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Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

Meaning is at once the most obvious and most
mysterious feature of human language. More than 3,000 years of speculation by philosophers and linguists have failed to crack the central conundrum

of meaning. We will begin by surveying some theories of meaning.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

If we ask someone the meaning of the word cat,
we are very likely to be told that the word refers to in the world. This view that the meaning of an expression is

what it refers to, or names, is often called referential theory or naming theory.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

The word
names the in the real world

The object tree is called the

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

Name objects and events Name properties of those objects and events
Name actions Name properties of actions

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

Of course, there some problems with this view. It is not always immediately obvious what is being named.
What do conjunctions but and and refer to?
What do prepossitions like for and to stand for?

What do we say abour imaginary objects or actions?
Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

This theory suggests that any particular sound image is pshychologically associated with a particular concept.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

When the word

is spoken,

the concept of
the hearer.

is called upon the mind of

Everyone of us who knows the word or expressions has a concept or idea in his mind associated with it.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

proposed by Ogden & Richards in their “The Meaning of Meaning”. They saw the relationship between words and things as a

triangle.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

( thought)

There is not a direct link between the sound of

evokes

the word dog and the
refers to object it refers to. There

is no direct or natural
link and between referent, symbol that is,

(the word)

stands for

between language and
the world. The link is via

thought, the concept in
our minds.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

The SYMBOL refers to the linguistic elements (word, sentence, etc.), the REFERENT refers to the object in the world of experience, and THOUGHT or REFERENCE refers to concept.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

The symbol or a word signifies “things” by virtue of the “concept” associated with the form of the word in the minds of the speaker of the language, and the concept looked at from this point of view is the meaning of the word.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

e.g. The dog over there looks friendly.

The word “dog” is directly associated with a certain concept in our mind, i.e. what a “dog”
is like, but it is not directly linked to the referent (the particular dog) in this particular case.
Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

This theory avoids many of the problems of naming. However, to state the meaning is a
concept does not overcome all the problems that naming theory has .

We can still ask what are the concepts that

and or but stand for?
Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

According to this theory the meaning of a

linguistic form is defined as observable behavior. Leonard Bloomfiled lillustrated this view by the
well-known story of Jack and Jill…

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

"Suppose Jack and Jill are walking down a lane. Jill is hungry. She sees an apple in a tree.

She makes a noise with her larynx, tongue, and lips. Jack vaults the fence, climbs the tree, takes the apple, brings it to Jill, and places it in her hand. Jill eats the apple…”

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

“… we … will naturally distinguish between the act of speech and the other occurrences, which we shall call practical events."

SPEECH

Practical event preceding

Practical events following

the act of speech
(hunger)

the act of speech
(reaction)

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

"Language enables one person to make a reaction (R) when another person has the

stimulus (S).“
speechless reaction:: S >——————————————> R

reaction mediated by speech:

S >——>

rs

>——> R

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

If Jill had been alone, she would have first

received a STIMULUS (S) (hunger) which have produced a speechless reaction, RESPONSE (R) that would have made a move to get the apple.

S >——————————————> R

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

However, since Jack was with her, the stimulus produced not the response R, but a linguistic response, that of saying to Jack, (r). The sound

waves reculting from this in turn created a stimulus for Jack, a linguistic stimulus (s), which results in his non-linguistic response R of getting the apple.
S >——> r ……………….. s >——> R

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

However, there are some significant practical difficulties with this viewpoint.

For example, since the practical stimulus S is not always obvious, so how do we identify it?

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

Many times context determines meaning of words
and sentences. The view that meaning is found in the context within which a particular expression is uttered

suggests that we can derive meaning from, or reduce it to, the observable context.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

The interpretation of what meanings the speaker wanted to convey using particular words is often

influenced by factors such as the listeners’ assumptions or the context. Although the study of pragmatics, two types contexts belong to of context can be

differentiated: linguistic context and situational

context.
Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

Linguistic context, sometimes called co-text is
the set of words that surround the lexical item in

question in the same phrase, or sentence.

The situational context is the location of a
given word, the situation in which it is used, as
well as timing, all of which aid proper understating of the words.
Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

Every utterance occurs in a particular spatiotemporal situation. Each utterance is limited by various factors of the situational context. These factors include:

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

(i) The setting (formal, informal…)
(ii) The speaker and hearer (relationship, position…) (iii) The activities they are engaged in at the time (iv) The presence or absence of other participants (relationship, position…)

(v) The presence of various external objects and events
Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

The linguistic context alone is the weaker form of contextual views. It is principally concerned with the probability of words or expressions coocurring or collocating with each other. This is
obviously an aspect of meaning.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

Truth-conditional is a theory that sees the
meaning of assertions as being the same as, or reducible to, their truth conditions. It attempts to define the meaning sense of a

given proposition in terms of the truth conditions under which it obtains in the real world.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

The meaning of conditional statements can be described by making reference to the truth conditions of the statement in an a priori unbounded number of "possible worlds."

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

We know the meaning of both sentences equally well, and knowing their meaning means knowing their sense of truth conditions. The sense of a declarative

sentence

permits

you

to

know

under

what

“circumstances” that sentence is true.
Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

Those

“circumstances”

are

called

truth

conditions of the sentence.
The truth conditions of a declarative sentence are the same as the sense of the sentence.

We compare their truth conditions with “the real world” or some historical fact, and can thus say
which one is true and which one is false.
Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

Statements about meaning are based on the formulation that:

S (sentence). P (set of conditions that guarantees the truth of S)

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

For this statement to be true:

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

If this theory is adopted, we limit semantics to being concerned principally about meaning in
relation to truth and falsehood. Some linguists have objected that this is too narrow of a view.
• How can we discussed the meaning of interrogatives or imperatives?
• How can we discussed the truth or falsehood of a question or a command?
Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Run-Qing, Liu. 2006. Linguistics: A New Coursebook.
Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

Luis Octavio Canseco García / Escuela de Idiomas / Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE) / Oaxaca