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Most humans use meanings every day, all day long, and mostly successfully, but it remains difficult and puzzling to say just what a meaning is. We live so much with and through meanings that, as the fish is not aware of water, we are not aware of the meanings we use.

Curiosity leads us to try to view meaning from the outside, to see meanings as a kind of object, and meaningful human activity as an abstract process involving those objects. This is by analogy to other scientific and logical studies, for instance arithmetic. One can be very good at arithmetic but have no understanding of why the algorithms work. The curious person will step back and study algebra, in which an arithmetic process is an object, an "expression".

Algebra, like many other scientific and logical studies, uses a formal language, a formalism, of variables and logical operators, to express its results. A formalism reflects and affects other parts of the studies, such as definitions of objects and collection of evidence. Developing a powerful formalism is a key to a successful science. In this wiki we will examine existing formalisms for meaning and try to create a better one.

Another dimension to consider is the abstraction strategy for a science of meaning. For example, Chomsky adopted the abstraction that syntax of natural language could be studied without any reference to meaning, and he achieved a great deal under that strategy. More on the strategies of linguistic science at (Scholz 2015).

This wiki is called "Ability and Meaning". The goal is to formalize and abstract from human abilities to construct a formal language in which to describe meanings.

It is common for several different abilities to be in use at once, by a group of people engaged in an activity (see activities).

cultures are formalized as sets of activities and the abilities that they require.

The context of an utterance has two components, perspective and expertise. The perspective is the speaker's place in some ongoing activities, and the expertise is the set of abilities required to understand the utterance.


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