How do linguists define and use these terms?

Concept, meaning, reference (and related terms)

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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#21  Postby seeker » Mar 21, 2014 1:32 am

hackenslash wrote:I wonder why you would be asking linguists about this?

Why not? It's a discipline that is doing some empirical research about those topics. I'm interested in empirical research about those topics.

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

What do you mean by "dictating terms of discourse"?
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#22  Postby seeker » Mar 21, 2014 1:40 am

nunnington wrote: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.

Thanks, your answers were helpful. What do you think about the questions that I've written in the following paragraph?
"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?"
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#23  Postby hackenslash » Mar 21, 2014 1:41 am

seeker wrote:Why not? It's a discipline that is doing some empirical research about those topics. I'm interested in empirical research.


Well, the problem is that linguistics is a descriptive discipline, and you seem to be looking for authority. Linguists aren't authoritative on what words mean.

TBH, your entire endeavour is a lost cause, because what really defines a word is usage. If you want rigour, linguistics is the wrong place to look. You'd be better off with the philosophers, as long as you can find some that know their arses from their elbows.

What do you mean by "dictating terms of discourse"?


It's a fairly unambiguous phrase. When you enjoined Aggie not to 'add irrelevant noise to the thread', you were attempting to dictate the terms of discourse. This might work for you elsewhere, but when people try it here, I make it my business to ensure that your terms are not met. The terms of discourse are set by the FUA. Your opinion regarding the contributions of others is worth precisely fuck all. Should Aggie wish to respond to your posts with pictures of turds, that is her right and fuck all to do with you.

Hope that's clear.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#24  Postby seeker » Mar 21, 2014 2:07 am

hackenslash wrote:
seeker wrote:Why not? It's a discipline that is doing some empirical research about those topics. I'm interested in empirical research.

Well, the problem is that linguistics is a descriptive discipline, and you seem to be looking for authority. Linguists aren't authoritative on what words mean.

Well, that's your assumption, and that's not what I've said. All I've said is that I'm interested in knowing the linguists's conventional usages and definitions.

hackenslash wrote:TBH, your entire endeavour is a lost cause, because what really defines a word is usage. If you want rigour, linguistics is the wrong place to look. You'd be better off with the philosophers, as long as you can find some that know their arses from their elbows.

I don't have your a priori trust in philosophers, nor your a priori distrust in linguists.

hackenslash wrote:
seeker wrote:What do you mean by "dictating terms of discourse"?

It's a fairly unambiguous phrase. When you enjoined Aggie not to 'add irrelevant noise to the thread', you were attempting to dictate the terms of discourse. This might work for you elsewhere, but when people try it here, I make it my business to ensure that your terms are not met. The terms of discourse are set by the FUA. Your opinion regarding the contributions of others is worth precisely fuck all. Should Aggie wish to respond to your posts with pictures of turds, that is her right and fuck all to do with you.
Hope that's clear.

Of course, Aggripina can do whatever she wants within the FUA. But so do I. And what I can do within the FUA includes asking whatever I want (even if Aggripina doesn't like my question) and requesting her not adding irrelevant noise to my thread (even if you don't like my request).
Anyway, it's not a matter of "dictating the terms of discourse". The OP determines what is on-topic and off-topic within each thread. This thread is about "how do linguists define and use these terms". The OP is clear about this. If Aggripina's posts don't engage this issue, then they will be off-topic within this thread (even if they are valuable by any other standards).
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#25  Postby Agrippina » Mar 21, 2014 6:38 am

seeker wrote:
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.


Hmm I wonder who is looking for a fight.

1) You're not the boss of Ratskep, so you don't dictate who is and who isn't allowed to post here.
2) It's not "your" thread. It's just a thread that I was interested in reading.
3) I tried to help you because you asked what those words meant, and I gave you places to look for definitions.
4) No thank you, just "go away and don't look for a fight on my thread."

Linguists don't define words. They explain where the words come from, i.e. the etymology (the source, derivation, history and origin of words). So asking a linguist for a definition is not the source you're looking for, unless you want to know where the words you mention originated, in which case, you would find the answers in Wikipedia, which is what I told you to do.

So don't pick a fight with me, learn some goddamned manners and say "thank you!" :roll:
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#26  Postby Agrippina » Mar 21, 2014 6:41 am

seeker wrote:
hackenslash wrote:I wonder why you would be asking linguists about this?

Why not? It's a discipline that is doing some empirical research about those topics. I'm interested in empirical research about those topics.

Don't make me laugh. "Empirical research!" :roll: If you were interested in empiricism, there wouldn't be so many threads where you argue with people about the origin of the universe. :nono:

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

What do you mean by "dictating terms of discourse"?


Telling me that I'm not allowed to talk to you. :nono:
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#27  Postby Agrippina » Mar 21, 2014 6:53 am

seeker wrote:
hackenslash wrote:
seeker wrote:Why not? It's a discipline that is doing some empirical research about those topics. I'm interested in empirical research.

Well, the problem is that linguistics is a descriptive discipline, and you seem to be looking for authority. Linguists aren't authoritative on what words mean.

Well, that's your assumption, and that's not what I've said. All I've said is that I'm interested in knowing the linguists's conventional usages and definitions.

You've already had it explained to you several times that that's not the work of linguists. You need to ask people who use actual bloody dictionaries, and who know how to use them. :roll:

hackenslash wrote:TBH, your entire endeavour is a lost cause, because what really defines a word is usage. If you want rigour, linguistics is the wrong place to look. You'd be better off with the philosophers, as long as you can find some that know their arses from their elbows.

I don't have your a priori trust in philosophers, nor your a priori distrust in linguists.

Good god man, why are you so suspicious of people trying to help you. He's not telling you that he doesn't trust linguists, he's telling you that a linguist can tell you where the word comes from but if you want a philosophical discussion of a word, to ask a philosopher. Jesus! :roll:

hackenslash wrote:
seeker wrote:What do you mean by "dictating terms of discourse"?

It's a fairly unambiguous phrase. When you enjoined Aggie not to 'add irrelevant noise to the thread', you were attempting to dictate the terms of discourse. This might work for you elsewhere, but when people try it here, I make it my business to ensure that your terms are not met. The terms of discourse are set by the FUA. Your opinion regarding the contributions of others is worth precisely fuck all. Should Aggie wish to respond to your posts with pictures of turds, that is her right and fuck all to do with you.
Hope that's clear.

Of course, Aggripina can do whatever she wants within the FUA. But so do I. And what I can do within the FUA includes asking whatever I want (even if Aggripina doesn't like my question) and requesting her not adding irrelevant noise to my thread (even if you don't like my request).


You can ask all you want. Asking doesn't necessarily mean that you'll get what you ask for. If you post on Ratskep, I will read your posts and if I think I can be helpful, I'll help. If you don't want my help, I don't care. There are other people reading these threads and they might appreciate my input. If you don't, not only do I not give a damn, you're also not going to stop me doing whatever the hell I want to do. You're not the boss of Ratskep (or me).

Anyway, it's not a matter of "dictating the terms of discourse". The OP determines what is on-topic and off-topic within each thread. This thread is about "how do linguists define and use these terms". The OP is clear about this. If Aggripina's posts don't engage this issue, then they will be off-topic within this thread (even if they are valuable by any other standards).

No, my replies are not off the topic. They are exactly on topic. You're looking in the wrong place. If you can't understand that, then I can't help you with that. Keep trying to get someone who is a language expert to define something for you, maybe you'll have better luck trying to get a scientist to explain philosophy to you. :roll:

Disclaimer: no offence meant to the linguists reading this thread. I'm in awe of your ability to explain the origins of words. I'm not clever enough to do that. :thumbup: I just don't see the definition of words as falling within the ambit of linguistics. :thumbup:
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#28  Postby hackenslash » Mar 21, 2014 9:29 am

seeker wrote:Well, that's your assumption,


Not an assumption.

and that's not what I've said. All I've said is that I'm interested in knowing the linguists's conventional usages and definitions.


Why? You don't go to a linguist for definitions any more than you go to a plumber for brain surgery. Semantics is a philosophical discipline.

I don't have your a priori trust in philosophers, nor your a priori distrust in linguists.


I have neither trust in philosophers nor distrust in linguists, but semantics is a philosophical discipline, not a linguistic one.

Of course, Aggripina can do whatever she wants within the FUA. But so do I. And what I can do within the FUA includes asking whatever I want (even if Aggripina doesn't like my question) and requesting her not adding irrelevant noise to my thread (even if you don't like my request).


Well here's me not liking your request.

Anyway, it's not a matter of "dictating the terms of discourse".


Bollocks. That's exactly what you were trying to do.

The OP determines what is on-topic and off-topic within each thread.


No it doesn't. Discussion determines what is on or off topic within a thread.

This thread is about "how do linguists define and use these terms". The OP is clear about this. If Aggripina's posts don't engage this issue, then they will be off-topic within this thread (even if they are valuable by any other standards).


Her posts have engaged the issue, by pointing out that it's a malformed question. It isn't a question about linguistics, but semantics. Of course many linguists will deal in semantics, but linguistics isn't a place for definitions, because semantics is a philosophical discipline.

You're braking up entirely the wrong tree.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#29  Postby Agrippina » Mar 21, 2014 9:59 am

:lol: Hack I can't resist: screeeeeeeeeeeeeeech... seeker braking up a tree. :grin:

Ooops. Now that was off-topic. :thumbup:
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#30  Postby Zwaarddijk » Mar 21, 2014 10:01 am

hackenslash wrote:
seeker wrote:Well, that's your assumption,


Not an assumption.

and that's not what I've said. All I've said is that I'm interested in knowing the linguists's conventional usages and definitions.


Why? You don't go to a linguist for definitions any more than you go to a plumber for brain surgery. Semantics is a philosophical discipline.

No, semantics is just as much a discipline in linguistics. Hack, I respect you a lot but sometimes you don't know what you're talking about. Besides, the question how linguists define some thing is relevant if you want to understand what linguists are saying - any scholars will give definitions for various terms; or are you going to tell us to go to philosophers to learn what terms like "derivative" or "gradient" mean?
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#31  Postby Agrippina » Mar 21, 2014 10:03 am

Thank god you arrived. Please explain to seeker what his words mean, so we can move on! :thumbup:
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#32  Postby Zwaarddijk » Mar 21, 2014 10:04 am

Agrippina wrote:Thank god you arrived. Please explain to seeker what his words mean, so we can move on! :thumbup:

The point about his questions being malformed still stands, though, to some extent.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#33  Postby hackenslash » Mar 21, 2014 10:07 am

Zwaarddijk wrote:No, semantics is just as much a discipline in linguistics.


I have no problem with that, but the terms he asking for definitions of here aren't ones I'd go to a linguist to define, not least because the terms themselves are epistemological constructs, thus philosophy.

Besides, the question how linguists define some thing is relevant if you want to understand what linguists are saying - any scholars will give definitions for various terms; or are you going to tell us to go to philosophers to learn what terms like "derivative" or "gradient" mean?


I'll grant you all that and, of course, you wouldn't go to a semanticist to define 'energy-momentum 4-vector', but the point still stands.

Anyhoo, seeker, now a linguist has arrived, perhaps he can help you.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#34  Postby Agrippina » Mar 21, 2014 10:08 am

Zwaarddijk wrote:
Agrippina wrote:Thank god you arrived. Please explain to seeker what his words mean, so we can move on! :thumbup:

The point about his questions being malformed still stands, though, to some extent.


OK. I don't mean to demean linguistics, I hope you understand that. I just don't understand why if he asks for the etymology, he asks for a definition. So please can you help out with the original question, if it makes sense to you that is. At least he did explain further on that he wasn't looking for a definition per se, but more for what you do. :thumbup:


(PS - and off topic - are you OK? Haven't seen you for ages? I don't get your blog updates either, are you still doing that?)[/off topic]
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#35  Postby nunnington » Mar 21, 2014 10:22 am

seeker wrote:
nunnington wrote: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.

Thanks, your answers were helpful. What do you think about the questions that I've written in the following paragraph?
"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?"


You might as well ask how long is a piece of string. I've already said that many linguists would avoid the issue of reference, or would discuss it briefly, as it is seen as a philosophical topic. I've never met anyone in linguistics who would say that 'and' has a concept; the other question about a word in isolation as opposed to in combination, you will probably get different answers, but words in isolation are actually not all that interesting - show me a context. One solution which works quite well, is to study how 'and' is used. 'Meaning is use in context'.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#36  Postby hackenslash » Mar 21, 2014 10:25 am

BTW, nunnington, I just realised how my last post reads. I didn't mean to infer that you weren't a linguist above, as you're clearly a very competent one. :thumbup:
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#37  Postby nunnington » Mar 21, 2014 10:45 am

hackenslash wrote:BTW, nunnington, I just realised how my last post reads. I didn't mean to infer that you weren't a linguist above, as you're clearly a very competent one. :thumbup:


Not a problem; I know that z is well known on this forum for his knowledge of linguistics; I am not.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#38  Postby Agrippina » Mar 21, 2014 10:45 am

nunnington wrote:
seeker wrote:
nunnington wrote: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.

Thanks, your answers were helpful. What do you think about the questions that I've written in the following paragraph?
"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?"


You might as well ask how long is a piece of string. I've already said that many linguists would avoid the issue of reference, or would discuss it briefly, as it is seen as a philosophical topic. I've never met anyone in linguistics who would say that 'and' has a concept; the other question about a word in isolation as opposed to in combination, you will probably get different answers, but words in isolation are actually not all that interesting - show me a context. One solution which works quite well, is to study how 'and' is used. 'Meaning is use in context'.


Which is what I was asking for. Just asking for a technical definition without the context, means nothing.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#39  Postby nunnington » Mar 21, 2014 10:56 am

I'm getting bad flashbacks now, as for a while I worked at UCL on the Survey of English Usage, and one of the things I did was collate some of their references to uses of 'and'. These are all real life textual examples, from both written and spoken contexts, and the total Survey contains a million items (not of 'and' of course). It's kind of interesting, but I certainly never want to think about 'and' ever again. It predated computers, so to begin with the spoken stuff was recorded on reel to reel tape recorders, and then transcribed by hand! Incidentally, there are now published grammars based on the Survey.
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Re: How do linguists define and use these terms?

#40  Postby Agrippina » Mar 21, 2014 11:50 am

nunnington wrote:I'm getting bad flashbacks now, as for a while I worked at UCL on the Survey of English Usage, and one of the things I did was collate some of their references to uses of 'and'. These are all real life textual examples, from both written and spoken contexts, and the total Survey contains a million items (not of 'and' of course). It's kind of interesting, but I certainly never want to think about 'and' ever again. It predated computers, so to begin with the spoken stuff was recorded on reel to reel tape recorders, and then transcribed by hand! Incidentally, there are now published grammars based on the Survey.


When I watch live interviews on TV, the use of "and" to start sentences really triggers my obsessiveness. "a....n....d." Also one of our most popular sports commentators on TV drives me mad with "and..er" at the beginning of almost every sentence. Probably just me and my personal freakishness. :grin:
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