LINGUIST List 11.950

Wed Apr 26 2000

Disc: Literary Semantics

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Dan Moonhawk Alford, Re: 11.942, Disc: Literary Semantics
  2. jose luis guijarro, RE: 11.946, Disc: Literary Semantics

Message 1: Re: 11.942, Disc: Literary Semantics

Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 07:33:48 -0700 (PDT)
From: Dan Moonhawk Alford <>
Subject: Re: 11.942, Disc: Literary Semantics

I have no explanation to venture concerning why both balloons and prices
go up in English if Blackfoot has no metaphor.

warm regards, moonhawk

> From: (Djordje Vidanovic)
> With all due respect to Moonhawk, I must humbly inquire if his idea
> explains away non-perceptual phenomena that we describe in natural
> language every day. What I have in mind is the notorious Lakoff
> example about the balloon that went up and the counter-example about
> prices that went up. In the latter case the event/process described is
> impossible to perceive but is still covered by some kind of natural
> language mechanism. Will Moonhawk venture an explanation of this
> mechanism? Methinks that metaphorical language was used. What sayeth
> Moonhawk?
> Djordje Vidanovic
> University of Nis, Serbia
> Faculty of Philosophy,
> Cirila i Metodija 2
> 18000 Nis
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Message 2: RE: 11.946, Disc: Literary Semantics

Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 10:47:03 +0200
From: jose luis guijarro <>
Subject: RE: 11.946, Disc: Literary Semantics

> On Wed, 26 Apr 2000 00:23:54 +0100
> (John Reighard)
> Subject: Disc: Literary Semantics
> Wrote:
> Apparently I disagree with everyone!
> I have no problem with the term "literary semantics". Semantics is a
> field whose main focus is the study of meaning in language. That some
> people with a primary interest in literature might be interested in
> studying the "meaning of language" in the particular context of literary
> studies seems to me eminently plausible.

I don't know wether you disagree with everyone (that's too GRAND a
disagreement!). But you do certainly disagree with my view on the subject
matter of semantics. To begin with, what kind of semantics are you talking
about? There's a "linguistic semantics" which, according to my world view on
the topic, tries to find out the basic meaning of linguistic decodings in
the so-called modular processors. Some people call this type of semantics,
endocentric semantics. There's then an exocentric type of semantics which
has more to do with the relations of the external world with our mental
representations than with linguistics proper.

Personally, I think it is very difficult to find any interesting result of
research in both of these semantic fields on the Literature topic. I think
Literature is an athropological phenomenon which has to do with human
attitudes (i.e., ways of processing information) and not with the basic
means of signification that our language faculty and our native language
have. Of course, these attitudes make us understand linguistics items in a
different way. For instance, if you say that "John has always been very
intelligent" in a sarcastic tone, almost everybody will inmediately know
that you are implying something less positive about John. Is that a semantic
phenomenon for you? In the same vein, when Julius Caesar wrote his war
reports, he didn't think they were going to become Roman Literature in the
long run. They have, because we have changed our way of processing them, our
attitude? Maybe you still think that this has got something to do with
semantics, although, I assure you I can't see why you should.

> The "meaning of language" in the poetry of e. e. cummings is obviously
> quite different from the "meaning of language" in the sonnets of
> Shakespeare. I heard recently an interesting talk on the poetry of
> Gertrude Stein focussing on what might be called the "non-meaning of
> language".

Well, yes, I have heard things like this all my life. They are
semi-propositional expressions, where the meaning of some terms is left in
the dark so that nobody knows exactly what the propositional meaning is. I,
for one, can make thousands of interpretations on the semi-propositional
term "the non-meaning" of language. Which is fine, mind you! We go along
with semi-propositional hypothesis in almost every respect of our
communicative and thinking life. But, for me at least, Linguistics is a kind
of scientific thinking (and discourse thereof), in which, we have to be as
explicit as we can, and those semi-propositional expressions don't help much
in achieving it. So, I try to avoid them as much as I can.

> Sculpture is also a large field whose focus is (I suppose) the creation
> appreciation of three-dimensional objects. The material out of which such
> objects can be made is surely one of the fundamental dimensions in which
> these things can be seen. An article by John Updike in the latest New
> Review pays particular attention to the different materials used by the
> late medieval sculptor Riemenscheider (alabaster, stone, pearwood...) and
> the effect they have on the final product. Are we not here precisely in
> the domain of "sculptural geology"?

Perhaps. There are always examples of weird human endeavours. However, apart
from this article and a few others you might be able to find, the value of a
Henry Moore sculpture is beyond the sort of material it has been created
with. In studying sculpture, I surely want to know what the differences are
if I try a statue in stone or in clay. But the important thing about my art
is not the material which I use, but the value I want you to perceive in my


Jose Luis Guijarro Morales
Facultad de Filosofia y Letras
Avda. Gomez Ulla, 1
11003 Cadiz (Espa´┐Ża)
Tel. +34 956 015526
Fax. +34 956 015501

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