Definition is trying to explain what something is. Usually it presents a new notion or a new word . Therefore it uses a wording other than the definition itself, quite like a round phrase . The whole definition plus definition can be called glossary.

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Definition: Departments And Views

Definition is a subject of philosophy on the one hand, of word science – on the other, lexicology – on the other. There is often a mix of these views. Terminology must to some degree mix them up due to their medium location.

Definition: Philosophical Point of View

The basis of a philosophical approach to definition can be found at Aristoteles . Modern authors, especially logicians , such as Bertrand Russell and Rudolf Carnap have contributed .

Philosophy is not concerned with the communicative use of a definition, for example to teach the meaning of a word to a language learner or to a child, but to an epistemological use of it, that is, to define it as a means of understanding the world or to define a notion more precisely than is usually done. .

Philosophy therefore studies scientific definitions by which senses are fixed: the task is not to justify an existing sense of a common word, but to give it a clear, indisputable meaning, to link it to a useful, possibly new, notion. Typical examples of such definitions appear in mathematics : it does not appear that a word usually receives such or such meaning. Instead, the meaning is created, which the word will then assume. Such a definition may be wrong because of illogicality: if it contradicts other notions, or makes the vocabulary inconsistent or redundant. But it does not depend on usage: anyone who uses the word that is not in line with the definition is mistaken.

Another philosophical requirement is that a definition describe the essence of the definition, not a secondary characteristic. So, for example, man is defined as a rational being . This is supposed to agree on essence and absence. But above all, it ignores the user’s options. Defining a zebra by its class and life sciences features is certainly appropriate for a scientist, but for the ordinary person something like a horse-like animal with black-and-white stripes is better because the scientific features he does not understand or cannot test. The discussion of essentiality becomes less acute, if one remembers, for which reader with what preconceptions and under what conditions of life one writes a definition.

Definition: Vocabulary Point of View

Word science or lexicology does not claim that words, notions, language present a coherent whole without contradictions. For it definitions reflect the meanings that speakers give to words. These senses can be vague, inconsistent with other words, and even inconsistent from one speaker to another. Such situations are not easily presented, and often dictionaries try to standardize or smooth, and so approach the philosophical point of view.

Definition: Terminoscience Point of View

Terminists face a medium-sized situation: they write about words that are consciously chosen and used by experts. Experts often modify the meanings of factual terms in the development of their theories, in their various schools, and so on. The work is therefore in the field of language planning , and must often compromise between descriptive and prescriptive attitudes.

Definition Art

Types of Definitions

  • A Sample Definition is not a fully linguistic definition, but a situational response to a question. If someone does not know the word cat and asks what is a cat? , one can respond by pointing to a real cat and saying it is a cat .
  • A Characteristic Definition explains by what properties the definition is recognized. A very common definition structure of this type has already been described by an Aristotelian: it mentions a supernotion, and adds features peculiar to the subnotion and either absent or absent from other subnotions. For example, a chair definition can be a furniture (supernosis) for a single person (as opposed to subnotations table, closet …) of one person (as opposed to subnotations a bench, sofa …) . Characteristic definitions are a classic definition, and they are often the most efficient to understand.
  • A List Definition does not introduce features of the notion, but calls the subnotions. For example Nordic: Swedish, Norwegian or Finnish is a list definition. In many cases, listing is not possible because it would take too long, much more listing of all individuals. But a list definition that lets the user generalize, so some exemplary definition , is often good: red: color of blood, tomato … “is easier to use than a characteristic definition with a wavelength of red light.
  • A User-Defined Definition is not really a definition, but results from an editorial difficulty. It appears when you define, for example, bathing by saying that a horse bawls, when it raises the front legs at the same time , more or less mixing the definition style with a typical example. Another, also a rather derogatory wording, is to raise the front feet, talking about a horse (to which jokers respond I don’t raise my feet when talking about horses ). The difficulty is that the substitutability of the definition is not retained (for substitutability see below) if the horse is mentioned.

Defects of Definitions

A definition can miss its purpose if it is wrong. It can be fantastic, be too broad (embracing senses that the word does not have), too narrow (not embracing senses that the word has), and so on. Definition is also a work of language, and from it one usually expects stylistic qualities, such as clarity, concision, to which it may be inconsistent. Finally, there are also some formal flaws, more or less acceptable:

  • A Circular Definition is a definition of a word by itself, directly chat: talk , or through a grammar word chat: action chat (which only announces that it is an action). He who does not already know the root will not understand better. More indirectly, a whole definition can have a circle: drive: use a transport machine , a transport machine: a means of traveling . In this case the reader can learn an unknown word, only if he already knows the other. One can doubt whether circularity is entirely avoidable: to a person who does not know a language a dictionary is only a very large circle of definitions.
  • An Irreplaceable Definition is a definition that cannot replace the definition in sentences. For example, in pen tool to write the definition is substituebla, because you can change it took a pen and ekdesegnis on the paperbloko to her took a tool for writing and ekdesegnis on the paperbloko , preserving the sense. But with the definition any tool to write , substitute is not possible: she took every tool to write … no longer in the first sense. Practically, dictionaries more or less strictly pay attention to substitutability.
  • A Vague Definition is a definition that leaves doubts about the possible use of a word. If this comes from an obscure wording, the user is rightly complaining. But in many cases, the definition must be vague, because the definition itself is vague. For example dance: rhythmic bodily movement usually in the musical field leaves no doubt whether a rhythmic activity is a dance worth mentioning. If the speaker does not give in to the demand for an always clear language, and if he tries in one definition to redress the hesitations and disagreements of speakers, the vagueness is not to be blamed; it reflects that in any language vague words are needed.


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