Chris and all
Meaning, my view:
Meaning is assumed to be an issue in linguistics, more specifically a concept, the definition of which is claimed to be the competence of semantics and pragmatics. This claim may not be acceptable for me as I believe
a) meaning is not confined to a language, in other words meaning is not exclusive to any compositional components of a natural language;
b) when it is confined to a natural language, then meaning is associated with at least TWO specific and individual forms listed
a. as a collection of paired patterns
b. split in two “equivalent parts”
c. sorted on the side of the shorter patterns (headwords)
d. in some (usually alphabetic) order (hence the whole called a code)
e. that are not equal (in physical sense, as in a dichotomy and
f. where the unsorted side usually takes the form of a definitions or minimum a list of synonyms . These may be collectively called as the context of the object of the meaning sought;
c) pursuant to b) above it is generally agreed that the verbal text (annotation) associated with an entry listed in a dictionary is also called or attributed to be the meaning or a sense of the entry or headword, despite the fact that such texts may take different forms, one of which is called a definition;
d) a code is used to interpret the behaviour of some object, where the interpreters are supposed to agree in that particular code;
e) similarly the behaviour of an object is affected by the interpretation of some object considered to be a code. And there again you have another layer of context. (The concept of context is going to be discussed later.)
In general, humans assume that everything, not just linguistic symbols in this world, has a meaning, or it makes sense (stands some reason). People tend to define the boundaries of the chunk of reality they become familiar with so that they can understand them as messages, and/or they may able to identify an object (in their mind) by using an external reminder or tag.
Should you experience the contrary, then it may be that your knowledge is insufficient to grasp the meaning of some particular chunk of reality, where such a message is harboured. Normally, you may find the beginning or the opening forms of any such pattern sufficient to remind you the rest of the phrase. Of course, the world tends to become more meaningful as you become more familiar with it both in time and in space. But all that is done within your limited range of human perception whether extended or improved by equipment to support all your senses.
It is also a question of debate what the real or true meaning of something is. It is also very common to say that something has no meaning, or makes no sense – in situations when you do not understand something. But it is also possible that you assume or attribute meaning to objects that in fact do not have any meaning in the sense that they do not relate to you at all. Understanding is therefore a match between your external environment and your internal knowledge or “image” of the former in the course of relating your experience and expectations to your perception and thinking. No contradiction or controversy, nothing to upset you as unbelieveable or impossible, etc. just a match that on itself is a source of pleasure and content. An experience that makes sense, hence rational, plausible and also lovable.
Meaning is a Relation
Meaning, on the other hand, - as an operation and a relation - is in parallel with inference. If meaning is a relation, inference or interpretation is also a relation. It is an issue of reflection where someone has an intent, whether explicit or implicit, and which is seen or inferred by somebody else as a “meaning”.
This is why linguists conclude that meaning is a “relational term”, which means that meaning is thought of as a relation. Consequently, it cannot be discussed on its own, you need to identify at least the two components that need to exist for anything to be related in a relation. The word relation is one of the most basic categories used in a natural language to identify the elements of thinking, and I am going to discuss its components in more details later. For the moment it should be sufficient that since meaning is a relation, it is a verb with at least a subject and an object contained in a clause, which should sound obvious. The next question is whether we create or accept the content of such as clause as true and how are we related as observers or critics to such a statement.
So “a means b” is an _expression_ where a subject has a relation (verb – to mean) and an object called b of that verb called meaning. And the whole sequence is composed of three elements: where a is attributed by an external agent to act and result in an object called b (meaning) of that act and where a is said to be the same or equivalent thing as b due to the relation attributed to meaning, the verb – whether shown, indicated or marked, or not.
Meaning is verb
As I said before: meaning is a relation and relations are indicated by verbs . By specifying the collocations of verbs in terms of parts of speech and then in the form of lists containing alternative elements to be used with verbs you get the first layer of context, the immediate neighbourhood of what we believe to have a meaning. The content of the meaning of that form is usually explained as a kind of definition, which serves nothing but to set the boundaries of the object (form) that has a meaning. Having got a meaning explained, you need to specify the next layer of context, which is seen in the people involved in the communication act or situation. You have someone with something in his mind and his effort to put that in words, and at least another person to try to understand that as a message and to make sense of what he receives with the help of what he has in his mind. Then obviously, the next question
is what a verb means.
Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontologies as social mediators