Analytic languages and their function. (7)

Salinas17 at Salinas17 at
Tue May 30 04:12:51 UTC 2006

In a message dated 5/29/06 11:50:39 PM, david_tuggy at writes:
<< It could perhaps be defined as "what the speaker and listeners think the 
utterance would mean to other people, apart from the particular context". At 
least I judge that's what most people mean when they say "that 
word(/phrase/etc.) means X". I.e. it is the conventional meaning. >>

Well, there's a big difference between "what an utterance means in itself" 
and "conventional meaning."

Human languages are built on common reference, and common reference is a 
matter of statistical probabilities.  If a child says "mama,"  we feel confident 
he is referring to his mother.  If we discover he is calling his dog, we treat 
that reference as an oddity -- a low probability occurence -- and it does not 
affect our interpretattion of "mama" when other children say the word.  

However, if we look up "mama" in the New Speech Dictionary and see a picture 
of a dog next to it, we know the chances are that the common reference -- 
"conventional meaning" -- has shifted.

Steve Long

More information about the Funknet mailing list