My Buddy: Deciphering the Meaning of “Dog. ” Growing up, I always wanted a dog. I remember my mom telling me that they were too much trouble and I was too immature to actually take care of one. However, through the power of persuasion, I eventually talked her into getting me one. My first dog, was a rescue mutt, named Jethro that we brought home. He was a very sweet dog but he also had a lot of playfulness in him. He was a little too big for me and would jump on top of me and knock me over. My parents were worried that he would hurt me, so, unfortunately, we had to bring him back.
My second dog, Lucky, was also a rescue but he was a border collie. I remember very vividly, the day we brought him home, it was raining and he was very nervous riding in the car for the first time. We would soon find out, that he also got motion sickness very easily, and vomited in the car the whole ride home. After about a month of having Lucky, we realized that he constantly wanted to run away, and would jump over the fence to get out. Finally, my mom and sister went to a pet store and purchased a little brown-looking teddy bear, named Snickers. Snickers was a chocolate Pomeranian, and was the cutest thing I had ever seen.
Whenever I got home, I remember he would run to me and beg to jump up into my arms. Snickers was one of the best things that has ever happened in my life. He realigned my thoughts on what the word “dog” truly meant. Since I had so many different experiences with dogs growing up, but was never able to connect with them the way I did with him, he taught me the true meaning of “man’s best friend. ” To further clarify why I entitled this paper, “My buddy… ,” it is because | rarely called him Snickers, I almost always referred to him as “buddy,” and that is what he was, my buddy.
In this essay, I will be explaining how The Referential Theory of Meaning is outlined, the major variables, theoretical assumptions, principles of belief, and opinions on the theory. I will also be explaining how I came to understand, through my experiences, what the word “dog” means to me. The theory that I have chosen to convey my understanding of the word “dog” was developed by Richards and Ogden (1923). In The Referential Theory of Meaning, we come to understand that, “as children, we learn that things/phenomena have names.
Once we know that, the word can elicit or stimulate us to think about the thing/phenomenon. Further, words have meaning in large part because they represent or refer to things, feelings, or situations people have experienced” (Lee, 2013). According to Lee (2013), “we see an object and learn its name, we experience the object, associate the object with a word, and express meaning through the relationships of experience. ” The connection from word to reference and referent to reference are causal, however, the connection from word to referent is indirect (Lee, 2013). When one thinks about the word dog, they think of the animal (word-reference).
When one comes in contact with the dog, they make reference to the love the animal gives them (referent-reference). However, the word to referent relationship is indirect because the relationship here only exists because of an “intervening thought or reference” (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p. 100). For me, my experiences as a child with the word “dog” never really meant much, because I never formed a tight bond with any of my first dogs. It shaped my thoughts into thinking that a dog was just a word for an animal I never formed a bond with. I never was able to gain much affection from Jethro or Lucky, in the short time I was with them.
However, Snickers was the one who truly molded my thoughts into understanding what the word really meant, through experience. The Referential Theory of Meaning, is based on a “stimulus-response rationale” (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p. 99). There are two ways that this stimulus-response rationale occurs in the theory. First, a child sees an object and associates the object with a word. Second, when the child sees the object later after experiencing the object, it stimulates a response. Generally speaking, the core concept of this theory, is the labeling of names.
The word represents or refers to the thing or experience. The process goes in this sequence: Experience results in thought, which becomes associated with words or other symbols, which subsequently are used to make statements about the experience” (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p. 99). We give labels/names to things all around us, but it is our experiences with those objects that give it meaning. For instance, growing up in Texas, most of us learned what the word “football” was at an early age. For most people, a football is just that, a ball to be thrown around.
However, for someone like J. J. Watt, as an example, growing up with football, as a sport, living, breathing, and eating nothing but football, it means much more. For him, it is his lively-hood, his passion, and his source of income. The major variables in The Referential Theory of Meaning, are the independent variable of a symbol, reference, or referent, and the dependent variable of meaning. Ogden and Richards, “understood that meaning cannot be understood without recognizing the relationship between words, thoughts, and things” (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p. 99). To better understand this relationship, they created the “triangle of meaning. This triangle has three components, experience (referent), reference (thought), and symbols (words).
The assumption on the theory is that, our interactions and experiences with a particular symbol, reference, or referent lead to our understanding of the meaning of those objects. “The more they are all aligned properly, synchronized, or shared by experiences,” “the more similar meaning is created and shared, communication becomes possible” (Lee, 2013). According to Lee (2013), “people can communicate only to the extent that they share experience. ”
Overall, the core concept is simple and quite logical. We come to understand a word, experience the word and form a reference, and communicate effectively with others when we share a common understanding of what the word made one refer to. It is in my personal opinion, that when people talk about dogs, as long as they are not allergic to them or don’t enjoy their company, that the Referential Theory of Meaning holds water. “… each of us knows what the word dog means because of what one has learned; we share a generalized meaning of dog” (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p. 78).
I would say that almost anyone I talk to has had similar experiences with having that one dog that meant the world to them, and I can say the same goes for me as well. The word Isomorphism is linked to this theory, stating that, according to Lee (2013), “a word is correct if it produces the same reference in the receiver as in the sender. ” In many cases, when I would speak with people about the loss of my animal, they understood what Snickers meant to me, because they also had a similar experience with a dog. They were able to reference the love I felt for him from their own personal experiences.
However, this isomorphism doesn’t always occur, because not everyone has had the same experience with dogs as I have. In the case of someone who was mauled by a wild dog, or someone who never was able to experience the love of a dog, would not be able to produce the same reference as I would. However, my experience with Snickers taught me exactly what the word “dog” means, “buddy. ” In conclusion, I feel as though the Referential Theory of Meaning is a very useful theory and I appreciate it, because it gives a logical perspective of the world around us.
It shows how one is able to make sense of things around us and translate that into communication with others. Without shared experiences, people would not be able to communicate effectively. If I had a conversation with someone who has never seen a dog, and never enjoyed their company, only understanding the word dog and seeing pictures, communication on the subject would break down. They would have no word to referent relationship because their lack of experience. The only limitations on this theory is that not everyone shares similar meaning with a word.