The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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108                  THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
A great many of our separate wrords stand for relationships between people and things. The word "communication" is, of course, such a term. "Conversation" is another. People who talk without listening do not rightly understand this word.25 Con is a prefix that means "together" "with." (It would seem that many of us confuse this prefix with the abbreviation of the Latin, contra, which means, of course, "against"!) "Interaction" is a word that stands for reciprocal action. But in the literature of psychology and communication, we find, more and more often, the use of the word "transaction" to replace "interaction."
The word "transaction" is worth pausing over because of its importance in field theory of communication. Everyone is familiar with the use of this term in the context of business, but it found its way into the literature of psychology mainly through a work of John Dewey and Arthur F. Bentley entitled Knowing and the Known (1949). Trans (from the Latin) means "across" "over" (perhaps, originally, present participle of a verb meaning "to cross"). The word "transaction" is used in recent literature to designate a "crossing-over" of the relevant aspects of a situation-as-a-whole. Change in any one aspect of the situation-as-a-whole causes change in all other aspects. In knowing, for example, there is always (and inseparably) the known; in perception, someone perceiving and something perceived. So, also, with the word "stimulus." Psychologists are loath, today, to use the word "stimulus" as if it were an isolated phenomenon, apart from response. And both scientists and artists are reluctant to use the word "observer" apart from what is observed. Even in the field of ethics, transactional psychology has its usefulness. The theologian Max
25 See Section 47 below, Field Theory Applied to the Speaking-Listening Transaction.