How Important is Semantics?

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posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 01:23 PM
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How Important is Semantics?




semantics |səˈmantiks|
pluralnoun [ usu. treated as sing. ]

the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. There are a number of branches and subbranches of semantics, including formal semantics, which studies the logical aspects of meaning, such as sense, reference, implication, and logical form, lexical semantics, which studies word meanings and word relations, and conceptual semantics, which studies the cognitive structure of meaning.

• the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text: such quibbling over semantics may seem petty stuff.


Many times I've been told that dealing too much in semantics is a waste of everyone's time. Even the Oxford Dictionary's example of using the word 'semantics' in a sentence points out how overly petty and pedantic being concerned with semantics is.

It is in my opinion that this indignant attitude towards proper semantics is a travesty and a sign of laziness, and that people should be held accountable for what they say and the words they use; but perhaps my attitude towards this attitude is out of line.

I need some opinions:

Questions


How important is semantics in day to day discourse?

Can incorrect usage of semantics lead people astray when they misinterpret what someone is trying to convey?

Is correct semantics even possible?

Perhaps most importantly: Should people be held accountable for what they say and the words they use?


edit on 17-1-2013 by TheSubversiveOne because: (no reason given)




posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 01:33 PM
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reply to post by TheSubversiveOne
 

Semantics are very important, I agree, but they change as you go to different parts of the world. Saying a certain sentence/word in one part of the world will mean something completely opposite/different in another. Trust me I know, lol. I'm a newfie living on the mainland, lol.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 01:33 PM
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reply to post by TheSubversiveOne
 


I was watching The War you don't see and one of the guys being interviewed said "Let's not ague semantics" or something to that effect. In the true sense of the word yes they were. But the pertinence of the questioning was there. Sometimes semantics are of the utmost importance for they could shed light on certain situations. Nothing is trivial.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 01:37 PM
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Semantics is sort of important - the main thing about any debate is communication - if someone understands what you're trying to say, it doesn't matter if you got a word or apostrophe wrong somewhere along the way.

Semantics really is important sometimes, when discussing highly technical issues, the wrong word for something could completely change the meaning of your sentence. For instance, the words "base" and "nucleotide" in biology are relatively interchangeable at a low level when discussing concepts etc, but when discussing the actual practical implications of an experiment, they become completely distinct.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 01:51 PM
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I believe it's a matter of circumstance and context. That said, I believe, semantical arguments will become more and more necessary as the devolution of language continues. It is also of my opinion that humans beings are becoming less intelligent, as a whole, regardless of the knowledge immediately available to us.
edit on 17-1-2013 by slowisfast because: Punctuation



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 01:52 PM
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Originally posted by RedShirt73
reply to post by TheSubversiveOne
 

Semantics are very important, I agree, but they change as you go to different parts of the world. Saying a certain sentence/word in one part of the world will mean something completely opposite/different in another. Trust me I know, lol. I'm a newfie living on the mainland, lol.


That's the whole point though.. People have different meanings for different words. Arguing semantics is important, because no two people speak the same language in the entire world.. You can tell they're not getting it even though the words are there.. The meaning isn't in the word, it's in your understanding of the word. It's a relativity..

Anything that's relative needs reference points. Anything Symbolic is subjectively understood.

I've noticed I don't even talk in the same concepts as most people. It's nearly impossible to explain in words, because using your different concepts the meaning won't be there for you as it is for me, for me to even tell you about it..

Even the Word semantics itself means something different to everybody. I think the concept of semantics is one of the most misunderstood.. It's the most vital thing to argue, and yet it's throne to the side.. Because yea don't check first what language you are speaking that doesn't matter, I could be speaking US english, and you could be speaking chinese, but I'm sure the rules are the same, lets not argue semantics now...

I try and use three angles on hard subjects to convey.. Then you can kind of triangulate the meaning I'm using. My Semantics.



edit on 1/17/2013 by Dustytoad because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 01:55 PM
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reply to post by XLR8R
 

"Let's not ague semantics" seems like a tactic used to skirt around the fact that perhaps one has been wrong about the meaning of something his whole life. It's difficult to admit when one is wrong, and by saying "let's not ague semantics," it seems one wishes to belittle semantics rather than one's own vocabulary and grasp of language. This bothers me for some reason.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 01:59 PM
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reply to post by TheSubversiveOne
 


Had to do it, lol.




posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 02:00 PM
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reply to post by Dustytoad
 


Agreed. Even dictionary definitions vary by dictionary. Maybe before a debate gets under way, semantics should be agreed upon, so that semantic arguments don't take up too much of the discourse. This is already an important aspect of philosophy in general.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 02:01 PM
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reply to post by RedShirt73
 

Arguing with a newfie is a fruitless task.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 02:03 PM
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Originally posted by TheSubversiveOne
reply to post by RedShirt73
 

Arguing with a newfie is a fruitless task.


That's if you can understand us in the first place, lol. It takes awhile for people to actually get the meaning of what we say.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 02:06 PM
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In reality....most people speak with FAR too much bias towards their own semantic bias....

In the world...many people cannot see this bias, so you have to cater to it to some degree, with these people.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 02:12 PM
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Shouldn't it be "How important are semantics"? Semantics for ya



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 02:47 PM
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reply to post by threewisemonkeys
 


Yeah I struggled with that. I was speaking of one thing called semantics. That's more grammar than semantics though.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 02:55 PM
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reply to post by TheSubversiveOne
 


Semantics is extremely important in legal discourse and when establishing complicated concepts that are new and novel. The English language is pretty bad when it comes to clarity. On this forum alone, words are poorly used and completely misused all day long. We all know that.

I've found that debating semantics is used as a disingenuous tactic at times too. And it's pretty obvious when someone is leaning back on that level of distraction, but it still ends up being irritating. Back in the early years of Internet forums (late 90s and into 2005) hack semantics debating was all you ever ran into, and it sucked to no end. I'm glad that it's become as cheap and obvious (to the more experienced posters) and isn't the go-to tactic that it used to be. It still happens, but mostly from noobs and teenagers who are taking their very first babysteps into the world of anonymous public expression. Hell, it's almost cute, when I run into some semantics jockey now days. Almost refreshing.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 03:34 PM
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reply to post by NorEaster
 

Agreed.

Usually one can give someone the benefit of the doubt when it appears that their opponent's use of language is taken seriously. This is probably necessary to get anywhere in a debate. I think, however, that general semantic guidelines should be admitted in the OP wherever confusion is inevitable. The worst is debating with someone who isn't even talking about the same thing.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 03:38 PM
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Originally posted by TheSubversiveOne
reply to post by XLR8R
 

"Let's not ague semantics" seems like a tactic used to skirt around the fact that perhaps one has been wrong about the meaning of something his whole life. It's difficult to admit when one is wrong, and by saying "let's not ague semantics," it seems one wishes to belittle semantics rather than one's own vocabulary and grasp of language. This bothers me for some reason.


"arguing over semantics" and it being pointless is when....

you are discussing a specific topic... and at some point in the discussion, the arguers run into a word that relates to the topic at hand, but both interpret the word to have different meanings or connotations...( both can even be right)..

then instead of arguing or discussing the general and specific points of the topic, your arguments are swayed off topic with discussing personal and official definitions and interpretations of the word and its meanings.

I know you know this, but we always must be aware that there is an underlying physical reality which primally exists... then it is language as a whole, words in general, that are used as an informational construct of symbols to represent this reality in all its detail and glory. The language is not perfect, it is a tautological system we agree upon, but the words dont have precedent over reality, and you must be cautious in the sense that, it is rather difficult for a word to accurately encapsulate a physical fact. There are multiple words for things, and language is complex...

example: wiki.answers.com...

to try and think about your OP... Semantics are very important, as in an understanding of language and its meanings are very important when speaking with a person who can speak that language.

here is an example of semantics i just thought of....

Im trying to explain gravity.... Im talking to you and i say " watch what happens when i lift this rock up and drop it" .... and then you say... "but thats not a rock, its a pebble"..... and then we argue about that for half an hour.... my goal is to explain the physical phenomena of gravity.. and now we are arguing over the man made arbitrary definitions of the words rock and pebble...



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 03:49 PM
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Originally posted by ImaFungi


Im trying to explain gravity.... Im talking to you and i say " watch what happens when i lift this rock up and drop it" .... and then you say... "but thats not a rock, its a pebble"..... and then we argue about that for half an hour.... my goal is to explain the physical phenomena of gravity.. and now we are arguing over the man made arbitrary definitions of the words rock and pebble...


There are fruitful and then there are worthless arguments. It's true. When I run into semantics problems it's usually because my vocabulary is a bit weak, mixed with having Very deep thoughts.. The only way to have thoughts this deep is to not have them in English.. Because of these issues, I find not having the same meanings is a bigger issue than over doing it to obfuscate the true argument...

We can have both though.. Better word meanings, and less useless argument. Changing what is socially acceptable, by the agreement with stars and other means, makes it harder for them to get away with this tactic..



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 08:50 PM
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reply to post by ImaFungi
 


I agree.

Knowing the limitations of language is very important, but, to my own dismay, never really taken seriously.

One such difficulty for me personally is how most people fail to be honest when it comes to concrete and abstract nouns. Concrete nouns point to specific real things, and therefore don't need much expounding upon semantically. But abstract nouns don't signify anything real or specific or are too broad in what they attempt to define.

It's obvious that arguing over the difference between a rock and pebble is unnecessary, because we can hold the object up and come to some sort of agreement on what it is; but if we were to talk about something like happiness, a completely ambiguous word which for some reason implies that there is a something we can call 'happiness,' we will inevitably come to a disagreement, because there isn't anything really there to look at and examine. We can't hold something up and say "here, this is happiness."

When I hear of people claiming how they had a near death experience and viewed something only the dead can see, I always wonder how that is possible when they are still alive? They haven't decomposed, which implies that not all of their bodily functions ever ceased in the first place, and they are still walking around to this day. They didn't at all die, and saying they did is the most obvious contradiction. Death isn't something one comes back from. A heart stopping doesn't mean one is dead, only that the heart is stopped. They should instead tell the truth to themselves and realize they were with their body the whole time. This is an error in semantics, and not realizing honestly what 'death' means.

But this is why logic is important. And sadly I see its usage dying significantly.



posted on Jan, 17 2013 @ 11:30 PM
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