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Meaning and Reality

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Abstract

When I ask students to define ‘language’, they very often have the same three ingredients in their definitions. These are ‘communication’, ‘ideas’ and ‘sounds'. They have thus picked out the medium (speech) in which much of our language emerges, and what is often considered to be the main function of speech: the communication of ideas. Notice that these two latter notions often go hand-in-hand, although they can exist independently. Thus we can communicate things other than ideas, including emotions. We can likewise encode ideas in language without necessarily communicating them. Talking to oneself might be deemed odd behaviour if it is witnessed, but it is one way we have of working out our ideas - for ourselves as much as for communication to others.

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© Lesley Jeffries 1998

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