MEANING AND LANGUAGE USE
1. Bloomfield and Behaviorism
The main function of language is as the instrument of communication. Because of that function, many people look to the process of communication for an explanation of meaning in natural languages.
In recent time (1940), two linguists suggested the specification of meaning in the certain situation in which the sentences are uttered. In England, that kind of suggestion is made by Firth, while in America it was made by Bloomfield. But Bloomfield’s account is more considered because it is more detailed and articulated theoretical framework.
In evaluating Bloomfield’s, it is important to create the attitude of scientific theory then prevalent (non-scientific) in our mind. In addition, it is also believed that as a scientist, the most important job is to collect some facts without having any theory before and to expect that the facts collected and sifted carefully would in course of time lead to the correct theory. In science, the most focus thing is objectivity because the emphasis is on collecting the data. So, there is no subjective thing, such as opinion, intuition or others, can influence it. The consequences for abstract theoretical constructs are only tolerated as scientific, if they could be defined in terms of observable events.
Here, Bloomfield suggested to analyze the meaning of linguistic into two terms :
1.1 The important elements of the situation in which the speaker utters it
Bloomfield analyze the situation into three constituent parts:
a. Speaker’s stimulus
b. Utterence (speaker’s respopnse and hearer’s stimulus)
c. Hearer’s response
The practical event A consists no ideas but of the actual concrete elements of the situation. Jill, who seeing an apple felt hungry (=A), stimulated her to respond with an utterence (=B), which in turn acted as a stimulus to the hearer, Jack, whose response is (=C).
The explanation; an apple is an object that seen by Jill as a speaker, then she responds her stimulation by utterance that would be “I am hungry”, the hearer will responds it by taking an apple for Jill because what the hearer understood is that Jill wants that apple. What the speaker wants may be said as “I am hungry, please get me that apple”. This meaning is implicit.
1.2 The distinctive meaning
Bloomfield suggested characterizing the word meaning in terms of the distinctive features of the situation, the meaning of the word being features common to all situations in which the word is uttered. For a given word can be uttered without the object question being present. Examples; “Bring me shirt” could be uttered with no shirt in speech situation: contemporary the speaker might have only a pair of pants on and the stimulus which cause him to utter is not the sight of the shirt, but the cold which causes his skin too goose-pimple.
2. Speech acts semantics
Locutionary act, Illocutionary act, and Perlocutionary act
Not at all theories of meaning in terns of the process of communication are subject to this form of critism. In particular, speech acts semantics is not open to such as a charege of reductionism, since it purports to characterise the nature of language not in terms of the observable elements of the situation but in terms of an abstract concept of speech act.
Austin suggested in uttering a sentence a speaker is generally involved in three different acts. Three-fold distinction that can then be referred to in the following way :
a. A speaker utters sentences with a particular meaning (locutionary)
b. A particular force (illocutionary)
c. To achieve a certain effect on the hearer (perlocutionary)
Locutionary act is the act of uttering a sentence with a certain meaning. In addition a speaker may have intended his utterance to constitute an act of praise, criticism, agreement, etc. It is called as a particular force (Illocutionary act). Finally he may have uttered the sentence he did utter to achieve a certain consequent response from his hearer-for example to frighten or to get him to do something (perlocutionary act).
Suppose for example my child is refusing to lie down and go to sleep and I say to him “I will turn your light off”. Now the locutionary act is the utterance of the sentence”I will turn your light off”. But I may be intending the utterance to be interpreted as a threat, and this is my illocutionary act. Quite separate from either of these is the consequent behavior by my child that I intend to follow from my utterance, namely that he frightened into silence and sleep. The perlocutionary act is the consequent effect on the hearer which the speaker intends should follow from his utterance.
Speaker-presupposition and Assertion
Part and parcel of this recent speech act approach to meaning by linguistics is the use of the term speaker-presupposition. This term is said to contrast with assertion, and meaning of a sentence is said to be divided between the part that the speaker asserts and the part that he presupposes, or assumes, to be true.
Thus we might for example say that an imperative form is appropriate if (a) the hearer is believed to be able to carry out the action that is proposed, (b) it is no obvious that he would do so in the normal course of events, and (c) the speaker wants the hearer to carry out this action.
This distinction has been used for example to explain the difference between sentence pairs such as
1. Bill is addicted to morphine
2. It is morphine that Bill is addicted to
3. Bill is addicted to morphine
4. What bill is addicted to is morphine
5. My sister is at the party and my brother’s in bed with flu
6. My sister is at the party but my brother’s in bed with flu
In the first two pairs of cases, it is said that in second sentence the speaker is presupposing that Bill is addicted to something and asserting that something is morphine; in the final pair the speaker said by using but, the specific contrast in this case being carried by the presuppose that there is some element of contrast between two sentences joined by but, the specific contrast in this case being carried by the presupposition that my brother is not at the party (this standing in the requisite contrast to my sister is at the party).