I have a big doubt... I’m taking an english linguistics course and I don’t understand this section of the book :( There would be any person who already finished this subject would explain me.

It is about Words As Containers of Meaning:

the approach just outlined is a start on analyzing the conceptual components of word meaning, but it is not without problems. For many words in a language it may not be as easy to come up with neat components of meaning. If we try to think of the components or features we would use to differentiate the noun advice, threat and warning, for example, we may not be very successful.

Part of the problem seems to be that the approach involves a view of words in a language as some sort of "containers" that carry meaning components. There is clearly more to the meaning of words than these basic types of features.

That part of the book I dont understand what is trying to make us understand. I feel so confused could someone explain me that? I would thank you so much.

  • I hope that's not an exact quote of the text—because it has several issues with grammar, not to mention more than one typo. Also, the quotation isn't long enough to understand its context. I don't think it's possible to comment on it as given. (Why can the words not be differentiated? They have clearly distinct meanings to me. Neither the exact problem nor the text's use of "features" and "meaning components" can be understood from this quotation alone.) Apr 15, 2018 at 21:46
  • Sorry man i tried to upload the photo of the book but i coundnt i dont know why, but it is what the book says im not altered the quoted
    – user232841
    Apr 15, 2018 at 22:00
  • 3
    You need to master the basics of the language (there are at least four errors before you give the quote) before attempting to interpret complex examples of writing. Apr 15, 2018 at 22:39
  • 1
    There's nothing here that's about English language and usage in particular. It applies to any human language. This should be in the linguistic SE. Apr 16, 2018 at 1:12
  • 1
    May I ask the title of the text, the author(s), publisher, and copyright date?
    – Bread
    Apr 16, 2018 at 3:39

1 Answer 1


"Words as containers of meanings"

is a description of one popular view of how language works; it's one component of what's called The Conduit Metaphor. It is a combination of three component metaphor themes; that is, in order to talk about words containing meaning, one must believe three (untrue) things, because these are the presuppositions of our cultural view of communication that have been with us since we learned our language.

  1. Ideas and words are both the same kind of thing; prototypically, they are physical objects, and thus can both interact physically and be manipulated. This is necessary because only physical objects have insides and outsides.

  2. Ideas are contained inside words; i.e, linguistic entities are containers for meaning(s). This is the presenting theme. It's the 5-year-old's answer to the difference between a word and its meaning -- the word has the meaning, but it's inside the word, where you can't see it or hear it.

  3. Communication consists of physical transmission of meaning-full words from one party to another, who thereby understands. Of course everybody has their own ideas about what words mean, but we get along because we know there's a difference between words and meanings, even if we can't explain it better than a 5-year-old.

  • So presumably we want to get on with learning the meaning of the words . . . as the containers themselves have no meaning (?), the idea of words as containers of meaning being itself a metaphor.
    – Xanne
    Apr 16, 2018 at 8:14
  • Succinct, but excruciatingly patronizing.
    – KarlG
    Apr 16, 2018 at 10:07
  • All metaphor discussion sounds patronizing at first, because you have to be saying such obvious things as "ideas and words are not physical objects", which everybody knows, in order to get people to pay attention to the fact that they take it for granted anyway. Apr 16, 2018 at 14:43
  • As for "learning the meanings of the words", one can do no better than Wittgenstein: "If it is true that words have meanings, why don't we throw away words and keep just the meanings?" Apr 16, 2018 at 14:45

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