Tag Archives: I. A. Richards

The World of Words


Chapter 9 of Neil Postman’s educational text is about definitions, questions, and metaphors. When considering how I would teach high school, or even middle school when becoming a teacher, I automatically assumed I would read literature, analyze and enjoy the text with my students, write with them, and develop an understanding of language. That is what language arts is right?

Well Postman argues that our current curriculum has ignore those theorists, like Alfred Korzybski and their ideas about introducing metaphor into the classroom, along with the relationship between our world of language, and simply the world around us without words. Post argues that words have developed a world of inflexibility, arguing over definitions and labeling others with terminologies that do not necessarily make sense. For example, we say that someone is smart. He has smartness, but in fact he does smart things in relation to certain subjects or fields of interest. This does not mean that someone is born smart or dumb, or as we define – an underachiever and overachiever. In this analogy, Postman connects the fact that is and does are “powerful metaphors that express some of the most fundamental concepts of the way things are” (156). By naming and personalizing definitions, we, as in humans, reshape a world based on words and definitions. Yet, we must consider that definitions will change, humans alone do not inhabit this world, and the world of words does not define the world of reality completely.

I would suggest reading this chapter for yourself to understand, in case what I wrote seems ridiculous, but Postman made me critically think about how my students should be introduced to language. His helpful technique that he picked up from I.A. Richards asks students to group up and each group is given one sentence and should develop this sentence into a paragraph. The sentences are as follows:

  • Source:

    Language is like a tree.

  • Language is like a river.
  • Language is like a building.

Each noun has a very different definition, but all are relatable to language and can be used to construct a metaphorical definition that can clearly relay to someone how language is shaped in relationship to reality. I hope to mirror this technique, broadening my students’ perspectives about a definition and the definition in a realm of L/literacy. Technology – a term that must be defined by us all, but will that definition always look the same in our world of reality verses our world of words?

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Posted by on July 18, 2010 in English 3241 Posts


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