Content Analysis

Part of the Kommunikation und Kybernetik in Einzeldarstellungen book series (COMMUNICATION, volume 2)


A preliminary analysis of the content level of a short text was given by way of illustration in Chap. IV. The content is built up from discrete elements which, in exactly the same way as phonemes and prosodemes, have to be classified into paradigms of invariants. The procedure for establishing invariants is commutation. There is opposition between content invariants in the paradigm, and there is contrast between content units in the chain. Both the number of units and their relations are conventional and arbitrary. There are no a priori valid categories of content, though the particular functioning of the human mind may be supposed to restrict the possibilities to some extent, just as the acoustic and articulatory alternatives and variables do so on the expression level. Nor are there any sub-levels of analysis of the kind found in traditional grammar (no division into morphology, syntax, word-formation, semantics, etc.). The validity of such concepts has to be proved a posteriori for any language separately. Nothing makes their existence a necessity. All grouping of content units into functional classes or semantic fields consequently has to be looked upon as the result of an analysis of a given language system and must not a priori be supposed to exist in the same or a similar form in a language which has not yet been structurally described.


Content Structure Content Level Content Substance Chapter VIII Linguistic Structure 
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Bibliographical Notes

  1. General problems of content and meaning have been treated e.g. by Gustav Stern, “Meaning and Change of Meaning”, 1931;Google Scholar
  2. by C. K. Ogden and I.A. Richards, “The Meaning of Meaning”, 1923 and following ed.;Google Scholar
  3. Paul Diderichsen, “Semantiske problemer i logik og lingvistik”, 1953;Google Scholar
  4. by Charles Morris, “Foundations of the Theory of Signs”, 1938, and “Signs, Language and Behavior”, 1946;Google Scholar
  5. by Ernst Cassirer, “Philosophie der symbolischen Formen” I—III, 1923 – 29;Google Scholar
  6. by Stephen Ullman, “Principles of Semantics”, 2nd ed., 1957, and “Semantics”, 1962;Google Scholar
  7. by Pierre Guiraud, “La sémantique”, 1955;Google Scholar
  8. by Hans Regnell, “Symbolization and Fictional Reference”, 1949, and “Semantik” fa more general survey, written in Swedish), 1958. A short survey is also to be found in my book “New Trends”, pp. 123 – 139.Google Scholar
  9. A philosophical analysis of meaning was given by N. E. Christensen, “On the Nature of Meaning”, 1961. — For the more special problem of content analysis and content structure, see e. g. Hjelmslev, report to the VIIIth International Congress of Linguists, “Proceedings”, pp.636 – 654 (answer to the question “Dans quelle mesure les significations des mots peuvent-elles être considérées comme formant une structure?”, and his more popular article in Danish “Sprogets Indholdsform som Samfundsfaktor” /Det danske Magasin II, No. 1, pp. 1 – 7/, translated into English, “The Content Form of Language as a Social Factor”, in “Essais linguistiques” /Travaux du Cercle linguistique de Copenhague XII, 1959, pp.89–95/;Google Scholar
  10. further Jens Holt, “Rationel Semantik (Pleremik)”, 1946, and “Pleremics” /Proceedings of the University of Durham Philosophical Society, Vol.1, 1959, pp-49–53/;Google Scholar
  11. and Rulon Wells, “Meaning and Use” /Linguistics Today, 1954, pp. 115–130; also Word X, 1954/. Examples of different content structures (morphological as well as semantic) have been given in my article “Opposition et identité”, quoted in the Introduction. For the Guarani system of pronouns, see e.g. Juan de Bianchetti, “Gramâtica guarani”, 1944. — The distinction between denotative and connotative meaning has been worked out by several American linguists and is characteristic of the semantic approach of the members of the so-called American semantic school.Google Scholar
  12. We refer to S. J. Hayakawa, “Language in Thought and Reality”, 1941;Google Scholar
  13. to Joseph Greenberg, “Essays in Linguistics”, 1957; and to Charles Fries, in “Language” 1945. Important for the theory of content analysis is also B. Lee Whorf’s works (e.g. “Language, Thought, and Reality”, selected writings, publ. by John B. Carroll, 1956).Google Scholar
  14. The semantic field theory has been worked out by Jost Trier, “Der deutsche Wortschatz im Sinnbezirk des Verstandes” I, 1831;Google Scholar
  15. by Walther von Wartburg, “Begriffssystem als Grundlage für die Lexikographie”, 1952. Cf. hereto also B. Malinowski (e.g. “Culture”, in “Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences” IV, 1935), who stresses the role of “the context of cultural reality”, “the context of situation”, and “the context of speech”;Google Scholar
  16. and H. F. Müller, “Phénomènes sociaux et linguistiques” /Word I, 1945, pp. 121 – 131/.Google Scholar
  17. Important contributions to the field problems have been given by Els Oksaars, “Semantische Studien im Sinnbereich der Schnelligkeit” /Stockholmer Germanistische Forschungen, herausgeg. von G. Korlén, II, 1958/;Google Scholar
  18. and Suzanne Öhman, “Wortinhalt und Weltbild”, 1951. Cf. also the works of Weisgerber, Glinz, etc. quoted in the Introduction and in Chap. I. — The author gave a short popular description of a Finnish girl’s language learning in “Nordisk Tidskrift” XXI, 1945, pp. 170–181.Google Scholar
  19. Interference of content structure was treated by U. Weinreich, “Languages in Contact”, 1953. — Some of Humboldt’s works were quoted in the Introduction and above, Chap. I. Hjelmslev’s idea about the “iron curtain” was expressed in the article “Sprogets Indholdsform”, quoted above. Cf. as to the final remarks in this chapter e.g. Cassirer’s article in “Word” I, 1945, pp.99–120 (“Structuralism in Modern Linguistics”). Fundamental problems within the field of “sociological linguistics” have been treated by Alf Sommerfelt in a series of articles (recently re-printed in “Diachronic and Synchronic Aspects of Language”, 1962).Google Scholar

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin · Heidelberg 1967

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ArtsUniversity of LundSweden

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