C-8. Tertiary reads and tells

Primary reads and tells could make learning the natural language (secondary reads and tells: aka two of the 3 R’s) of one’s community more productive, and perhaps more appreciated. Words do, after all, do good work in making a point AT (a tell) under many circumstances where, for example, gesturing or other nonverbal acts will not work or work well. They can help focus attention. In this sense, as signification, they function pretty well – although problems arise when the same word can signify (aka denote) more than one focus of attention.

Severe difficulties arise, and not just for words, when a second communicative function is to be served: that of representing (by and in act and content [points OF, ABOUT and FOR]) consequentiality (aka significance).The identification or location of the focus of attention may well be a problem. But, in addition, there is the matter of why the focus of attention deserves attention. With these added functional needs, words are overburdened and languages must meet the challenge, in part or in whole – in part if circumstantial conditions, such as common experience or situational familiarity, can provide informative context.

Tertiary reads and tells work on the challenges of points ABOUT. Points ABOUT may sometimes be used to indirectly make a point AT, as when a series of adjectives locates an object that is not susceptible to gesture or a single word (because the word will not be recognized) (See C.14). But the principal use of points ABOUT is to convey the consequentiality of that which is the focus of attention.

Roughly this is what we say about what we are talking about. This tertiary realm is rife with difficulty – arithmetic, the most familiar of tertiary tells, notwithstanding. It is not at all uncommon for us to encounter something said that does not reveal to us what is being talked about. (Hence the precept to “Show, then tell.”) And as cognition produces further observations our troubles multiply, as, for instance, when points ABOUT are made about points ABOUT. And then more layers of them, such that the remove of a point ABOUT from what is being talked about can be remote indeed – worse than the General Semanticists’ conceptual “ladder of abstraction,” which has the virtue of logical inclusion. Such, for example, characterizes the use of concepts in scholarly literature. That which is common among intellectuals is the dismay of the untutored. The problem of conceptual definition or explication is illustrative: Encountering a conceptual term in the literature is to open the door to exploratory adventure – if one is game. Otherwise we, like Alice, must accept a dictate, such as an “operational definition.”

Points ABOUT re points ABOUT: Easier said than read. Reading becomes an interpretation problem. But underlying all of this is the lack of a language better suited to making points ABOUT employing the relatings, relations and elements that cognition, with communication’s help, uses to produce such ideational observations (X).

(Word molecules sometimes substitute for syntactically developed language. However, experience suggests that terms like “public opinion” imply far more than the simple modification of “opinion” suggested by syntactic rule. Is public opinion just a kind of opinion? Of course not. The difficulty lies in the extensive consequentiality involved and invoked (the whole panorama of consequentiality that is behavior!) when the two terms are combined. And a simple combination of the two terms, such as the vote represents, sets aside a rich history of behavioral need, development and practice [V].).

In a very fundamental sense, behind (sic) every word or combination of words, as they exist in consequence, and as they are of consequence in use, lies the Nature of things as context – for expression and for interpretation. This is some of what tertiary reads and tells are about – as needs and as partially fulfilled. The realm of tertiary reads and tells is very much underdeveloped. It is where the notion of “living language” could be most applicable. How are we to better act in accord with the Nature of things if we do not develop linguistic tools and procedures that represent its principles (III)?

We adopt secondary reads and tells – i.e., natural languages. With tertiary reads and tells we also adapt the language of the community to better make our point. Poetry offers familiar examples of expression, of rhyme (e.g.,”… more clouds of grey than any Russian play”) and rhythm (e.g., “The sun that bleak December day…”). English composition comprises more such innovations. Yet college courses in composition have been dumped, even though their companion tertiary reading courses (e.g., in appreciation, in interpretation, in criticism) remain – criticism even being raised to departmental status in some academic institutions.

(Can one effectively handle tertiary reads without preparation in tertiary tells? And without regard to functional context, to the production and consumption of these observations, all the way back to the Nature of things, in which both operate?)

An appreciation of this tertiary need could, like added experience with primary reads and tells, help make learning natural language a more productive experience. Tertiary reads and tells can increase those benefits. by showing what one’s natural language tries, but often fails, to add to that primary R&T capability, thereby addressing the need for a more complete and accurate representational repertoire.

Which is to say, there is a need for more new language, and a new kind of, language. (See Language questions.) Let’s call it the Natural Language, a “second language” for everyone, as distinguished from the second language one might opt to adopt from the hundreds of natural languages (A better tertiary language?).

(c) 2010 R. F. Carter