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Language and Definitions

1 Language Functions
2 Emotive Language, Neutral Language, and Disputes
3 Disputes and Ambiguity
4 Definitions and Their Uses
5 The Structure of Definitions: Extension and Intension
6 Definition by Genus and Difference
Language Functions

Which of the various functions of language are
exemplified by each of the following passages?
• Check the box on line 6a unless your parent
(or someone else) can claim you as a
dependent on his or her tax return.
• If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a
clanging cymbal.
Emotive Language, Neutral
and Disputes

• clever use of language can be deceptive or

• Neutral
• the careless use of language can lead to
needless misunderstanding and dispute.
Types of Disputes

• Genuine
• Verbal
• apparently verbal but really genuine.
Disagreement in Belief
Disagreement in Attitude
In any definition, the word or symbol being
In any definition, a symbol or group of
symbols that is said to have the same meaning
as the definiendum.
Stipulative definition
A definition in which a new symbol is introduced
to which some meaning is arbitrarily assigned;
as opposed to a lexical definition, a stipulative
definition cannot be correct or incorrect.

Lexical definition

A definition that reports the meaning that the

definiendum already has. A lexical definition can
be true or false.
Precising definition

A definition devised to eliminate ambiguity or

vagueness by delineating a concept more

e.g. 1 horse pwer means 745.7 watts

Theoretical definition

• A definition that encapsulates an

understanding of the theory in which that
term is a key element.

• Example of planet
Persuasive definition

A definition formulated and used to resolve a

dispute by influencing attitudes or stirring
emotions, often relying upon the use of emotive
e.g. From the left we hear socialism defined as
“democracy extended to the economic sphere.”
From the right we hear capitalism defined as
“freedom in the economic sphere.”
The Structure of Definitions:

• The collection of all the objects to which a
term may correctly be applied.
• The attributes shared by all and only the
objects in the class that a given term denotes;
the connotation of the term.

Arrange each of the following groups of terms in order of

increasing intension:
1. Animal, feline, lynx, mammal, vertebrate, wildcat.
2. Alcoholic beverage, beverage, champagne, fine white wine,
white wine,wine.
3. Athlete, ball player, baseball player, fielder, infielder,
4. Cheese, dairy product, Limburger, milk derivative, soft cheese,
strong soft cheese.
5. Integer, number, positive integer, prime number, rational
number, real number.
Ex (Cont.) Divide the following list of terms into
five groups of five terms each, arranged in order
of increasing intension:

Aquatic animal, beast of burden, beverage,

brandy, cognac, domestic animal, filly,
fish,foal, game fish, horse, instrument,
liquid, liquor, musical instrument,
muskellunge, parallelogram, pike, polygon,
quadrilateral, rectangle, square,
Stradivarius, string instrument, violin.
Techniques of Definitions
• Denotative
• Connotative
Denotative definition

A definition that identifies the extension of a term, by (for example)

listing the members of the class of objects to which the term refers. An
extensional definition.

1. Definition by Example
2. Ostensive
3. Quasi-Ostensive
Synonymous Definition
Definition by Genus and Difference
Definition by genus
and difference

A type of connotative definition of a term that

first identifies the larger class (“genus”) of which
the definiendum is a species or subclass, and
then identifies the attribute (“difference”) that
distinguishes the members of that species from
members of all other species in that genus.
Rules for Definition
• Rule1: A definition should state the essential
attributes of the species.
• Rule 2: A definition must not be circular.
• Rule 3: A definition must be neither too broad
nor too narrow.
• Rule 5: A definition should not be negative
when it can be affirmative.
• Rule 4: Ambiguous, obscure, or figurative
language must not be used in a

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