The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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The "clean" bomb became headline news recently when three nuclear scientists, under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission called on the President The news account of the meeting reported that the scientists asked for continuation of nuclear testing for five years. They said they needed that much more time to develop a "clean'* hydrogen bomb; that is, a fission-free explosive ...
These are informative signs if the purpose of Cousins is to provoke an uncomplicated understanding responseif Cousins wants his readers only to take cognizance of the contents of the news account.
Notice the language. Cousins chose designators which signify actual words of the news account. Notice, also, that the account is devoid of adjectives and adverbs. Notice that there is not one imperative. Designators signify objects, etc., impersonally and categorically. Thus grammar is an affiliate in this semantic enterprise. And a useful one.
The test of the adequacy of signs is in the response of the recipient. When the informative terms of the user become designators for the recipient, the signs are adequate. They have, in other words, fulfilled their purpose.
This criterion of adequacy concerns the user of signs. Such a criterion would, however, be risky for the recipient. The information may be erroneousor false. The recipient must inquire further into the nature of his response.
The test of the truth of designative signs must be found in the object signified. When truth is so established, the designators are said to denote ... I am remembering now my visit to the park. I approached a woman and asked Where is the zoo? She answered straight off and without a blink of the eye Right down this pathabout a quarter