Meaning is the elimination from consideration of (logical or epistemological) possibilities, as for example, in a truth table.

Language and most similar signification work not by pointing, in some sense, to specific things, but by a process of elimination (only).

Big words often say less, therefore, because they eliminate fewer possible ways the world could be. Specific mundane statements usually say more because they eliminate more possible ways the world could be. (Or if you prefer, because they eliminate more possible worlds, in current logical and philosophical jargon.)

To eliminate all possible worlds, is to state a contradiction, which says too much. There is a world, after all.

Human language can therefore never be fully specific, and it seems unlikely to closely match what goes on in our brains. The terms and parts of our language, therefore, are not objects in the way what we can kick (a la Samuel Johnson) is – reification, such as Platonic Idealism which was an ancient explanation of meaning, and its later revivals are a delusion.

More complex forms of language, such as imperatives such as "Get off the computer and do the dishes." are built upon this same semantic structure.

That all probably sounds a bit too simple and mechanical, but a better and longer explanation of this way of explaining meaning, illustrated with propositional logic, can be found at

First posted June 25, 2004