Words, The Magic Kingdom
Words, The Magic Kingdom
When Alice faces the extraordinary Wonderland notions of saying what you mean and meaning what you say, she confronts language's great potential and disappointment. Words should, but do not always, mean what they say; and we who use them do not always produce what we mean. If only we could point to a direct correspondence between each word and only one exact meaning! Reading would simplify in a flash. Ah, but what we might gain in exactness and dazzling clarity, surely we would lose in flexibility, nuance, suggestiveness, and contextual richness. It's good that words have such a wide range of meanings and uses; as such they enrich our capabilities as earths highest life forms and its most competent communicators. Knowing the possibilities of language, understanding the many qualities of words and how our language depends on them, can enhance your child's attempts to determine meaning from print. In the long climb up the mountain to word mastery, a major feature of language that you can help your youngster understand is that words often mean more than they say. Certainly, words have denotative meanings. That is, words have exact definitions that you could check easily in a dictionary. A jeep is a heavy-duty, four-wheeled vehicle. A communist is someone who believes in a social and political system characterized by common ownership and labor organized for the common good. A frigate is a high-speed, medium-sized war vessel of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Yet each of these words has connotative meanings as well. What a word connotes is what it suggests or implies beyond its actual meaning—including the associations and feelings aroused by the word. A jeep is more than a motor vehicle with four-wheel drive; its connection with the military and rugged outdoor life suggests certain associations—rough riding, speed, even danger perhaps. Your son or daughter might like to ride to school in a jeep just for the fun of it, but you'd have 'been puzzled (to say nothing of your parents!) if your date for the senior prom honked the jeep horn outside your front door when he arrived to pick you up.
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