The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

l62                  THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
here is to differentiate between persuasion and information. And this is accomplished by attention to the uses and the modes of language.
Grammar is one means by which the distinction can be made. Designators that denote signify things, etc. Here we find nouns and verbs that are unburdened by the attitude of the user of signs. Appraisors are ferreted out by attention to adjectives, to adverbs, and to appraisive nouns and verbs.
Gullibility occurs, also, when we do not use semantic criteria by which to distinguish between facts and opinions. The convention that is generally accepted is that a statement which is verifiable by impersonal means may be considered a fact, at a date. And anything less than this must be called either a false statement or an opinion.
What, then, are the criteria by which to distinguish between facts, false statements, and opinions?
The criteria are semantic and are to be found in Morris's science of signs. Designators that denote are statements of fact, at a date. They are true. Designators that do not denote are false. Appraisors are always personal to a degree. Since this is so, they belong in the classification of opinion.
I am recalling now a test that I gave to thirty top-ranking executives of an international industrial organization. The purpose of the test was to determine whether or not these men could make the distinction between facts and opinions. The average grade was 35seven correct out of twenty questions. And yet Jill, then ten, made a grade of 95. She apologized for her failure to make 100 by saying she did not know the meaning of the word "prestige" and could not, therefore, answer correctly.