The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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28                     THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
given set of circumstances to act in one way rather than another.
Human behavior is, of course, complex beyond the power of words to describeand words are only signs of the living life. All of us use words, at times, hardly knowing what we mean. In such cases, we use words to formulate and clarify our thoughts. And there are times when, with the best intentions in the world, we say one thing and mean another. When one woman says to another You always did look nice in that suit the listener may think she means Are you still wearing that old rag? But maybe she does mean that the suit is becomingregardless of its "age." We speak, and others listen. Others speak, and we listen. It would be good when we are trying to communicate if we could know just what is going on inside someone else's skin. But we cannot. We can only do the best we can. We try to "see into" a writer or a speaker as deeply as we can. If we can, somehow, "reach" that person, his words take on meanings from his personality-as-a-whole.
Semantic devices are not concerned with words alone. Semantic devices are concerned with the arrangement of words. An idea is an arrangement of words. The personality of an individual is an arrangement of his unique self as derived from his biological and social past. An idea is expressive alwaysof a personality-as-a-whole. Semantic devices will help us to understand an idea (an arrangement of words) as emerging from a personality (an arrangement of a unique self).
The more we know about our possible collaboratorsor opponents!the more efficiently we can use semantic devices.
The most direct route to a more skillful use of semantic techniques is the study of personality. The word "personality" has always been associated, even in popular usage, with