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Re: Understanding names (long)



In a message dated 98-05-01 03:17:31 EDT, nking.ucs@smtp.usi.edu writes:

<< Would it surprise 
 you to know that the first thing Adam did after he was created, according 
 to Genesis, is to name the animals?  That established Man's dominion over 
 them (I know that sounds like sexist language, but that was BEFORE 
 Woman--or so the story goes!). >>

By coincidence, I've had a proposal for a book on dinosaur names kicking
around for a few years, from the beginning of the introduction to which comes
this excerpt:

"Naming things is a uniquely human endeavor; of all the creatures in the known
universe, only human beings communicate by speaking, and speech requires names
for things. Under controlled experimental conditions, intelligent apes have
been trained to employ a small vocabulary of sign-language gestures, but their
discourse is slow and intelligible mainly to their trainers. In the wild, apes
do not communicate by speaking. Dolphins and other cetaceans communicate
vocally under water, but as yet there is no firm evidence that their "speech"
lies at our level of abstraction. And for cetaceans, which lack hands, writing
is virtually out of the question.

"The writers of the Bible comprehended both the importance of naming things
and the great antiquity of the names themselves. They had God assign the job
of naming all the living things in the garden of Eden to Adam, well before God
created Eve (who was to be Adam's "help meet" in this chore):
        "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and
every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call
them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name
thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to
every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for
him." (Genesis 2:19-20)

"In fact, every word we use is the name of an object, an action, or a quality.
Our dictionaries, in their definitions, describe the "thing" that each word
names. Every word is a compact, abstract expression for some property of the
real world recognizable to the other people with whom we communicate. In this
book, we are concerned mainly with nouns, that is, words that stand for
objects, both real and abstract. Furthermore, we consider in detail only an
extraordinarily small subset of the nouns: the names of the dinosaurs."  Etc.