
.tant questiOll, .xpres.ed or net, ••, "So what?" IIl.ofar as he and hl. co-vc>rJcen
have tried to auwer the "so what" q.stion, besld•• expres.lng a theory of bow
people, and non-verbal .tructures co. to@;ethet i.behanor,
.eraantic. a180 con.titutes a _thod, .pecifically, a tool for evaluating.
Since ••_ntical draws on raany (if not 'all') area. of hUlllan knowlag,
talk about it can very cOllp11cated. But th&t 1.n't nece....ry, at l'a.t not
for starters. 'lbe central fOl'Jlulation. of se_ntlcs can be stated .1.ply
and (by _ny) lal18dlately.
Central li'01'llulationa (li'or_l State.."ts) of Gen'ral S'raantic.
l('orzybski .. a ploneer 1n that the brain aodel. it.elt,
what 1t tak•• to be 'outsld.' 1t.elf, and the relaUonshipbetwe.n the two
('lnslde' and 'outsl".'). H. ChOd to call this modelling actlv1ty "1II&"pln,;".
We (we brains) map the world, ouraelves included.
But. our 'apa' are (neoesearily and for cmvenienoe) so_what (static)
representations of prOCess.s -- events, happenings, dyn&JR1c, an-going structure••
lven la.n.gu&,d (say, English) can be seen as a relatively static structure (a
.yetelll of .tatellenta, words, orenised representations) that ••rves to map'
sil.nt dynamic structures. 'Ibi. inevitabl. confiict between
_pa and what th.y repre••nt ('territori•• ') can, if .... are not conscious of our
ma-P-lllakin.e: activity, lea" to s.rious breakdowns -- even nervous on.s. Korsybski II
f el.t that most probl.em.s 1n cOllUlun1cating (to on.,'", eelf an" othe.rs) SWill from
our failure to recogn1.e a.nd re...'her that (1) our -fA are only repres.ntations
and (2) each of us -.pe un1q11817.
Everything we talk about, II' 1Il....-.ntlci•• a" i ••OM sort of proce.. --
an expression of underlying may aT>pear 'peranent' to those who
don't know physic•• but are in proceee n••rth.l.... Our ver.y u.ppin«
involve. brain act.ivity called Th1s .ntails electing (leav1n,; out),
tran.foraln! 1n our nervo,. sJllts. what .... have reacted t.o ( -••lected' ), .i!,2-
'Fiett"! (confuasin-: or id.nt1Mng our blpressions with what i8 'out. there').
and talkin!, frOJI silllple d.scrl'Pt1ons opin1eRS t.o theories. ill of' this
abetnct.ing, to Korsybeki, canst! tutes _pp1ng.
'rhe.. centn.l forlllulat1ons ean be eum-.ri.ed.
'n1. _p i. not the territory. (ifOil-identity.) Since -''Pplng involve. ab-
stractin,;, the of relatively st....tic 1':'8'J)1"8s.ntatione of dynaaic
events, ....hould not Id.ntify (eanf.e l.vel. or at.tracting) what'. In
our head.1I with what's 'out there' or, 1f' ft're _p'P!.ng ourselves, 'ln here'.
The ¥p 115 not all the territory. (Nan-ahnllJss) Sinc••w1ng involve. ab-
1.e., partial. fOCuaMd reacting te countless act..l 'Poten-
tial stimul1; we can never 8&7 ill a.bout anything. All _1'8 lIlust be under-
.tood a. tentative. eonven1ent, useful (1f' ....ll-.tructured) but tem.porag.
Mapa are self-refiexive, 1.e., Mapa _., or -7 not adeq\Btely
represent thelr intended terri torie.. (If t.t1e structure o'f the _p 1'i ta
the structure 0'( the territory a. known at a -:iven date, .. can say the
lIlap 1e adequate -- at that ti_. for that Purtloe•• ) But no utter how
ad.ql.te a, 11&1' may appear to be, the _'P-_ker 18 !l!.2 mapped.
'Built into his map are _ny of' hl. aSl!I\lllPtions, bias••, ••11'-i.....
present slt111 levels, etc. 'lb. _p-_k.r It&y pretend to ·tranaeend.' his
.'P, but even i'" he _kas a Nta-_p (a _p about hi. Il&ppiDg), he is
still 'there'. It 1s he who _os his -PII. !'TOIl this there ls no e.cape,
the cla1ms of .ysticar'fudge notwithstanding. (By th. -7, se_ntics
naY' be eonddered a lII8t&-aTlPlng aeUrl ty. 'Ful1 y
tha.t thes. fOTlftulatinns a'Pply to them, toe, and that
e'eneral sema.nt1,cs is not '1t'.)
Can we learn, at least 'anently', to re-structure our so that 1t
more "neqlla,tel" f'1ta the territory of experience? Korzybeki made 80_ practical,
sillple along thls line. We can conclud. thla beter mapping of the
territory C8.l1ed semanUcs with th••e •• They are ca'l Ied
Wi th the word intensional J(orsybski described the JlI'rBan who i. overOcoJUt1tted til
to def1n1tl01t8 and th.orie., the peraOl'l' who pIa•• Inordinate faith In hl. _pa.
'the extensional penon, while quita call1Lble of dennlng and theorislng, recOfr-
nizes that the territory should be priority, that our _.". (bcludin,
those expressed ia .hould be revi..d when Ilece.eary to fit the terri()ry
a. known at a Id:vell date.
Iadexlng, dating and the ueeof .u cetara are to aake .ur
a.ad, therefore. oltt' 'thinkirut' 110ft &Otional. more proce••-ref'lectInFt. more
wrritory-ilke, thus the dIst,.;naUon, "extensional d.vices. It
Illd.xin!. (N_-Identity.) NO.Ufta in Ingll.h are clas. teru. Th.,
are often us.ful for na1l1ng large nobara o'f individual. (people and other-
wi•• ) who a'Dpear .i1l1lar b ... respecta. But nouns group indivlduals
lIolely on the 'tasia of ailllIarltl, often us-percelved as _mene.s. Kor-
sybsk1 borrowed the _th••tic1ans' .ubscript index nuaeral to help us
break up our llonolith1c respon.e. to noun., to rell1nd .. that aloag witb
those pre.U.Il8d .iJl1larlUe. are any ineylt&ble d\f'fere!ce.. Onc. we
a naae (nO\lll) to sOileone or sOMthing, ... tead to aot .!! U .... know
'all' about the person or object so na_d, the index re1l1nd. us that e"._
members o'f the same cIa.. (group) are not ld.ntical.
borrower1 Is m bmnrowerz i. not borrower), etc.
lendert 18 lender2 1. not lender), etc.
adJll1nlstratort is lli adrdnistratoI'2 lsaot ad.inl.trator) ••tc.
poli Uc1aJll i. m polltlo1an2 ls aot politic1aD3 ' etc.
Dating. (Proce... ffm-identi ty.) In a proc•••• s1*08-tl- world..... the
.oat .oUlld e.luaUon can only be pro tellJ!Or8t 'fine for now (hopefully) but
not autOllatieally expected to .erve irfdef'1nit.ly. Cit, Managert or Clty X1980
.y be qulte dl'frereat frOIl that '.alM' Clty Manapr1 of Clty X
because he appeared hard-nosed (or coo-pen.tiY8) ln 1980 doe.n't gtal'ft.atee
that he will appear thus in 19811 We don't have to .prlnkl. our wrltin«
and with th••• d.vic•• , J(orsybeltl ••rely that we lncory>orata
the. a. attitude. In our
it cetera. (Proc•••• Non-a' In•••• ) In a -proce•• wprld., we cannot .rpectour
.tatelll8ntB to cOYer 'all' about anythlng. So we inCOrPOrate (lnterna11")
an attitudinal !! c.tera to our overt and covert .'Ppiag. 'ftle.!! c.tera
rellind. us that we alwaY! 'leave out' sOIl.thlng aad that wIlat we have 'l.ft
in' 1s greatly personalis.d (••If reflexivene•• ). Behanorally, the in-
temallsed etc. mlght best _l'llr••t 1taelf in the avoldaJlce of absolute
('allness') state_nu. Us. of quant1flers and quali1'1era cal'l be h.lpful
h.re • .!.2!!!!. !!!!I' for now. often••tc.
The other ext.nsional devlces (hYPhens. Quote.) need not detaln us h.re --
a1 though you've no doubt notic.dthat l8ve used s1ngl. quotes to 'f'lap;' spec1al
terJll8, teru that .eemed "Proble1lRtical for 801118 reaeon. Enough has bee.
presented, I trust. to 'PA.rtly an.wet' the question. "What 1. sem&ntics?"
and. to shOll 1ts &l'J)11cabl1ity at the heart of that 1I0st hUlllll'l activl ty. COMunl-
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