The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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158                THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
For Korzybski, the antidote to the natural hazard of imperfect communication is consciousness of abstracting. This, Korzybski says, alerts users to the fact that every word is an abstraction. This alerts users to the fact that language is a closed system which rests, ultimately, on meanings that must be assumed as known by direct experience and which cannot be perfectly described by words. Consciousness of abstracting alerts users, therefore, to the inescapable fact that communication is always approximate, and never complete.
What does Morris say?
The antidotes of Morris are found in the uses and modes of language.
Every sign has a core of meaning, Morris says. Unless this were so, the sign would not signify and would be useless as part of the language system. But, for every user, the fringe meaning is different. This is especially so in the big words that refer to highly complex life situations. What can we do with such words as "civil rights" "security," "labor," "equality," "freedom," "mercy" etc.? How can we find and communicate the core of meaning?
What has been said before is said again in the language of Morris. Where there are designators, and preferably designators that denote, state them. Civil rights concern human beings. What human beings? Where are they? What is happening to them? And what are they doing? The answers to these questions may be put into designative signs. But what about such a sign as "mercy"? What can we do with this valuative term? Is there not an act of mercyactual, possible, or even plausible? Morris says, concretize the values. Give examples of acts of mercy that