Meaning Equivalence (ME), Boundary of Meaning (BoM), and Granulary of Meaning (GoM)

Meaning Equivalence (ME), Boundary of Meaning (BoM), and Granulary of Meaning (GoM)

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2176-1.ch005
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Abstract

This chapter describe Meaning Equivalence (ME), Boundary of Meaning (BoM), and Granularity of Meaning (GoM). Meaning Equivalence (ME) is a polymorphous - one-to-many - transformation of meaning that signifies the ability to transcode equivalence-of-meaning through multiple representations within and across sign systems, and multiple definitions of a concept in multiple sign systems. Boundary of Meaning (BoM) is the boundary between two mutually exclusive semantic spaces in the sublanguage: (i) semantic space that contains only representations that do share equivalence-of-meaning with the Target Statement (TS); and (ii) semantic space that contains only representations that do not share equivalence-of-meaning with the TS. Granularity of Meaning (GoM) is the deepest level in which lexical label of a co-occurring subordinate concept appears in the Target Statement. It is therefore a measure of the ‘depth of exploration' of building blocks of a super-ordinate concept in TS. Boundary of Meaning (BoM) and Granularity of Meaning (GoM) are concepts in Pedagogy for Conceptual Thinking, a novel teaching and learning methodology in the digital age (Etkind, Kenett & Shafrir, 2016). These constructs describe important aspects of learning outcomes.
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Issues, Controversies, Problems

The term meaning equivalence (ME) designates this commonality of meaning, the meaning preserved across several such representations. Meaning equivalence is a polymorphous - one-to-many - transformation of meaning; it signifies the ability to transcode equivalence-of-meaning through multiple representations within and across sign systems (Shafrir, 2012; Sigel, 1954; 1993; 2012).

This abstract formulation of the construct of equivalence-of-meaning masks a reality that is implicitly familiar to any language user, namely, the ability to express meaning effortlessly in a multitude of ways. This reality rests on a solid foundation, revealed upon reflection by any keen observer: Any specific meaning, in any discipline, may be represented in a multitude of ways in at least one sign system; often, and in many disciplines, a specific meaning may be represented in a many ways in several sign systems.

The physicist Richard Feynman viewed the construction of multiple representations of mathematical and physical concepts as an important tool in the arsenal of a theoretical physicist’s quest to uncover regularities in the universe. This view is shared by other physicists, as well as by scientists in other domains of knowledge (John-Steiner, 1987, p. 184). Feynman was fond of testing his students’ depth of comprehension by asking them to paraphrase his descriptions of conceptual physical situations in their own words.

Paraphrase plays an important role not only in communication within a community-of-shared-sublanguage such as physics; paraphrase may also play another important role in communication between specialists and non-specialists. For example, doctors and other medical professionals regularly face the challenge of constructing representations of conceptually complex medical situations in ‘lay language’ when communicating with patients. In these situations, prior to signing Informed Consent forms, the lexical labels of concepts in highly abbreviated and abstract diagnosis and treatment plans must be discussed with patients and families using ordinary language (Biron-Shental, et al., 2016). Following EU legislation in 1993, it became a legal requirement to include a Patient Package Insert (PPI)1 in all medical product packages that is ‘easy to read and written in a way which is unambiguous and understandable to the consumer’ (Askehave & Zethsen, 2001). These ‘lay paraphrases’ are the outcomes of intra-linguistic, inter-generic translations in which the source text is a technical document written in a sublanguage, and includes controlled medical vocabulary. However, efforts to avoid the use of such vocabulary sometime lead to ambiguity and confusion by prompting the evolution of folkloristic expressions commonly used to describe medical phenomena in loosely defined ‘popular terms’ such as: ‘Barber’s itch’; ‘Housewife’s dermatitis’; ‘Jeep disease’; ‘Poker spine’; ‘Rum fits’; and ‘War neurosis’ (Bowker & Star, 1999, pp. 91-94).

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