Verbal Ability – Summary – A fundamental property of language

Verbal Ability – Summary

The passage given below is followed by four summaries. Choose the summary that best captures the author’s position.


CAT 2017 - Afternoon slot - Verbal Ability - Summary - A fundamental property of language
A fundamental property of language is that it is slippery and messy and more liquid than solid, a gelatinous mass that changes shape to fit. As Wittgenstein would remind us, “usage has no sharp boundary.” Oftentimes, the only way to determine the meaning of a word is to examine how it is used. This insight is often described as the “meaning is use” doctrine. There are differences between the “meaning is use” doctrine and a dictionary-first theory of meaning. “The dictionary’s careful fixing of words to definitions, like butterflies pinned under glass, can suggest that this is how language works. The definitions can seem to ensure and fix the meaning of words, just as the gold standard can back a country’s currency.” What Wittgenstein found in the circulation of ordinary language, however, was a free-floating currency of meaning. The value of each word arises out of the exchange. The lexicographer abstracts a meaning from that exchange, which is then set within the conventions of the dictionary definition.

A) Dictionary definitions are like ‘gold standards’ – artificial, theoretical and dogmatic. Actual meaning of words is their free exchange value.

B) Language is already slippery; given this, accounting for ‘meaning in use’ will only exasperate the problem. That is why lexicographers ‘fix’ meanings

C) Meaning is dynamic; definitions are static. The ‘meaning in use’ theory helps us understand that definitions of words are culled from their meaning in exchange and use and not vice versa.

D) The meaning of words in dictionaries is clear, fixed and less dangerous and ambiguous than the meaning that arises when words are exchanged between people


Option (C)


After reading the above passage about Summary from CAT 2017 – Verbal Ability, we can infer that, the definition of a word comes from the various meanings in exchange. Meanings are dynamic as they change with exchange.
Option C is the right answer.

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CAT 2017 Questions from Verbal Ability – Summary

Verbal Ability – Summary – Q1: Both Socrates and Bacon were very good at asking useful questions. In fact, Socrates is largely credited with corning up with a way of asking questions, ‘the Socratic method/ which itself is at the core of the ‘scientific method, ‘popularised by Bacon.
Verbal Ability – Summary – Q2: North American walnut sphinx moth caterpillars (Amorpha juglandis) look like easy meals for birds, but they have a trick up their sleeves—they produce whistles that sound like bird alarm calls
Verbal Ability – Summary – Q3: For each of the past three years, temperatures have hit peaks not seen since the birth of meteorology, and probably not for more than 110,000 years.
Verbal Ability – Summary – Q4: A translator of literary works needs a secure hold upon the two languages involved, supported by a good measure of familiarity with the two cultures.
Verbal Ability – Summary – Q5: To me, a “classic” means precisely the opposite of what my predecessors understood: a work is classical by reason of its resistance to contemporaneity and supposed universality, by reason of its capacity to indicate human particularity and difference in that past epoch.

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Verbal Ability – Summary – A fundamental property of language
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