The United States is the greatest perceived threat to the People's Liberation Army (PLA), a top military strategist told China Daily on Sunday, confirming remarks made last week to a group of visiting senior US officials.

Style, text and frequency defined the style of a text as ‘the message carried by the frequency distributions and transitional probabilities of its linguistic features, especially as they differ from those of the same features in the language as a whole’.1 Such definitions appeal to the empiricist, who would like to reduce a subjectively perceived phenomenon to something objective, but they tend to alarm the student of literature. We hope to reassure the latter by showing that quantification is a less essential part of stylistics than this definition suggests.

Russell and others took the view that everyday language is somehow deficient or defective, a rather debased vehicle, full of ambiguities, imprecision and contradictions. Their aim was to refine language, removing its perceived imperfections and illogicalities, and to create an ideal language.

Two issues arise from studies of this nature. The first again relates to the pragmatics/sociolinguistics divide: listing the linguistic forms which can be used to perform a speech act in a given language is not pragmatics, any more than, say, listing all the words for 'adult human female' in a given language falls with in the realm of pragmatics. These are sociolinguistic phenomena. It only becomes pragmatics when we look at how a particular form in a particular language is used strategically in order to achieve the speaker's goal. 'Doing' pragmatics crucially requires context. This leads to the second issue: as soon as we put a speech act in context, we can see that there is no necessary connection between the linguistic form and the perceived politeness of a speech act.

I often come across "perceive" being used in the same way as above.

Does "perceived" add any meaning to these examples? Can I remove them with the meaning unchanged?

Can I use "known" or "sensed" to replace them?

And another question is that I think "perceive" needs a complement like "to be + something" or "as + something".

If we altered the sentence structure, they would be: Threat, phenomenon, imperfections and illogicalities, or politeness of a speech act is perceived, which doesn't look like complete sentences.

  • What do you mean by "shift"? I'm not following that part of your question. But "perceived" is necessary and to remove it does change the meaning. Perceived can be adjectival. It doesn't need an explicit complement. "Known" is not a good alternative for "perceived" in this usage. "Sensed" comes closer to the meaning but is not an apt replacement either; the perceived views are often the result of (possibly faulty) analysis; they're not mere feelings or intuitions.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 12:03

1 Answer 1


In all of these examples, the writer is making a distinction between what people see, believe, or sense, and what is "really true". They might simply want to side-step discussion about whether someone is wrong, or they might be implying that what people "perceive" is not the way things really are.

In the first example, the strategist is saying that the PLA (or the strategist, or the reader— it is ambiguous) believes that the United States is the greatest threat. Perhaps that is not true; maybe there is a hidden threat they don't know about, or maybe the US isn't really a threat. But what they are talking about is what the PLA believes, even if there is an unseen threat elsewhere.

In the third example, the implication is that the imperfections of language are only illusions, and not "real" (according to the view of Russell).

  • 1
    I think the first part of your answer is spot-on. But when writing about Russell, the author probably means "putative" or "alleged" (those Russell perceives and alleges). Russell would say the imperfections are real.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 11:57

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