Make your own free website on
Activity One

Please read the following three principles and discuss each with your group. Then choose two of four projects to complete. Project 1, Project 2, Project 3, Project 4


General Semantics Principles


  1. The Principle of Non-identity. This principle states that in the real world no two things are identical. Our language, through the use of class terms, leads us to concentrate on similarities – a rose is a rose is a rose. But in reality no two roses are identical. As Wendell Johnson put it, to a mouse cheese is cheese. That’s why mousetraps work. The principle of non-identity also emphasizes that the word is not the thing, the map is not the territory. This seems obvious. Yet, we often treat words as if they were things, and maps as if they were the actual territory.
  2. The Principle of Non-allness. This principle states that we can never know or say all about anything. Our knowledge is always incomplete. The word does not represent all of the thing, the map does not represent all of the territory. When we use words we are calling attention to certain characteristics of the real world, but we are at the same time leaving out other characteristics. Using language is invariably a process of abstraction, a process by which some characteristics are left out while others are included, i.e., abstracted.
  3. The Principle of Self-reflexiveness. This principle states that language can be used on many different levels. We can talk about the real world and say, for example, This is a piece of paper with black marks on it. But we can also talk about our talk and say, for example, The above statement is trivial or profound or false or true. And we can also talk about our talk about our talk and say; for example, Saying that the above statement is trivial is obvious. There is actually no end to such a process. We can always make statements about statements about statements, etc. An ideal map, if one could be constructed, would have to contain, in addition to a representation of the territory, a representation of the map which is itself part of the territory. And that map would have to contain the map of the map and so on. This principle is extremely important when attempting to analyze language and behavior. Often we confuse statements, and this has important implications for our thinking, evaluating, and behaving.