Definitions and Exchange
Naming and its more complicated form, definition,
constitute special moments of language where words themselves are given
to satisfy the listener's meta linguistic needs (needs
regarding language itself) of the listeners. By telling others the names
of things, or giving definitions of words, we are giving them
the means of production of linguistic co-munication. This situation
is different from speech proper, because naming and definition
are at least somewhat de-contextualized, and their internal
processes are of a special kind. We step outside the flow of speech to a
meta level, to provide the listener with something she does not
already have, a 'new' term which satisfies some constant
general communicative need.1
The need satisfied by the flow of speech, instead, is a need
for a present and contingent relation to something(s), satisfied
when the speaker gives the listener a verbal product, combining
words (each of which, taken alone, would provide a constant
relation) into sentences. In speech, the listener could, in principle,
make the speaker's sentences herself, but has not (in that
instance) recognized the need to make them. In the case of naming
or definition, the listener needs, because she does not yet have
and cannot use, the appropriate words. Her need is like a
material need for the means of productionin this case it is a need for
the means of production of verbal gifts.
In the processes of naming and definition, the
speaker performs a service for the listener, understanding what she
needs to know and providing her with a word in a way that is
fashioned so that she can learn it. If she is talking to a child or to
someone who speaks a foreign language, she may say the word at the
same time that the 'thing' is present as an experiential given. She
may also point at it, pick it up, hold it out towards the other
person, etc. However, if she thinks the listener already has
some knowledge of the vocabulary of that language, the speaker
can fashion a defining phrase2 using terms she imagines the
listener already knows.
In order to do this, she has to put herself in the place of
the other person, thinking of her knowledge, 'mind
reading' about the other person's vocabulary and life experience. The
definition requires other-orientation on the part of the speaker. Her guess
is informed by her having heard the words others used when
they were speaking and she was listening. Even when she is
defining something for the general public, the speaker or writer has to
use terms she thinks the others already know. If a written definition
is not clear, the reader has to supply the further
linguistic knowledge from some other source--for instance a
dictionary. However, even those seemingly impersonal dictionary
definitions require that their definers use terms that others will
understand. Definitions do not stand on their own, as
philosophers (influenced by equations and exchange) seem to think. They
are gifts of words from one person to another or to many others.
The definiens is a phrase which is the part of the
definition which functions as a provisional substitute gift for the
thing defined, allowing the thing's general social relation to its name
to be brought forward. The name is the constant social
gift-word, which satisfies the general communicative need regarding
that kind of thing in the society at large. The speaker provides
individual provisional gift, substitutes it for the given thing
and for the social gift-word and makes it available to the
listener. 'Furry friendly animal like Aunt Mary's pet' and 'domestic
feline' are both provisional gifts that might be given to listeners
to define the word 'cat.' Their selection, or the selection of
other variations, depends upon the listener's vocabulary and
experience (and her communicative need), as interpreted by the
speaker. The definiendum is provided as the constant social
communicative substitute gift (the name) for that kind of thing and for
any number of other definiens regarding that kind of thing. (See
Figure 3. Gifts taking the place of gifts in the definition.
The implication is: What the definiens has done regarding the thing, the definiendum can do--and more. In our examples,
'furry friendly animal like Aunt Mary's pet' picks out a
'sample' cat, while 'domestic feline' locates the animal in a taxonomy,
which requires a complex interrelated system of definiens and definienda to distinguish among similar categories. 'Cat,' the definiendum, is more general than any definiens (any defining phrase), and it takes the place of all possible defining phrases as the name of that
kind of thing for the speakers of that language.
By providing a name through the process of substituting
the definiendum for the definiens, the speaker is also passing on
the gift, a word she has received from others. This free process
of giftgiving, receiving, and passing it on creates
human subjectivities in relation to language, to each other and to
an immense variety of qualitatively different things, events
and ideas. In this linguistically mediated relation, we humans
find ourselves to be a self-constituting species, able to bond with
one another in almost as many ways as there are experiences. And
we use gift processes and verbal gifts to bond with each other, also
at a newly-created level of organization of experiences--the level
of shareable topics which are linguistically given.
The definition can be seen as a 'package'
containing several gifts at different levels. By creating a definiens, arranging terms the listener already has, the speaker performs
a service for the listener. She relates something in the world
and the definiens to the definiendum, providing the listener with
the use of a new word. The 'things,' for example
cats, are made to give way for the moment as co-municative gifts, because
now indeed there is a substitute gift phrase which is being given
in their stead--the definiens, for example, 'domestic
felines.' Then the combination of words, the phrase which
constitutes the definiens, 'domestic felines,' is also made to give up
its equivalent position in favor of the definiendum, 'cat,' which takes over. Both the experiential givens, 'cat,' and
the definiens, 'domestic felines,' give way to the definiendum, 'cat,' as the verbal gift by means of which co-munication
happens with regard to that kind of thing, for people in
The word 'cat' is used by people more often to talk about
cats, and is therefore more general than the definiens, 'domestic feline,' or 'an animal like Aunt Mary's pet,' or 'a furry friendly
animal with a long tail.' It is used by more people, more often, than
are any of these definiens. However, they could be used if
a contingent communicative need arose for talking about
those animals in that way, at that level of specificity. 'Cat' is
more constant and more general than 'a furry friendly animal with
a long tail.' We give the name 'name' to 'cat,' not to phrases such
as 'a furry friendly animal,' etc.
All these gifts are tied together by the meta
linguistic communicative need of the listener and the
need-satisfying service of the speaker. She does not keep her knowledge of
the lexicon to herself (though some elites and in-groups do this),
but gives it freely to the listener, taking it upon herself to create
and provide a definiens the listener can understand.
In spite of its being a package of gifts, the definition does
not function internally according to the giver-gift-receiver process
the way we have been saying a transitive sentence does. Instead,
it functions by an internal and an external substitution. Both
a nonverbal given and a phrase give way to a general word,
the name which takes their place as the constant
co-municative need-satisfying substitute gift.
Let me just mention that contained in the definition,
the verb 'to be'3 is the substitute for the acts of substitution which
are the definiens and the definiendum, which also both give way to it, implying that these acts are the same because, as acts, they
are substituted by the same word, thus bringing the whole
operation neatly into the present. (See Figure 4.)
The relation of words to words and things to words in
'the girl hit the ball' is different from the relation of words to
words and things to words in 'a ball is a round object used for
Figure 4. 'Is' substitutes for acts of substitution in the sentence.
In the former, the whole sentence is a gift, and within it there
is a gift of a predicate given by subject to object. In the
definition, someone is providing the gift of a word to someone who
doesn't know it, through substitutions of something the listener
does know--for example, 'a round object used for games'
by something she doesn't know, the 'new' word 'ball.' The
speaker is the giftgiving subject who gives the definiens and the definiendum to the listener, who is the receiver of the definiendum as a permanent acquisition. The definiens gives-way to the definiendum, which takes its place, much as the kind of
thing 'gives-way' first to the definiens and then (in a permanent
way) to the definiendum as its name.
The listener has an immediate meta linguistic need for
a word she does not 'have.' The memory and understanding of
that phonetic pattern constitute 'the means of production' of a
word-gift speakers can give to satisfy others' communicative needs,
and listeners can receive, creating bonds with them regarding
kind of thing. The speaker gives the new word to the
listener, satisfying the listener's meta linguistic need.
Origin of Exchange
I believe that the processes of substitution and giving way
in the definition and in naming are the original processes
from which exchange derived. They have been transferred back
into nonverbal patterns of interaction and distorted to mediate
the kind of co-municative need that arises from the
mutually exclusive human relationship of private property. Statistics
show that very little private property--perhaps 1% world
wide--is owned by women (who nevertheless are well able to perform
the processes of naming and definition). Moreover, private
property is an institution of so-called 'developed' societies, not of
so-called 'primitive' ones, which nevertheless must have
naming and definition processes. Thus, mutually inclusive
gift-based language precedes exchange and the mutually exclusive
property relations which are mediated by it. The processes of naming
and the definition, where substitution and giving-way
are predominant, have been stretched and altered as they have
been transferred onto the material plane. This is particularly visible
in monetized exchange where because of its function as a
substitute gift, money creates a self-similar image of the word at a
different scale. Moreover, in the absence of giftgiving and without
a process of exchange, the institution of mutually
exclusive private property would become sclerotic and
unmanageable, since each owner would have no peaceful access to
the satisfaction of her needs by others.
The use of these linguistic processes to avoid
giftgiving and maintain the isolation of each economic
operator contradicts the fundamental giftgiving-and-receiving
principle of life and language, and creates a misogynist and
hostile environment to which human groups have had to adapt.
In fact, we have adapted to it so well that it appears to be
natural, while the kinds of aggressive and competitive behaviors
are made necessary for survival in it appear to be
'human nature' (which expresses itself 'his-torically').
The existence of the same processes on the verbal and
the nonverbal planes creates many re-verberations. In our
present capitalistic society, for example, there is a feedback loop
between verbal definition and nonverbal exchange, whereby the
one validates the other and takes on the function of the other.
A person or a product is defined by the amount of money s/he or
it is 'worth.' Names, categorizations, titles from 'policewoman'
to 'doctor' have a monetary value.
Controlling people through salary, which is definition
by money, backs up naming, labeling, and defining others as a way
of controlling them. Product names and brand names justify
higher prices. We look at definitional processes as giving meaning to
our lives. If we have a title, a university degree, a married name,
we 'are somebody.' However, all this naming is taking place in
a society that does not recognize giftgiving as the
underlying principle of meaning for language and life.
Restoring Gifts to the Definition
Exchange reflects back on the idea we have of the
definition, making it seem aseptic--an intellectual equation instead of
a package made up of many gifts. Among the gifts we have
already enumerated, we must also include the wider consideration
that the definition sometimes serves to transmit words
socially between generations, linguistic groups, etc. Moreover by finding
a 'common language,' using the words which many others
already have, both in speech and in performing the service of
the definition, the speaker or writer is able to co-municate
with people who are elsewhere in time and space. She must succeed
in identifying, using and/or building upon the terms others
already have--though of course the others may themselves have
made the effort to acquire these terms through education, developing
a body of knowledge about some discipline or area of
life (sometimes with its own specialized language).
Because the need for the definition of terms is common,
since none of us was born knowing them, definitions abound in
books, dictionaries, and treatises. The nature of things is explored
as well, in discussions which seek to define kinds of things. If it
is well-fashioned, using words others commonly have, the
gift package of the definition can continue to function
independently of its maker. Its gifts leap to the satisfaction of the reader's
need, as soon as she opens the dictionary.
This ability to continue to satisfy (meta)
communicative needs independently makes it appear that the definition's
human source and the relation between giver and receiver
are unimportant. In one sense, we might say that it is society
itself, the collective, that gives us these verbal 'means of
production,' establishing a bond with us. On the other hand, the
definer's unconditionally generous service is easily forgotten when we
use the words we have been given to establish relations with others.
When the service or gift aspect of language is ignored, we
tend to look at the way words take the place of other words in
the definition as the basic process of language, rather than
need satisfaction. A kind of fetishization occurs in which
'meaning' seems to come from the relation of words to each other, rather
than from the relation of people to each other using things or
using words regarding things. Then since philosophers
have concentrated on definitions to tell us about everything
from mankind to God to Being itself, we investigate definitions to
find out the relation of words to the worldand we only see
words taking the place of other words in closed systems. We do not
look at nurturing as co-munication, nor do we look at
linguistic communicative need as a socially relevant need, already
necessarily arising from the world and from others, the satisfaction of which
is an end motivating verbal and nonverbal interaction
Because of the magnetic template of the exchange logic,
we see the need of the other only as functional to our own need.
Her 'demand' must be 'effective;' she must have the proper amount
of money equivalent to substitute for our product to satisfy our
co-municative need for money.5 We do not see the 'service' side
of the definition but only its so-called 'truth function,' whether
its 'intension' (or meaning) corresponds to its 'extension'
(the instances of that kind of thing in the world).
For example, 'A bachelor is an unmarried man' is an
example which is often used because the 'definiens' and the 'definiendum' appear to completely correspond. Any man who is a bachelor
is also an unmarried man. Definitions of this sort are gifts
which satisfy the meta linguistic need for philosophical examples
of definitions. The aspect of the meta linguistic gift of the word
has become secondary. The other-orientation of the definer
also seems to be irrelevant to the equivalence of 'extension'
and 'intension.' It is therefore ignored while the definition
appears independent and aseptic, untouched by human relations.
The aseptic appearance might disappear if the listener were
an unmarried woman. Some questions could arise about a
bachelor being an unmarried man. Why is she not also called
'bachelor?' Are her material and communicative needs being
considered? Why presuppose an insensitive male definer?
In our thinking about language, we are being influenced
by the priorities of exchange, the necessity for identification
of goods, their measurement, and the assessment of
their equivalence to the satisfaction of both parties (or of society as
a whole). The correspondence between giving and receiving
or selling and buying is the model for the correspondence
between language and reality. The motivation towards the need of
the other as an end is ignored both in exchange and in the study
Since definitions are made with words substituting for
other words, the relation of words to the world seems to come from
form of the definition, the form of substitution as an end
in itself--and without seeing the creative activity of
giving-way. The relation of words to the world appears to come from
the form of the equation (x = y), or from the words themselves,
or from the will of the people who are saying them.
By concentrating on substitution without the idea of giftgiving, it
is difficult to get back to the world from language, and it
appears only that "the sense of a sign is another
sign,"6 andso on in infinite (albeit systemic) regress as if words were not 'hooked
on' to the world at all.
Giftgiving at Both Levels
It seems that 're-present-ation' is the process without
there being any prior 'present-ation' to back it up. Instead,
're-presentation' (taking-the-place-of) is only one moment in
a giftgiving process which is both linguistic and non-linguistic.
We can indeed substitute one gift for another, but the whole
process from the identification of the need to the fashioning of
the particular gift--words or sentences--which will satisfy
it, involves much more than taking-the-place-of or substitution.
It involves other-orientation, the ability to recognize others'
needs in relation to the world, and things in the world as relevant
to those needs. It involves recognizing oneself as a potential
satisfier of other people's needs, using appropriate kinds of things, and
the motivation to satisfy at least their communicative needs if
not their material needs. It also involves recognizing others as
the satisfiers of one's own needs. A patriarchal point of view
would see the world as made up only of things for which we
should compete, not things as having value as relevant to the
satisfaction of others' needs.
Other-orientation is also necessary in order to be able to
use words others will understand, put ourselves in their places
consider what they do not know as a need we can satisfy.
Each need is a theme with many variations. The general need
to communicate about cats--to form human relations
regarding cats--comprehends all of the ways cats can be present or
relevant to humans. We individually recognize those ways as needs
arising from the extra linguistic or linguistic contexts, which others
may have for a relation with us in regard to cats. The word 'cat'
has been given to us socially as a means for satisfying any of
those communicative needs, at least in part.
We have to have been able to receive from others
materially and linguistically in the past, in order to be able to give to
others in the present. That is, we must have been receivers of others'
co-municative other-orientation. We must also be able to
fashion new sentences according to transposed gift
patterns--like matchmakers putting words in the position of giving to
other words. Moreover, we have to seek and use the bonds that
we create with others linguistically and with regard to the gifts of
the world to develop our own, and their, social
subjectivities. Giftgiving is the content of the form of substitution, which is
the very reason for the existence of the form. It is what matters
about the form; it is the (mothering) matrix.
Giving and giving-way have not been understood as
fully human behavior. In patriarchy winning, power-over, and
over-taking have been over-valued. However, giving-way is a
necessary complement of taking-the-place-of. Being substituted is an active and necessary relational complement of substitution.
Similarly receiving is the active creative complement of giving. In
the definition the process of substitution and giving-way of gifts
are the functional elements. In most sentences of speech in
context, the substitution process is not in focus and gift processes at
other levels create transparency.
Substitution and being substituted are the process at issue
in the definition and naming because what is being given is
a general word, a social gift for a kind of thing, given through
a series of substitutions. The need which is being satisfied in
case is not primarily a contingent need for a mutually
inclusive relation to the world, but a meta need of the other for the
means of production of gifts regarding kinds of things. Perhaps because
of the strength of the pattern of exchange (which is, as we said,
the definition's descendent), the process of substitution and
being substituted has been unilateralized, leaving aside the
so-called 'passive' side of the relation. With one side lacking, the
relation of substitution (and being substituted) or over-taking (and
giving-way) has seemed to be no relation at
all.7 Language no longer appears to have anything to do with what has been
substituted. Instead it appears to be a unilateral, purely verbal
activity unrelated to the world, a self-sufficient system which
uses arbitrary sounds in a rule governed way to 'convey' (give)
a 'meaning' (which is not understood either).
To some philosophers who ignore giftgiving, the relation
of 'cat' to cats seems abstract, a sui
generis act on the part of the speaker (or the community), who somehow equates 'cat'
with cats, or imposes 'cat' upon cats, keeping them separate from
dogs and monkeys, perhaps through a genetically
'transmitted' (given) ability. It seems that, by naming something, we put it in
a category, which appears to be the purpose of communication.
The question then arises, what does categorization have to
do with understanding? We slip into a kind of reasoning akin
to private property--asking what things belong to what
categories. Then the most knowledgeable person is the one who 'has'
the most categories. We arrange the categories in hierarchies
of inclusiveness and function, 'transforming' particular phrases
by substituting more general for more specific names, all the way
up sentence trees, seeing their interaction as governed by laws
or rules according to what is appropriate for their identities or
kinds. Then we equate these hierarchies with 'understanding.'
The Sentence Tree (or Root) Diagram
A kind is only a collection of things that is important
enough to have a name because communicative needs arise regarding
it. At a meta linguistic level, in fact, such names as Noun
Phrase (NP) or Verb Phrase (VP) name kinds of phrases
because linguistics professors need to talk about them. The rules of
syntax show how words and phrases can 'give' to one another,
while sentence tree diagrams visually express the gift relation
as branches of dependency. The tree diagrams always looked
upside down to me--until I realized they are not trees at all but
root systems, with the flow of gifts going upwards (from the
particular to the general) not downwards (from the general to
Linguistic creativity, the ability to generate
ever-new sentences using a limited number of words, is accompanied
and elicited by the ability to recognize the needs which those
words and sentences satisfy. Collective human need-satisfying
practice with things of a kind gives value to those things which in turn
is partially transferred or given by implication to the word-gifts
that substitute for them. It is not a top-down categorizing relation
that makes language work, but a creative dynamic of need
satisfaction that moves both language and life.
I believe that the gift relations within the sentence itself,
not an interplay of categorizations, are the motors of its meaning.
We have mistakenly taken the naming side of language as the key
to the dynamic. It is not the 'application' of words to things
that promotes the change of levels, causing the move 'up' from
the level of nonverbal experience to the level of verbal practice;
there is a different process going on that we are not seeing.
We give a group of things something that they can
be related to as their substitute. Then we transfer to it something
of their value, in the sense of their importance for humans,
because needs become associated with them. The substitute gift
receives a destination in the satisfaction of a communicative need,
which may make it also be useful from a distance in the satisfaction
of material needs, for example: 'the bread is in the cupboard'
or 'the train is leaving from track 12.' There is an upward flow
of meaning or value from the world of which we are a part, not
just a top-down application or cutting-out of categories. A
meta language is only a hierarchical collection of categorizing terms,
a parasite upon the object language because it lacks its own
The branching of a sentence tree should be seen instead
as the coming together of elements which can give to each other,
a cooperative assembly of terms. We can give 'the,' or 'the' can
give itself to 'girl,' and we name this gift act 'noun phrase.' Then as
a unit they can 'give' the verb 'hit' to the unit which is made
when 'the' gives itself to 'ball.' We can diagram these units, giving
them names such as 'determiner,' 'noun phrase,' 'verb,' 'sentence.'
They tell us which are givers, gifts, receivers. We give some of the
parts of the sentence, 'the girl hit the ball,' to such words as
'noun phrase,' to be substituted by them. We believe we know
more when we can show the hierarchy. We know who controls
who and can get along ourselves better in it. But we do not notice
the gifts of value percolating up from below.
The sentence tree is the one in the garden that grew
from Adam's doing too much naming. It is not because they
are categorized together or because they follow the rules that
words stick together (bond) in sentences. Rather it is because they
give to each other, combine, and then together give to another
word or part of the phrase. They can do this because they have
been 'given to' by things (and people). If we deny the flow upwards
it appears that the only thing there is the top-down
naming mechanism, and we are at a loss to see how it is attached to
The question should not be, "Where does the (fractal)
tree divide into branches?" but "Where does the root system
come together carrying the gifts of value upward to the plant?"
The question is, "Who is feeding whom?" and "Who is doing
the nurturing?"--the naming mechanism or the giftgiving,
Words themselves, ruled by syntax, may appear to
contain the secret of their own relation to the world. I believe this is
an illusion coming from the gender definition, which exacerbates
the aspect of substitution.
What happens when a boy child learns he belongs to
a different gender from his giftgiving mother? As with
other instances of naming or definition, the name or definiendum 'boy' causes him (as a material thing) to 'give way' as the
nonverbal gift. Before he understands what adults are saying, he
considers himself to be like his mother. But when he begins to
understand the implication of his gender term, he must realize he is
not supposed to be like her. His being named or defined as a boy
(with the social definition of 'male') contradictorily makes him give
up the gift-giving character, in order to be different from his
mother. (See Figure 5.) His gender name is thus much more harmful
for him than we imagine.
Since his very life depends upon his mother's care, a
change of category, to be like his father, would seem to be a
very frightening thing. The boy becomes 'like' someone he
usually does not know very well, who may appear to be (like the
word which is 'taking over') just an abstract dominator. An aspect
of language becomes grafted on to the gender behavior of the
child. Substitution, part of the definition process, self-reflectingly
takes the place of the process of the gift, which
gives-way. Categorization becomes more powerful than
co-munication. Words are no longer benign co-municative gifts, but magic
wands that can change a child's identity.
The question "What is man?" really derives from
this question: "What is man if he is not like his mother?" The
answer is--this is a false question. He is like his mother, a
nurturing being, but he is altered by the naming of gender, which becomes
a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since it is only a word that spirits the
boy away, words must appear to be very powerful. And since
his fathers before him have had the same experience, males
Figure 5. Masculation: forming the boy's gender.
commonality in that respect. It does not seem to the childor perhaps to anyone else in the society--that an arbitrary and false distinction is being made. Rather, the community bases the boy's difference from his mother upon his genitals--upon the biological fact that he has a penis like his father while she doesn't. But if nurturing is the basis of communication and community, there is really nothing, no content available for his oppositional category. In order to fill this void, substitution, definition, and categorization themselves become the content of the (masculine) identity of those who are told that they are not nurturers.
Words are cast socially in this case, not as gifts, but as powerful abstract categorizers which overtake and control a person's identity. According to the survival mechanism of imitating the oppressor, the children then become like the word--as did their fathers before them. Male gender identity imitates the naming or 'definitional' side of language and the process of taking-the-place-of--giving importance to equivalence with the other, the father who is taking the place of the mother (who gives-way) and of other males as well. The penis plays an important part in this because it is that physical characteristic which places the boy in the category with his father.
Phallic symbols are everywhere, though we have learned to ignore them and to deny their importance. The equation itself, as a moment of similarity and of exchange, receives gifts of attention and value from the many. The equal marks (=) are perhaps originally two little phallic symbols. It is this characteristic (or property), which the boy has and the mother does not have, which takes him away from her nurturing category. The psycho-social effects of 'having' or 'not having' this physical characteristic have become immensely important, as we shall see.
The boy receives many privileges. In fact, he is often given more nurturing because he is a male than he would have been given if he had been a female, like his mother. Often he is validated as superior, even to her. Like the word, he has the ability to take-the-place-of, which, in the absence of other-orientation and giftgiving, becomes over-taking and domination.
He is 'compensated' with that ability and those privileges
because he has given up the nurturing identity.
I have coined the word 'masculation' for this process
in which the boy is socialized into a false, non-nurturing
identity, incarnating the word which alienates him. It seems to me
that this is an essential moment in male development that is
not recognized and that, therefore, spawns self-similar images
in many different areas of life. By acting out this process
on different social scales, the collective unconsciously hopes to
rid itself of this self-created fatal flaw. At the same time, there
are many fail-safes which keep it in place and keep us from
clearly seeing what is happening.
1Ferdinand de Saussure, in Course in General Linguistics, Mc Graw Hill, New
York. 1959, distinguished between what he called 'langue,' the lexicon, the collection of words taken out of context and related to one another purely differentially,
and 'parole' or speech. Naming and definition may appear to be pre-requisites for the
rest of speech (though we also learn words from simply hearing them in others'
speech). My point is that the processes by which we acquire words and consider them on
their own out of context, in their generality, are different from the processes in which
we use them by putting them together. I believe that the definition's internal
gift processes are different enough from speech that they are the hidden model
for exchange. They are what Roman Jakobson called 'equational statements.'
'The Speech Event and the Function of Language' in On Language, edited by Linda Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass, 1990.
2I will use the term
'definiens' as the name for the phrase which allows the listener
to identify what the 'new' word represents, and
'definiendum' for the word under definition, the 'new' word itself, or the name. In 'A cat is a domestic animal with
a long tail and pointed ears,' 'Cat' is the 'definiendum,' and 'a domestic animal with a long tail and pointed ears' is the
3See Chapter 9 for a more complete discussion of the verb 'to be.'
4Without altruism and other-orientation, we cannot justify society or culture. There is
no group which can survive as a compendium of isolated egotists. Social cohesion is
provided by the hidden giftgiving and other orientation of all, and especially of women.
5Typically, we do not consider the listener's understanding as the satisfaction of
her need, but have to see it expressed in other words, just as the need of the buyer has
to be expressed in money as effective demand. Otherwise it does not 'exist' for the seller.
6The approach of unlimited semiosis begun by Charles Sanders
Peirce, Collected Papers, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1931-35, (1931, 2.230) has captured
his (and Saussure's) deconstructionist descendants in an infinite regress, inside
the definitional stance, far from the plane of material giftgiving co-munication. Chains
of substitutes deny the importance of the 'present,' the need satisfying gift.
7Gandhi's movement for non-violence demonstrated the political importance
of 'giving-way,' allowing us to see what women had already been practicing
personally. Using 'giving-way' as a response to 'over-taking' made the over-takers realize,
among other things, that their action was relational. Gift giving and giving-way are
the presents which underlie the relation of re-present-ation.