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L., B.D. (1942). Language in Action: By S. I. Hayakawa, Ph.D. Chicago: Institute of General Semantics, 1940. 106 pp. (Reprinted: New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1941. 338 pp.). Psychoanal Q., 11:436-437.

(1942). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 11:436-437

Language in Action: By S. I. Hayakawa, Ph.D. Chicago: Institute of General Semantics, 1940. 106 pp. (Reprinted: New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1941. 338 pp.)

Review by:
B. D. L.

There is nothing in the idea of a freshman course for English students at Armour Institute, nor in the idea of the newer austere semantics, that would prepare us for the peppy and cycloidal chapters of Mr. Hayakawa's Language in Action. For there is nothing about rhetoric and grammar in the book (though a tremendous lot about English and words) and the schizoidal austerities that mark so much of the diagrammatizing of language is not to be found. With piquant and telling examples from the everyday life and the current scene, the reader is instructed to distinguish between words as 'symbols' and as 'signals'. According to more conventional usage this would roughly correspond to the intellectual and the affective employment of words. The reader is shown the rôle of agreement in determining the value of words or any other symbols. Examples are given to show how persons who naïvely believe that symbol and the thing symbolized are one and the same may be misled (the example given is of the cowboy who rose and shot the stage villain); further how 'slanting' a report can insinuate one or more effects. ('Our army retires to prepared positions.' 'Their army thrown back five miles.'). The magical and musical uses of words are considered, and especial attention is given to what is called the directive uses of language, when language is used to make something happen, rather than to impart facts. Another chapter deals with the process of abstracting, and by means of Korzybski's 'ladder', it is shown how abstraction consists essentially in a leaving out of elements that are present in the empirical experience. There is a passing reference to the persistent area of the primitive within the most sophisticated and normal man.

In short this book is a very good introduction to linguistic psychology—a linguistic psychology which triumphantly supersedes the old aphasia-bound linguistics that one is accustomed to find even in very recent books. For the affective and the dynamic elements are constantly emphasized.

It must be conceded that Mr. Hayakawa has adopted a thoroughly dynamic approach and utilizes a dynamic psychology.

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