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Using Natural Language


Natural language has its own life, so it helps to distinguish:

Formal name = the definitive taxonomic label or THEE-name which is chosen to be meaningful i.e. evocative of the entity referred to.
Alternate name = alternative evocative name that might be judged more satisfactory as the formal name at certain times or places.
= name which is commonly used but is not an alternate and may be better assigned elsewhere in the Taxonomy.
Informal name
= term chosen for an entity by individuals or groups irrespective of systematic criteria like consistency, coherence or wider concordance.

ClosedSee an Example

There are three Axioms that enable effective and valid naming using natural language

Axiom 1: Function is Key

The entities in human endeavour are recognized by the function they perform as determined by the person responsible.

All aspects of personal and social functioning require clarity as to their specific and unique function i.e. entity-names have functional definitions. Function is a form of purpose. As a result, every entity is a psychosocial tool: it has an intrinsic power to make something happen.

THEE is therefore about designing and pursuing purposes. It is not primarily an explanatory device. If two things, utterly different in physical or social form, have an identical psychosocial function, then they are instances of the same entity/category.

ClosedCorollary to Axiom 1: THEE Names are Verbs.

Axiom 2: Meaning & Precision

The elements of human endeavour need to be given:

(i) distinctive and meaningful labels if they are to be used effectively by people, &
(ii) unique identifiers if they are to be studied by independent investigators.

Note: In the Taxonomy, «names» are not identical to «concepts». Names are used for communication-PH5L5, while concepts are used for inquiry-PH2L2. In practice, the same word may suit both purposes.

ClosedCorollary to Axiom 2: The naming process has 2 stages: psychological and social.

Stage 1: A precise, lucid, discriminating account of relevant entities—which may be led by single individuals. Yet many can and should contribute to improve and refine formulations.

Stage 2: The widespread voluntary acceptance of suitable labels for each entity—which is a social process for communities or societies.

Axiom 3: Naming is Psychosocial

Entities (elements) within human endeavour exist in two forms: meaningfully in the minds of individuals («psycho-») and also in an expressible and shareable fashion within a social or inter-personal situation («-social»). That gives us the term: «psychosocial».

Naming is a Natural Responsibility

"Is this really a «trigger» I see before me?" the responsible person asks—knowing full well that deep consequences both for themselves and for their project may hang on that judgement.

Recognizing entities is not always easy. However, the process of naming categories and using categories and names is a normal part of everyday life. It happens in a semi-automatic, common-sense, practical and unsophisticated way.

The challenge of systematic naming is perhaps better grasped as seeing what is there rather than pre-defining it. That entails appreciating what it means and valuing its uniqueness and relationships.

Originally posted: August 2009; last updated 15-Jan-2013.

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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