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[xmca] words meaning in language activity
words ARE words only in languages
language activity is pragmatically situated
these general principles are long-established and well understood -- which
is not to say that there could not be anybody who would want to expound on
"words" and "meaning" without wanting to know about what has been long
understood by people who've investigated such things seriously.
anyway, I recall an incident that might provide an effective (certainly
dramatic) example of meaning (and words) not just being matters of "vocal
This happened in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Probably everyone then old enough
and living in Japan also heard about it; so David Ke might remember from
where he was, and David Ki certainly remembers.
It was the evening of October 31 -- Halloween, the evening before All
Saints Day on the Christian calendar -- when young children in the US
dress up in costumes for "trick or treat" night, and older kids dress up
in costumes for halloween parties.
That evening, a high-school exchange student from Japan was dressed in a
white tuxedo -- a costume based on the John Travolta charater in Saturday
Night Fever. Apparently he got confused about how to find his classmate's
house for the halloween party he was going to.
He started walking up a driveway, presumably to ask directions if this was
not the right house. A women in the house got scared seeing this
white-tuxedo-wearing teenager walking up the driveway. (Later she
explained that she was scared because the boy had darker skin than hers.)
She screamed for her husband. Her husband grabbed his gun (I don't
remember if it was a shotgun or a rifle) and took it out to the garage, at
the end of the driveway. From inside the grarage, the man yelled
"Freeze!." When the boy continued walking, the man shot him dead.
Although he didn't live to testify, we have no reason to think that the
boy did not hear those "vocal sounds." ( and chances are that the boy did
well in science classes, and could use the word "freeze" in other contexts
with no trouble at all).
UD School of Education
NEWARK DE 19716
"those who fail to reread
are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
-- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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