Literature/1982/Fillmore

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Fillmore, Charles J. (1982). "Frame Semantics," in: Linguistics in the Morning Calm. Hanshin Publishing Co., Seoul. pp. 111-137.

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  • University of California, Berkely

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  • With the term "frame semantics" I have in mind a research program in empirical semantics and a descriptive framework for presenting the results of such research. Frame semantics offers a particular way of looking at word meanings, as well as a way of characterizing principles for creating new words and phrases, for adding new meanings to words, and for assembling the meanings of elements in a text into the total meaning of the text. By the term 'frame' I have in mind any system of concepts related in such a way that to understand any one of them you have to understand the whole structure in which it fits; when one of the things in such a structure is introduced into a text, or into a conversation, all of the others are automatically made available. I intend the word 'frame' as used here to be a general cover term for the set of concepts variously known, in the literature on natural language understanding, as 'schema', 'script', 'scenario', 'ideational scaffolding', 'cognitive model', or 'folk theory'.
  • Frame semantics comes out of traditions of empirical semantics rather than formal semantics. It is most akin to ethnographic semantics, the work of the anthropologist who moves into an alien culture and ask such questions as, 'What categories of experience are encoded by the members of this speech community through the linguistic choices that they make when they talk?' A frame semantics outlook is not (or is not necessarily) incompatible with work and results in formal semantics; but it differs importantly from formal semantics in emphasizing the continuities, rather than the discontinuities, between language and experience. The ideas I will be presenting in this paper represent not so much a genuine theory of empirical semantics as a set of warnings about the kinds of problems such a theory will have to deal with. If we wish, we can think of the remarks I make as 'pre-formal' rather than 'non-formalist'; I claim to be listing, and as well as I can to be describing, phenomena which must be well understood and carefully described before serious formal theorizing about them can become possible.

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Gradient-optical-illusion.svg
The shade of the bar looks invariant in isolation but variant in context, in (favor of) sharp contrast with the color gradient background, hence an innate illusion we have to reasonably interpret and overcome as well as the mirage. Such variance appearing seasonably from context to context may not only be the case with our vision but worldview in general in practice indeed, whether a priori or a posteriori. Perhaps no worldview from nowhere, without any point of view or prejudice at all!

Ogden & Richards (1923) said, "All experience ... is either enjoyed or interpreted ... or both, and very little of it escapes some degree of interpretation."

H. G. Wells (1938) said, "The human individual is born now to live in a society for which his fundamental instincts are altogether inadequate."