The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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36                    THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
Here is advice that calls, again, for a social aspect of language. Ideas are dependent upon language, for when we think, we use words. Words are put together according to established rules in order to make a language. These rules may be summed up in the word "grammar." One of the greatest functions of grammar lies in the fact that it permits the formulation of new ideas by the manipulation of words within the established rules of a language.
We are compelled to manipulate words (and hence, ideas) whenever we are faced with a problem. Before a pressing problem, we exercise a kind of inventiveness that enables us to meet that problem by somehow infusing the "old" with the "new." We do this by using our past experience in "new" waysin relation to the present need. We do this, frequently, by giving "new" values to our available resources in connection with something in the environment. Perhaps we do this by introducing new relations, different relations between known factors. Columbus knew that the Indies were to the east of Spain, and Columbus believed that the world was round. He sailed west in the hope that he would reach the Spice Islands .. . Perhaps we bring to light different aspects of things we have been accustomed to "seeing" in habitual ways. Most of us look with unseeing eyes on the resources at our command until we are faced with a problem. Those who are imaginative can then discover, in their available resources, the means by which to adapt favorably to a present difficulty. Before Braille, reading had been associated always with sight. But the blind have no sight. Louis Braille set up a new relationship between touch and the reading of words ... It is this kind of re-vision, this kind of ingenuity, this kind of luminosity that is evidenced in new and happy