chapter  4
3 Pages

The Meaning of Meaning 1924

WithJohn Dewey

Messrs Ogden and Richards, with the authors of two supplementary essays, Dr Malinowski and Dr Crookshank, have written a significant book, and one with lacks little of being of first-class importance. The great defect in common practice and in traditional theories consists in an over-simplification in virtue of which words are taken to refer to objects directly, or to have an intrinsic meaning, instead of through the intermediary of the thoughts, purposes, and emotions of the communicator and hearer. Dr Malinowski takes the instance of words uttered by natives of New Guinea and shows how utterly incomprehensible they are until one knows first the immediate context in which they were uttered and then the underlying customs involved in the situation. The two topics are organically connected with each other, and yet it is possible that if they had been separately treated, the audience of philosophers, and of grammarians, philologists, and literary students.