The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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OGDEN AND RICHARDS                          *]l
First, "clown" Then "father and son" And then "painting." And "tights"! Then I knew.
And all the other words that told you how I feltwhat about themf
They didn't point to the picture. They told about you.
Older children play the game too, but in a much more sophisticated way. Pam and Jill, for instance, who are now grammar-conscious, automatically disregard all the adjectives and adverbs. "Interesting," "sad," "successful," "particular," etc., are negative clues. They watch for the nouns that refer to things. And, for them, the referent need not be immediately at hand.
Grownups can, of course, play this game too. "Twenty Questions" is a variation of "Find the Referent!"
There is need to make a conscious effort to find the referent. This is the only way to stabilize the communication process. It is regrettable that most of us use a tremendous amount of words to refer a listener to a referent. We talk too muchand around the point. We don't take pains to hit sharply enough at the referent. Among the semantics-wise, the question What's your referentf has come to be the preferred gag.
Ogden and Richards indicate that it is necessary to find the referent in order to know whether or not a reference is true. And if the reference is true, it refers to a fact. They put it this way:
If a reference "hangs together" in the way the actual referent hangs together, the reference is true and refers to a fact.
Look, again, at the description of the house: