How do linguists define and use these terms?

Concept, meaning, reference (and related terms)

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How do linguists define and use these terms?

#1  Postby seeker » Mar 19, 2014 3:39 pm

I have doubts about how do linguists (nowadays) define and use these terms: concept, meaning, reference (and some other related terms). What's the degree of consensus or disensus in the definitions and usage of these terms? Can someone mention one (or more) definition of each term? In which cases (if any) do linguists say that a word doesn't have a concept, a meaning, or a reference?
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#2  Postby Agrippina » Mar 19, 2014 5:06 pm

Have you tried using a dictionary? :ask:
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#3  Postby seeker » Mar 19, 2014 5:26 pm

Agrippina wrote:Have you tried using a dictionary? :ask:

I'm asking about their technical definitions within the community of linguists, so an ordinary dictionary doesn't help.
A dictionary of technical terms within linguistics might help, but I don't know any dictionary with these characteristics.
Do you know any dictionary with these characteristics?
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#4  Postby Agrippina » Mar 19, 2014 5:29 pm

Don't you have a proper dictionary with all the explanations you need on your computer?
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#5  Postby Agrippina » Mar 19, 2014 5:29 pm

You could also look at Wikipedia, it will give you detailed explanations for any word.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#6  Postby Agrippina » Mar 19, 2014 5:31 pm

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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#7  Postby seeker » Mar 20, 2014 1:27 am

Agrippina wrote:You could also look at Wikipedia, it will give you detailed explanations for any word.

No, Wikipedia is not informative enough to answer my question. I guess we have different standards on what qualifies as a "detailed explanation".
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#8  Postby surreptitious57 » Mar 20, 2014 1:50 am

seeker : look at the level of information for that link that Ag gave you. That
is way more than any dictionary could provide. So read what it says for no
one here is going to give you definitions that are as complex as that now
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#9  Postby seeker » Mar 20, 2014 1:56 am

surreptitious57 wrote:seeker : look at the level of information for that link that Ag gave you. That
is way more than any dictionary could provide. So read what it says for no
one here is going to give you definitions that are as complex as that now

surreptitious57: I knew Wiki's entries about these issues before Agrippina proposed them. If they would have been enough, I wouldn't have written my question here in the first place.
Anyway, how do you know that no one here can give a better answer? I've received some good answers here in previous opportunities.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#10  Postby Agrippina » Mar 20, 2014 5:28 am

What exactly are you looking for? When we look for definitions, we don't ask other people to do the work for us. I consult dictionaries and Wikipedia etc., then I click on the links in Wikipedia for further information. You have to click on a lot of links, and read a lot of websites until you find exactly what you're looking for sometimes. Coming here to ask other people to do that for you is the lazy way, and it's not the way research is done.

You're quite welcome to come back with your research and to ask us to look at your conclusions, but please don't ask us to do the work for you.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#11  Postby seeker » Mar 20, 2014 3:50 pm

Agrippina wrote:What exactly are you looking for? When we look for definitions, we don't ask other people to do the work for us. I consult dictionaries and Wikipedia etc., then I click on the links in Wikipedia for further information. You have to click on a lot of links, and read a lot of websites until you find exactly what you're looking for sometimes. Coming here to ask other people to do that for you is the lazy way, and it's not the way research is done.

You're quite welcome to come back with your research and to ask us to look at your conclusions, but please don't ask us to do the work for you.

First: one of the upsides of this forum is the possibility of sharing information and advice between people with different areas of expertise. Other people here have shared what they know about linguistics in this subforum, and I've shared what I knew in other subforums. Do you have any good reason to call this sharing of information and advice as "doing the work for others"? I don't see any good reason so far. You can speak for yourself, but you don't have the right to speak in the name others (as you did when you said "don't ask us"). You're not representing the other members of this forum, and I have the right to make whatever question I want (as long as it doesn't go against the forum's rules).
Second, I know how to do a research in Wikipedia, you don't have to explain that platitude. But, as I told you above, my question is not answered by Wikipedia. What I want to know is how linguists deal with the controversial cases, and how much consensus or disensus they have in their terminological conventions. This issue is not dealt with by Wikipedia, and asking a linguist about this issue is a logical step to find an answer. For example, it's clear that "my dog Fido" has a concept, a meaning, and a reference (at least, if I really have a dog named Fido). But what happens in other less clear examples? If a sentence talks about an abstraction like "nothingness", do linguists say that the sentence has a reference? If a word is dependent on others in its ordinary usage (e.g., "and", "to", "until", "if"), do linguists say that it has a concept and a meaning by itself, or that it only acquires a concept and a meaning when it's combined with other words? Do linguists agree or disagree (and to which extent) in their answers to these questions? Wikipedia doesn't answer these questions, but linguists might offer some answers: at least, they might say how would they use these words, and how do they think other linguists would use these words.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#12  Postby jamest » Mar 20, 2014 4:08 pm

Hello seeker. I studied some of this stuff on my philosophy course, last year. It all gets very technical and in-depth. Perhaps the following link may be of use to you...

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/reference/
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#13  Postby nunnington » Mar 20, 2014 4:35 pm

seeker

There isn't a simple answer to your questions. I used to teach semantics, and most courses are fairly complex, as there are so many aspects of it, and so many different theories of meaning and pragmatics, and also, of course, there are big overlaps with philosophy. Thus, discussions of reference might be avoided in some linguistics courses, which didn't want to become too philosophical.

One common approach is to separate word meaning, sentence meaning, and pragmatics, that is meaning in context (utterances). But there is still a lot of choice here - for example, word meaning might cover structuralist theories, such as semantic fields, and also the differences between sense and reference.

Sentence (and utterance) meaning becomes very complex - you might cover presuppositions, implicature, quantifiers, deixis, negation, metaphor, and so on. Also, the way meanings are created in whole texts, a very complex area.

Pragmatics might cover intentions, co-operation, speech acts, and the use of speech and language in different situations.

I'm not sure which text-books are used today, as I am well out of it, but without doubt there will be a number which will be worth reading.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#14  Postby Agrippina » Mar 20, 2014 4:44 pm

That's the point. He knows why he wants "technical" definitions, so he needs to look for the definitions he's looking for.

My first stop is a dictionary, and Wikipedia, and then from there, consulting the links at the bottom of the Wikipedia page. There's no point in pages of people arguing about what they think words mean, without knowing in what context he wants to use them, and even then, without being a mind-reader, no one knows what he's looking for.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#15  Postby nunnington » Mar 20, 2014 5:11 pm

I just realized that seeker asked about concept, meaning and reference - in my experience, 'concept' is rarely discussed in linguistics, as it's becoming more psychological. The big exception is Jerry Fodor who had a theory of 'mentalese', that is, that language encodes thoughts. But these ideas have come in for heavy criticism - see the Wiki entry on Jerry Fodor.

But psycholinguistics probably discusses stuff like concepts.

'Meaning' is a general, even vague term, and is usually split into different elements, such as sense and reference. It also depends on whether you mean word meaning, sentence meaning, utterance meaning, and whole text meaning. The last one is a nightmare really; I know, because my boss specialized in it, and nearly drove us all to a nervous breakdown.

'Reference' is usually mentioned rather perfunctorily, on the grounds that it is really a philosophical issue. You have to remember that linguistics went through a structuralist revolution, whereby meaning was seen as a systemic property, or an inter-relationship, not an isolated relation between word and meaning. Saussure used the analogy of chess, of course. Thus the function of the queen in chess, can only be explained in terms of all the pieces and the rules of chess. A queen on its own is without 'valeur'.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#16  Postby Agrippina » Mar 20, 2014 7:35 pm

I'm not a linguist but I do know something about English.

I can't imagine what "technical" definition he's looking for for those words. As you say "concept" isn't a linguistics word, there's a very clear definition of it in Wikipedia. I didn't look further than that because I'm expecting him to come back with more words he wants us to define for him, for some reason which he hasn't divulged.

I think everyone would be more interested to discuss his definitions if he explained why exactly he wants the complex, linguistics definitions for his words.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#17  Postby jamest » Mar 20, 2014 7:39 pm

I'm not sure why you're giving him a hard time over this. :scratch:
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#18  Postby Agrippina » Mar 20, 2014 7:51 pm

I'm not. I'm merely telling him to look up the definitions, and then discuss them. I can't read his mind, so how am I supposed to know what, other than the standard definition, he's looking for?

It's not a secret. If he genuinely wants to discuss something he's researching, I'm sure everyone is more than happy to discuss any issues he's having. I'm not here to pick fights with people, but I'm also not here to do their work for them. There are more than enough resources on the internet for any information anyone is looking to find. The secret is to at least look for the information, especially when someone has already told you where to look, then bring it for discussion, not just to ask for the work to be done for you. That's how I saw the request, and then when I suggested a starting point, it was just dismissed with this nonsense:

What I want to know is how linguists deal with the controversial cases, and how much consensus or disensus they have in their terminological conventions. This issue is not dealt with by Wikipedia, and asking a linguist about this issue is a logical step to find an answer. For example, it's clear that "my dog Fido" has a concept, a meaning, and a reference (at least, if I really have a dog named Fido). But what happens in other less clear examples? If a sentence talks about an abstraction like "nothingness", do linguists say that the sentence has a reference? If a word is dependent on others in its ordinary usage (e.g., "and", "to", "until", "if"), do linguists say that it has a concept and a meaning by itself, or that it only acquires a concept and a meaning when it's combined with other words? Do linguists agree or disagree (and to which extent) in their answers to these questions? Wikipedia doesn't answer these questions, but linguists might offer some answers: at least, they might say how would they use these words, and how do they think other linguists would use these words.


See he understands what the words "concept," "meaning" and "reference" mean, so what is he looking for, especially given what nunnington has said:

I just realized that seeker asked about concept, meaning and reference - in my experience, 'concept' is rarely discussed in linguistics, as it's becoming more psychological. The big exception is Jerry Fodor who had a theory of 'mentalese', that is, that language encodes thoughts. But these ideas have come in for heavy criticism - see the Wiki entry on Jerry Fodor.

But psycholinguistics probably discusses stuff like concepts.

'Meaning' is a general, even vague term, and is usually split into different elements, such as sense and reference. It also depends on whether you mean word meaning, sentence meaning, utterance meaning, and whole text meaning. The last one is a nightmare really; I know, because my boss specialized in it, and nearly drove us all to a nervous breakdown.

'Reference' is usually mentioned rather perfunctorily, on the grounds that it is really a philosophical issue. You have to remember that linguistics went through a structuralist revolution, whereby meaning was seen as a systemic property, or an inter-relationship, not an isolated relation between word and meaning.


What else is he looking for?

If you look at my posting history, you'll see that I don't deliberately go looking for fights. That's not what I'm doing, I'm trying to understand why, when he already knows what the words mean, is he looking for some hidden so-called "linguistic" interpretation that will make them mean something else.

He's the one giving me a hard time by not explaining himself.

Again, I repeat, I'm not looking for a fight. :roll:
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#19  Postby seeker » Mar 21, 2014 12:34 am

Agrippina wrote:Again, I repeat, I'm not looking for a fight.

It doesn't look like that. Anyway, it's simple: my question was addressed to linguists ("I have doubts about how do linguists define and use these terms"), and you're not a linguist ("I'm not a linguist but I do know something about English"), so my question was not addressed to you. So, please, don't add irrelevant noise to my thread. Thanks.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#20  Postby hackenslash » Mar 21, 2014 1:14 am

I wonder why you would be asking linguists about this?

As for dictating terms of discourse, good luck with that. Let us all know how that works out for you.
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