The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS                  2"]
bodily needs. The purpose may be on the bread-and-butter level of practical wants. The purpose may be on the level of social drives for approval, for companionship, for friendship, for love. The purpose may be on the level of cultural and moral ideals. The purpose may beand, indeed, usually isa combination of any or all of these. But it is when we strive to fulfill an anticipated goalon the conscious levelthat our behavior is at its most intelligent.
In the conscious striving toward foreseen goals, semantic devices will help us in three ways:
(1)  To avoid the misuses of language
(2)  To entertain2 obstacles with understanding and efficiency
(3)  To make the best use of words toward the accomplishment of goals
7. But words and semantic devices are not enough
The word "communication" implies that at least two persons are involved. At its simplest, there is a writer and a reader; there is a speaker and a listener. The words that are used are only signs of thoughts and feelings and actions. It is not enough to understand signs. I understand the sign "attitude," for instance. I can define it. An attitude, I might say, is a readiness to act in one way rather than another. This is easy. I sound as if I "know" something. But this is only a definitionand outside the context of a life situation. It is essential, also, for me to understand (in so far as I can) the flesh-and-blood readiness of a human being in a
2 The word "entertain" is important here because an obstacle provides information that becomes operative in a future activity. In other words, in order to overcome an obstacle, it is necessary to use that obstacle itselfl What we do with the information that the obstacle provides depends, of course, upon the whole context. (This will be explained in detail in the discussion of feedback in Part Five below.)