What Is Mentalist Theory of Meaning In Linguistics

Mentalist Theory of meaning in semantic is very important concept. It has been given by two famous linguists Ogden and Richards. You Must understand the relationship about this theory.

In every language there are words like tree and run and red which seem to have an obvious relation to objects and events and descriptions of things in the world around us. Children learning their native language first learn words in association with observable items and situations and events. This simple fact can give rise to an overly simple idea about what ‘meaning’ is. We are likely to think that a language consists of a large number of words and each of these words has a direct correlation with something outside of language,which is its meaning.

And since, if we communicate with one another through language, it must be that we all have the same ‘idea’ or ‘concept’ associated with each word The best known elaboration of this view was made by Ogden and Richards (1923), who developed a mentalist theory about meaning, an attempt to explain meaning in terms of what is in people’s minds. Their explanation centers on this scheme:

What Is Mentalistic Theory of Meaning In Linguistics

Ogden and Richards called the bond between word and concept an ‘association,’ the bond between concept and object ‘reference,’ and the bond between object and word ‘meaning.’ When we hear or read a word, we often form a mental picture of what the word represents, and so we are apt to equate ‘concept’ with a mental picture.

To be sure, it is easier to form a mental picture for some words—DOOR and DOG, for example—than for others such as ORDINARY or PROBLEM or PRETEND. But the idea of a mental picture is misleading. What mental image do you form for DOOR? A revolving door? A folding door? A sliding door, moving horizontally? An overhead door which moves vertically? A door turning on hinges? Is it in a wall, or on a cabinet, or part of a car? Is your image associated with DOG that of a St Bernard or a Pekingese, a mongrel or an Irish Setter? You can picture all of these in sequence but not simultaneously

Clearly the meaning of door or dog is more than what is included in a single image, and your knowledge of these words is much more than the ability to relate them to single objects. You can use these words successfully in a large number of situations because you have the knowledge that makes this possible.Just as we distinguished between ‘utterance’ and ‘sentence,’ we need to draw a distinction between reference and denotation.

You Must Know The Concept of Reference And Denotation In Mentalistic Theory

Reference is the relation between a language expression such as this door, both doors, the dog, another dog and whatever the expression pertains to in a particular situation of language use, including what a speaker may imagine.

Denotation is the potential of a word like door or dog to enter into such language expressions. Reference is the way speakers and hearers use an expression successfully; denotation is the knowledge they have that makes their use successful.

The trouble with a mentalist theory of meaning is, first, that not all words can be associated with mental images and some words have a range of meaning greater than any single association. The bigger problem with a mentalist theory is that we have no access to other people’s minds. How can we ever know that we all have the same mental images? If semantics is a science, it cannot operate scientifically by starting with things that are not observable and not comparable Furthermore; words are not the only semantic units.

Meanings are expressed by units that may be smaller than words—morphemes (and meanings are expressed in units— sentences—that are larger than words. The sentences the dog bit a man and the man bit a dog, to use a trite example, contain the same words but they don’t express the same meanings.

Furthermore, meaning is more than denotation. People not only talk and write to describe things and events and characteristics; they also express their opinions, favorable and unfavorable. Language furnishes the means for expressing a wide range of attitudes; this aspect of meaning is called connotation. Another aspect is sense relations: the meaning of any expression varies with context, what other expressions it occurs with and what expressions it contrasts with.

by Abdullah Sam
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