Brain vs. Mind
Mind vs. Soul
A sign is anything that "takes the place" of something else. Because concrete things from the environment cannot fit inside the brain, the mind must make models of them using mental signs to represent things and relationships.
Signs are also necessary for communication, as a word or symbol may "stand in" for a variety of personal experiences. "Dog," for example, can apply to many specific dogs. Words help us communicate by allowing listeners to relate to our experience through their own similar though not identical experiences. In other words, when we say we saw a dog, the dog which might come to mind for our listener is likely quite different than the dog we saw.
A good sign tries to exploit similarities between itself and what it stands for. Pictures on restroom doors, for example try to mimic stereotypical representations of male and female. This is also possible in purely linguistic terms because words usually stand as signs for variations of each other rather than specific physical things or experiences. We understand most things in terms of a few basic concepts, through the use of metaphors.
Here are some common metaphors we rely on to understand and describe phenomena:
Time is like Space: We want to put the past behind us.
Time is like a River: It flows, sometime fast and sometimes slow.
Our Thoughts are Things: I have an idea, you gave me advice.
Our Mind is a Place: Who put those crazy thoughts in your head?
High is Good: God is above us all
I feel so low.
A Woman is like a Flower: She blossomed into a beautiful lady.
There are, of course, many more. Can you think of any?
Signs also inevitably create noise. A word will say more or less than we intended. However, this noise is also sometimes helpful. If we are confused and try and verbalize what we are thinking, we will often find connections we weren´t aware of before we began thinking in words. Whether these linguistic connections correspond to actual connections in the context of what you were thinking about is another matter. Often, though, they can.
In order to understand language we will discuss two concepts: trajectories and rings of association.
Trajectories are a type of "frame," (a system for processing which can be used for many related sets of information). They correspond roughly to the types of declarative sentences listed in below, and can apply to physical, psychological, or possessional interactions. They contain points of departure and arrival, and a means for traveling between the two: "Something did something to someone."
The concept of rings of association is critical to the cognitive understanding of words. Consider the word "apple". There are two ways we may recognize the concept of apple:
When the concept of apple is recognized in either of these manners, the other type of recognition seems to follow immediately. Perceiving the word makes you think of the thing, perceiving the thing makes you think of the word. Which suggests the following "ring diagram" of word-concept recognition.
- reading, hearing, or thinking of the word apple.
- physically sensing (through sight or taste, etc.) an actual apple.
The three basic types of declarative phrases:
In addition to stating facts about the past, present, future, and other time variations, a speaker may make statements about possibilities, especially possibilities which are especially desirable or undesirable to the speaker. These can be put to the listener(s) as commands. A special type of implied command is the question, a request for a listener to provide information.
- "is" phrases link a thing to a descriptive element. (The cat is black.)
- "does" phrases link a thing to an action. (The cat runs.)
- "does to" phrases link a thing to an action to another thing. (The cat bites the mouse.)
Other linguistic functions are the "more-than/less-than/equal to"s, which allow different things or processes to be compared to others on a specific descriptive scale (more yellow, less tall, as nice as, etc.). And of course the negating functions such as no, not, or never.
Communication consists of a speaker trying to provide the listener with instructions to build certain mental models which are present in the mind of the speaker. Feedback from the listener (in the form of verification of understanding or through questions) is necessary for communication to occur.