The anatomy of symbols

This comes up from looking at how syllables generally are the parts of words that specifically refer directly to the {subjects, processes, ends, and meanings}, particularly of compound words. They make holistically structured references to experience, insight and meaning, but also allow extremely varied use without reducing their structure and accumulated history.

I think it’s quite important today to help people rediscover the root meanings of language that has become a victim of our world’s runaway abstract imagery. Our world’s runaway abstract imagery separates us from the root meanings of life and our understanding of how things really work. The rich and deep knowledge embedded in culturally maintained words from the Bronze Age conveyed complex awareness and understanding of nature and the systems we live with, on, by, and for.

“Composition” has three syllables: com-pos-ition, not two as in the citation. So I think the root is com-pos and the ition then refers to the organizational process of making the presentation.

That’s a very different sense of the term compared to presenting it as two syllables, com-position. I think the three meanings combined greatly enrich the etymology. So I think that needs to be included in the citation in Etymoline.

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Does the etymology from the position entry satisfy what you are looking for?:

Watkins tentatively identifies this as from PIE *po-s(i)nere, from *apo- “off, away” (see apo-) + *sinere “to leave, let” (see site). But de Vaan identifies it as from Proto-Italic *posine-, from PIE *tkine- “to build, live,” from root *tkei- “to settle, dwell, be home” (see home (n.)).

Doug and Talia use a nested structure for this dictionary to avoid duplication.

I’m responding to the syllables {pos + ition} as referring to the acts of “arranging or making a pose.” We pose whenever we are photographed, and we pose flowers when making a bouquet or recognize how something is posed as its ‘position’. Those seem to be the most common meanings. Those meanings seem possibly more general than the special case of PIE *tkine- “to build, live” don’t seem to include the more general sense.

There may be more in the Greek for “pose,” which as a noun is translated: stop, attitude, stand, still, stance, stand. That nicely connects the contextual meaning of “posing” of doing it “with an attitude or taking a stand.”

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Hm ok. You might want to find some sources to back up this theory because based on this website’s current dictionary, it doesn’t seem like the pose you are referring to is very closely related to pos in composition. This might be a case where they have similar form but not a similar meaning.

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[quote=“Jessilydia, post:1, topic:1325, full:true, username:jessilydia”]
Scott, you seem to be favoring the root of ‘pos’ associated with building. Isn’t everything in a building placed *carefully and purposefully?" That’s the commonality I see in all the branching uses I’ve looked at so far, as in “com-pos-ition” as “together placing with purpose.” Can you see the commonality? ‘Positioning’ is just letting something go or kicking it out of the way, but in some way arranging things in a way that makes the sum of the parts in the arrangement ‘whole’ and greater than the sum of the parts.

You’re taking a different approach to understanding words than this dictionary. The ‘pos’ part of the words composition and pose come from different sources. Either from *apo- or *tkei- in the reconstructed Indo-European language family for composition, or from pauein in Greek for pose.

The pose entry does mention how the similarity in form between pause and position has influenced their meaning:

hence the Old French verb (in common with cognates in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese) acquired the sense of Latin ponere “to put, place” (past participle positus; see position(n.)), by confusion of the similar stems.

Yes it does seem I wish I knew how to strenuously fight what I see happening on Etymonline. The site seems to be just erasing the contribution of root meanings of syllables used in the geometries of compound worlds. I’m really astounded and frightened by such a blatant error.

The root meanings of the parts combine to create elegant and rich compositions of meaning, clearly serving as the building blocks of our natural languages. These structures of language happen to derive from the most useful and lasting ways of referring to the forms of nature and our experiences of them, derived from many thousands of years of beautiful discovery, and now someone has some notion to erase them.

I think it’s wrong to erase them, particularly for some arbitrary lexicological reason. That is just awful harm to history and humanity to drop the meaning of the ancient building blocks of every language’s most durable words. They carry the history of our direct references to the designs, processes, and ends of natural systems, their material meanings, and our relationships with them.


I respect your level of concern for this stuff. Maybe you can help me understand you a little better. Here is what I think you are saying:

There is an inherent meaning connected with syllables or geometries in written words. Which implies a shared meaning between composition and pose simply due to the presence of pos in both words.

So tell me if I represented you correctly there. Also let me know what you think about these two objections.

1.) swine and pig share meaning but do not share syllables.
2.) noon and soon share a syllable but do not share meaning.

I’m having trouble imaging how your approach would make sense.

Thanks for the question. The answer is not exactly. The geometries of meaning that one finds between syllables in compound words are interactions of the ancient meanings attached to them, as units of ideas meaning that had originally been expressed vocally. It’s hard to say, but as Latin and Greek record their conversion from vocal to written dialect, it appears most of which seem predate written language.

So they appear to come from sounds and gestures referring to natural phenomena and experiences, repeated over and over for their usefulness and added attached meaning, that formal language developed from. So as long as they live, those informal, accumulated, culturally sustained, and diversified packages of experiences, feelings, and insights remain attached to the direct reference to the subjects of the word.

That whole pyramid of ancient contextual knowledge, the foundation of meaningful language, gets erased when words are treated as abstractions. That context can be preserved or partly restored by frequently asking what in the world and in culture an abstracted meaning really refers to.

Ok ok. Could you give examples of words that preserve that ancient context as well as words that are too abstracted and have less connection to the vocal roots of meaning?

Also, are there any definitive books which outline this way of understanding language?

I have wall-to-wall meetings till next Friday. Sorry for the brief reply. It’s all the long-lasting useful words that stem from the meanings of indo-european syllables. Say “conflagration” four syllables,
{con fla gra tion} or cooperation {co oper a tion}, each geometry of syllables is a reference to an old idea, linked together for their meaning as a whole.

One of the other pieces of evidence is that history shows that written Greek and Latin appeared as if all of a sudden, displaying a vast and deep appreciation of nature and the human experience, with no one at all to tell the writers what all that meant, – other than – the ancient common cultures from which they emerged. Get it?

It all had to come from somewhere, and the start was the long, long accumulation of short sounds associated with deep meanings that had to have spread and built up as people spread from Africa to the Mideast, then both Eastward and Westward, then to the North, as the ice retreated, maintaining enough contact for innovations in knowledge to be passed along. There is no other way for the deeply related family of languages to have developed.

Ah, Scott, my good reply was deemed promotional and hidden. Do you have an email I could send it to? The simple answer to your question is that the examples include virtually all the useful old words, I’m swamped with meetings for the week. The strongest evidence takes a little explanation.

Please do!: scott dot storefront at pm dot me

The above summary doesn’t address the premise that it isn’t the mere presence of “pos” in both words that’s significant, it is that “pos” has a deep history which is not necessarily apparent—i.e., a mere syllable or collection of letters isn’t the meaningful part, rather it’s the inherent history of where that syllable/collection comes from, whether/how meaning has evolved over time, and therefore whether any words being compared share a bit of DNA and therefore have an innate relationship (even if distant on the family tree).

The material issue here is whether syllables continue to refer to recognizable and meaningful natural phenomena, patterns of design, or experiences that persist as their usage varies over time. In that case their role in language would contribute a “key and lock” function of opening up the world of a culture’s associations with said commonly recognizable features of nature and human experience. That human minds can and do experience life that way might be difficult to explain to people who don’t, or who require absolute proof. I think the best evidence is that words themselves contain no evidence of what they mean or rich and nuanced variations of their use, except by eliciting them in a listener’s or reader’s mind. So, what I’m suggesting is that the durable meaning of words and syllables relies on retaining their original roots of meaning. If that wasn’t true, old texts would lose their meaning, rather than serve as foundations for future meaning.

There is indeed a class of words and syllables that don’t have that property, the abstractions with meanings detached from their contexts, both the buzz words, labels, and fanciful projections of demigods, salespeople, fraudsters, etc., most likely to loose all meaning on repetition.

I think that’s one of the things that causes true culture or civilization collapse, communities developing and becoming absorbed by such temporal notions, like our world’s, that without retaining natural roots in common observation and experience. Our culture’s obsession with achieving infinite scale and rates of reorganization, using profit to multiply its rate of redesign, seems a quintessential case in point, and a near and great danger to language if a way to dial back and reflect isn’t found.

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I try and limit my phone use, but just happened upon this chat and thought I’d let you know I’ve found it extremely informative and I agree with you. Thank you for taking the time to persist and explain what you mean. It’s a lovely example of respectful learning from each other :smiling_face:. Best wishes, Liz x