The Meaning of Meaning

The Meaning of Meaning

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Although the original text was published in 1923 it has been used as a textbook in many fields including linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

, cognitive science
Cognitive science
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

 and most recently semantics
Semantics
Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

. The book has been in print continuously since 1923. The most recent edition is the critical edition prepared by W. Terrence Gordon as volume 3 of the 5-volume set C. K. Ogden & Linguistics (London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1995). For full publication history, including serialized publication in The Cambridge Magazine prior to the first edition of the book, consult W. Terrence Gordon, C. K. Ogden: a bio-bibliographical study (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1990) or contact the author.

Richards sets forth a contextual theory of Signs: that Words and Things are connected “through their occurrence together with things, their linkage with them in a ‘context’ that Symbols come to play that important part in our life [even] the source of all our power over the external world” (47). In this context system, Richards develops a tri-part semiotics—symbol, thought and referent with three relations between then (thought to symbol=correct, thought-referent=adequate, symbol-reference=true) (11). Symbols are “those signs which men use to communicate one with another and as instruments of thought, occupy a peculiar place” (23). “All discursive symbolization involves […] weaving together of contexts into higher contexts” (220). So for a word to be understood “requires that it form a context with further experiences” (210).

The book would later influence A.J. Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic, an introduction to Logical Positivism
Logical positivism
Logical positivism is a philosophy that combines empiricism—the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge—with a version of rationalism incorporating mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs and deductions of epistemology.It may be considered as a type of analytic...

, and both the Richards
I. A. Richards
Ivor Armstrong Richards was an influential English literary critic and rhetorician....

–Ogden book and the Ayer book would, in turn, influence Alec King and Martin Ketley in the writing of their book The Control of Language, which appeared in 1939. This book would eventually lead C.S. Lewis to write the twentieth century's most powerful defense of natural law and objective values, The Abolition of Man
The Abolition of Man
The Abolition of Man is a 1943 book by C. S. Lewis. It is subtitled "Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools," and uses that as a starting point for a defense of objective value and natural law, and a warning of the consequences of...

, which would be published in 1943.

See also

  • Gostak
    Gostak
    Gostak is a meaningless noun that is used in the phrase "the gostak distims the doshes", an example of how it is possible to derive meaning from the syntax of a sentence even if the referents of the terms are entirely unknown. This can be seen in the following dialogue:In Amazing Stories, Dr...

  • Embodied cognition
    Embodied cognition
    Philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists and artificial intelligence researchers who study embodied cognition and the embodied mind believe that the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body. They argue that all aspects of cognition, such as ideas,...

  • Linguistics
    Linguistics
    Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

  • Psycholinguistics
    Psycholinguistics
    Psycholinguistics or psychology of language is the study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use, comprehend and produce language. Initial forays into psycholinguistics were largely philosophical ventures, due mainly to a lack of cohesive data on how the...

  • Cognitive science
    Cognitive science
    Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

  • Semantics
    Semantics
    Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

  • General semantics
    General Semantics
    General semantics is a program begun in the 1920's that seeks to regulate the evaluative operations performed in the human brain. After partial program launches under the trial names "human engineering" and "humanology," Polish-American originator Alfred Korzybski fully launched the program as...

  • Pragmatics
    Pragmatics
    Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature, talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. It studies how the...

  • Semiotics
    Semiotics
    Semiotics, also called semiotic studies or semiology, is the study of signs and sign processes , indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication...

  • Semiotic triangle
  • Charles Sanders Peirce