The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search




148                  THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
the user of signs are discoverable in Morris's incitive use
of language.
C. The incitive use and the prescriptive mode
We use words frequently to get a specific action response. Sometimes we are forthright and explicit. We then use frankly imperative signs such as Come here! Stay there! Do this! Don't do that! Such imperatives are clearly understood, for we have selected our signs for their prescriptive utility.
If the recipient responds actively as we desire, our signs become, for him, prescriptors. He does what we want him to do. Our signs are, therefore, adequate. They have served their purpose.
In giving instructions of any kind, the user of signs is careful to select prescriptors that are definite, precise, and clear. Incitive language has, therefore, its everyday utilitarian function.
But language is seldom "pure." And we rarely find a sharp division between the uses or the modes. I heard a medical man say to a worried patient: "Eric, why don't you go to the Swedish Club and hoist a few. It'll do you good. There's nothing in your reports that says No" You may be sure that Eric, totally unschooled in semantic theory, responded to these signs as prescriptors, appraisors, and designators. Our medical man had woven his signs together carefully to achieve the desired response. . For most of us, life has a broad scope today. We read and we listen. And the signs we entertain are composites of informative, valuative, and incitive language.
It is relatively simple to find the designators. These are the signs that look outward toward objects, events, etc.