A Model of the Universe of Discourse by C. S. R. Weightman

Systematics Vol. 6  March, 1969  No. 4

“Your speech is not merely tongue-wagging, larynx-buzzing and listening. It is much more the result of your brain doing its job as a man­ager of the muscles to keep you going in your situation. Similarly it would be misleading to use the word ' listen' in describing the function of your ears in everyday speech. We do not' prick up' our ears just to catch a few sounds. Our ears are actively interested in what is going on.

In dealing with the voice of man we must not fall into the prevalent habit of separating it from the whole bodily behaviour of man and regard it as some outward symbol of private inward thoughts. Neither should we regard it as something apart from what we all too readily call the outside world. The air we breathe, the air we talk and hear by, is not to be regarded merely as outer air. It is inner air as well. We do not live just within a bag of skin, but in a certain amount of what we may call living space, which we continue to disturb with some success."*

* J. R. Firth. Synopsis of Linguistic Theory 1930-1955, in Studies in Linguistic Analysis. Oxford 1957, p.4.


This is the first of several papers in which an attempt is made to demonstrate how Systematics and many of the notions developed in the Dramatic Universe** can fruitfully be applied to language, and how they can be used to clarify and even resolve many problems in the theory of language. In this first study an attempt is made to set up a model, using the generalised model developed in the first volume of the Dramatic Universe, to serve as a starting point and to examine at the outset the consequences of the dual role which the student of language is called upon to play: namely the roles both of experiencer and of investigator of the material on which he has to work.

** J. G. Bennett. The Dramatic Universe. Vol. I, 1956; Vol. II, 1961; Vol. Ill and Vol. IV, 1967.

It will be useful, to begin with, to introduce two propositions, the first which must surely be beyond dispute, and the second unexception­able, provided it is later shown to be fruitful. The first proposition is that, for us, language is an area of experience. The second proposition is that human language experience, in itself, constitutes a complete universe, which is, in fact, sometimes called the universe of discourse. The universe of discourse can be thought of as a sub-universe of the universe of communication. Although, like all other derived worlds, the universe of discourse is interlocked and dependent, it nevertheless has its own integrity. The student of language must lay claim to the whole of this universe, even if in so doing he lays himself open to charges of trespass­ing, for, without doing so, he cannot hope to reach the total understand­ing for which he strives.

The student of language is thus confronted with a universe of 'dis­course-experience', which it is his task to investigate. The method of investigation that is here proposed is to project a generalised model, which is applicable to any universe, into the particular universe of discourse. The model or the theory which an investigator selects as his tool is not important in itself—he does not have to 'believe it'—but it is important only in so far that, when projected into his material, it will be of sufficient heuristic power to enable him to construct a fertile and coherent theory or model within the terms of his own area of investigation. If it does not do this, then it must be discarded.

In order to do justice to the original conception in setting up the generalised model which is to serve as a tool in this present enquiry, it will be necessary to quote more extensively than is usual. It can only be hoped that the possibilities thus opened up will serve as some compensation for this prolixity and for the many other defects of this initial presentation.


Experience is the given totality, and it is possible to interrogate experience and learn from it. Experience must, however, first be restored to wholeness by removing such unhelpful dualisms as 'substance and attri­bute', 'subject and object' and 'mind and matter'. But although experience is best thought of as being of 'one stuff', it is certainly not homogenous. Experience has elements which differ substantially in their essential nature. These are the elements of Function, Being and Will. ' Function',' being' and ' will' enter into every possible experience, and they cannot be separated, but neither can any one of them be reduced to the terms of either one or both of the others. These elements are then the primary elements of experience; they are universal and discoverable in every possible situation.

* J. G. Bennett. The Dramatic Universe, Vol. I, p. 49



The elements of experience reveal themselves in response to certain questions, and the question that may be asked in order to learn about the element of function is “What is going on?" “Wherever we turn our atten­tion, we find something going on: and, moreover, going on in a more or less orderly manner, and these regularities—that is the observable features—are the actual and potential subject-matter of our knowledge. What we know in this way can be called process."*

* J. G. Bennett. The Dramatic Universe, Vol. I, p. 56.

“We can define function as the 'knowable element in experience'. This means that function has certain differentiations that are not implied in the word ' process'. Functions are the behaviour of wholes. Wholes are related to one another, and we know them because we can recognise structure or patterns of function. The step from experience of process to knowledge of function is made by way of the categories. In order to think about our experience we must make use of the categories. They enable us to make the step from direct awareness to a knowledge of functional regularities. There is the universal process constantly actualizing itself. Through our self-awareness we experience this process from within, and through our sense-perceptions we experience it from without. All that we know in this manner is function.

Function has always the same character whenever and where-ever we find it. It may be the function of my mind in which thoughts are flowing, or it may be that of a clock which records the passage of time. Functions are, however, something more than mere activity. They are behaviour; that is the working of some mechanism. A clock is a mechanism, and its function is to tell the time; the mind is a mechanism and its function is to think. In our organism, the whole system of sensory and motor nerves—of spinal and cerebral ganglia—is a mechan­ism, and its function is to direct and co-ordinate our organs in response to stimuli received from the outer world. It will be noticed that in every reference to function it is taken for granted that it concerns what is going on in time and space. Function has this character of becoming actual, and therefore we are able to go beyond the limitations of our human experience and give an extended definition of it as all reality actualizing itself through its several parts."*

* J. G. Bennett. The Dramatic Universe, Vol. I, pp. 57-58.


** J. G. Bennett. This section is taken from The Dramatic Universe, Vol. I, p. 59; and from The Specification and Assessment of Human Beings, Systematics, Vol. 3, No. 4, 1966, p. 282, by the same author.

A second question may be asked to learn about the being element of experience, namely, 'What is it?'. Unfortunately ordinary language is applicable almost solely to distinctions of function, and it is therefore extremely difficult to make communications about being, even though it is equally pervasive with function while remaining entirely distinct, as can be seen from the nature of the two questions that may be asked. The first definition given for being was the 'intensity of inner-togetherness'. In a later article, however, this was not seen as being illuminating, and a further formulation was given of being as 'the power by which entities are what they are'. The problem of being is that it eludes definition and even description. There are certain words, however, in which we can see being distinctions, for example words ending in -ity, -hood, -ness, such as materiality, humanity, deity or self-hood, boy-hood and manhood. These examples can help to show an important characteristic of being, namely its relativity.

“Being is characterised by levels: but level alone does not constitute being. Thus a man is taken to be on a higher level than a sheep and a sheep from a stone: but though the level is an indication of being, it is not a measure."

“By definition, inner-togetherness has the unique inner relationship of ' more or less'; hence it is an intensive magnitude." “Being is existence and whatever exists has functions. Being knows and possesses the function of knowing: but being is not knowing or know­ledge. In general, being is not knowable, because it is not observable.

“The main point to be grasped is that being is a relative concept. Everything exists, but not everything has the same being. There are both levels of being and also modes of being. Thus the level of being of a cow or a sheep are approximately the same, but their modes of being are different. The difference lies in the kind of experience of which each species is capable."



* J. G. Bennett. This section is taken from The Dramatic Universe, Vol. I, pp. 60-61, Vol. II, pp. 69-80 and from The Specification and Assessment of Human Beings, p. 285.


Both of the two questions that have been asked so far can be described as ‘What' questions, 'How' and 'Why' are questions that can be answered only in terms of Will.

The definition of Will is given as the principle of relatedness as a dynamic quality in experience. “Relatedness implies mutual adjustment, and hence mutual limitation. Consequently if Will is the Principle of relatedness it must also be the source of law." Herein lies the key to the understanding of Will. "... we must distinguish what is going on and the laws which prescribe what can go on." "... it is laws alone that can answer the question ' How?', whereas functional statements tell us only what is going on."

“Wittgenstein says, ' of the will as subject of the ethical we cannot speak'. Here, again, we have to distinguish between the differences of being upon which ethical—and indeed all other—values depend, and the possibility or impossibility of a given relationship between levels. In other words we must distinguish between levels of being and laws of being."

“We have further to examine the meaning of the question ' Why?'. This question can be put in the form, ' Upon which ultimate law do all proximate laws depend'. The answer to the question ' Why?' presupposes a level of being at which it is possible to rest, and to remain satisfied with the answer that requires no answer. There will, however, still remain the need to show how this level can be related to other levels, and here again we encounter the problem of will.

“It will now be apparent that the questions 'Why?' and 'How?' differ only in that the former is ultimate and the latter is proximate. If we could know enough about 'how', we should then see 'why'. The power to see ' why' and ' how' as a single question is that which we call understanding."

Will is spoken of as the ' omnipresent active element' that in any given situation breaks down into three components. “In its universal aspect, will remains isolated from the particular events we need to explain. The incomprehensible character of will as the urge inherent in everything towards its self-realization has to be admitted in every philosophy."

“It is a quite different matter when we ask the question, 'How does this particular piece of the world go ground?'; for then we can answer in terms of laws. The omnipresent active element then shows itself under the three aspects of the laws of function, the laws of being and the laws of will. Seen from one view-point, the laws appear as a restraint placed upon the arbitrariness of function; seen from the opposite, however, they indicate that every small' how' can be merged into a larger 'how'. There­fore we find that the laws are not passive and negative, but active and affirmative."

“Will therefore is seen to be not only the universal active element but also the particular element in every recognizable whole.

“Neither being nor function is unique, but will is always unique.* It is the affirmation, I AM. This must, however, be understood to mean no more than ' it is possible for me to be thus and impossible for me to be otherwise'." The question ' Why', in whatever context it may be asked, always has one answer, " Because an affirmative impulse proceeds . . . decreeing that what is to be, is to be thus."

* Author's own italics

“Everything around us is thus and not otherwise. Thusness is a common property of everything that exists. It is, however, a negation; for in order to be thus each and everything is deprived of an infinite wealth of ' not-Thusness' that it might have exemplified. We find, therefore, in 'Thusness', a second universal property of Will; namely that there is an all-pervasive denial, so that all that exists can be thus and not otherwise." “In every situation there are both the particular thus and the univer­sal why. Between these two, only the reconciling quality of how can pro­vide a link, for' how' is at once both particular and universal."

At this point the question of freedom must be raised. If all is governed by law, how can there be freedom? To answer this it has to be assumed that will projects into existence a measure of its own freedom, and it is possible to formulate the following principle of the operation of will in the existing universe:

"At all levels of existence there is the possibility of free initiative, but only within the limits of superior laws."

Finally we must introduce the important notion of fragmentation of will. According to the principle of fragmentation, “the will operates according to its degree of integrity. A divided will is a weak will. The frag­ments of will present in material objects can do no more than hold it together. The more coherent will of the higher animals brings them closer to the power of decision. Even in man himself, will is by no means a constant term. Fragmented and reunited and fragmented again, with the inconstancy of a kaleidoscope, man's will is the least stable of his attributes. At one moment, capable of making a strong decision, he is, at another, like an automaton with little more will than a digital computer."


In order to bring the three elements together, and, thereby, to emphasize once again that they are inseparable in any concrete experience, an illustration is here given in which the existence of a great river is considered under its three aspects.*

* J. G. Bennett, The Dramatic Universe, Vol. II, pp. 77-78.


“First the river is an activity. It is a cycle of energy transformations entering in diverse ways into the functional processes of the Earth's sur­face and crust. It carries water and silt to the ocean; it irrigates the surrounding country, deepens and broadens its own valley. It is part of the mechanism that links the earth, the sun and the moon through winds, waves and rocks. . . . For man it is both a highway and a barrier to traffic —it is the mother of civilizations and the meeting-point of races. So we might proceed from detail to detail enumerating the functions of the river.

"The catalogue we should thus complete would tell us as much as we please of what the river does, but it could not tell us what a great river is, nor would it enlighten us as to the' how' and ' why' of its arising. In the realm of being, the river is part of the presence of the earth. In its essence ... it is an element in the pattern of the earth. We cannot know that river, but we can be conscious of it as we merge ourselves into the experience of earth-life—the experience of winds, waves and rocks. In its being the great river has its own consciousness, quite different from our human consciousness; for it can only experience itself as an entity merged into the essence of the earth. The river, ever perishing, ever renewed, is always itself and always other—never to be confined within any formula of knowableness.

“There remains to be described the thus, the how, and the why of the river. These are only to be found in the operation of universal laws. All the laws of nature are implicit in the answer as to how the river is what it is. All the laws of existence, from the moment of creation, must be invoked to answer the question: why is there a river? It is thus because all existence is governed by laws that impose such a thusness upon it. It is embedded in a nexus of relationships by which it is connected by manifold links, according to universal laws, with the totality of existence, within the vast framework of possibility. It is under this third aspect of universal relatedness that the 'Will' of the river is manifested. It is related as 'Why, Thus and How'.

“The laws of the actual river are particular, but they are expressions of laws that are universal. We can only understand the river, in as much as we can see the particular within the framework of the universal. More­over, if we could understand the river fully, we should also understand fully all that exists and beyond."


The generalized model which has been just set up is now to be applied to the particular universe of discourse. The starting point here will be that 'discourse-experience' is the given totality, and it is this that has to be interrogated. To avoid any kind of dualism, it can be said that the universe is composed of' one stuff', that is discourse. It is to be anticipated that the three elements of function, being and will, which were regarded as the primary elements of experience in general, will be fully exemplified in discourse-experience in particular. It is thus to be expected that there will be found three primary elements of discourse which differ substantially in their essential nature, that enter every possible experience of discourse, but which can never be separated, nor can any one of them be reduced to the terms of either one or both of the other two. These primary elements will be universal and discoverable in every possible situation.

In setting up the generalized model, certain questions were asked as a discovery procedure. These questions can now be asked of discourse.


When the generalized model was set up, the element of function revealed itself in response to the question 'What is going on?'. This question must now be asked of discourse. It can be said that throughout the entire universe of discourse utterance is going on. Thus utterance can be regarded as the' process' of the universe of discourse. It is the observed regularities of utterance which are the actual and potential subject matter of our knowledge of discourse.

But, as has already been said, function, that is to say the knowable element in experience, has differentiations that are not implied in the word ' process', and so it is to be expected that the functional element in discourse will be more than utterance. The term language will here be used to indicate the knowable, functional element in discourse. The step from direct perception of utterance to knowledge of the regularities of language is made by way of the linguistic categories. These will be dis­cussed in a later paper. Language is then to be defined as the knowable element in discourse.

Functions, it has been said, are more than mere activity. They are behaviour; that is the working of some mechanism. Language can be thought of as a mechanism whose function is to generate linguistic structures. These structures are given in direct perception as utterances. Language, moreover, also has the character of becoming actual, and the extended definition of function can be followed to give a definition of language as all discourse actualizing itself through its several parts.


The being element in discourse should reveal itself, in terms of the present procedure, in answer to the question “What is discourse?" The problem of being though is here a real one; it is not knowable, because it is not observable, and it eludes definition and description. An equally intractable difficulty lies in the fact that it is never possible to encounter 'pure being' in isolation in any concrete experience, but always function and being inseparably together. It is, however, possible to start from an earlier statement in which it was said that the universe of discourse can be thought of as a sub-universe of the universe of communication. This gives some justification to the answer that, while what is going on in dis­course is language, what discourse essentially is, is speech. The concept of speech which is here identified with the being element in discourse requires closer examination.

“It is some relief to find that, though linguistic theorists have, as a rule, ignored the distinction between ' language' and ' speech', most civilized languages have not made this mistake. In Latin we have lingua and sermo, in Greek glossa and logos, in French langue and parole (or discours), in German Sprache and Rede. ... In all these languages the equivalent of 'language' serves as a collective name for an organised system of knowable linguistic facts, and the equivalent of 'speech' is a nomen actionis for the activity of which the most evident symptoms are articulation and audibility. . . . The names for 'language' and 'speech' always come before us as etymologically unrelated pairs, eloquent testimony to the soundness of untutored instinct in its divination of real differences."*

* Sir Alan Gardiner. The Theory of Speech and Language. Oxford 1961, pp. 107-108. 302

While, however, there clearly is a 'real difference' between language and speech, the concept of speech given in this quotation unfortunately does not capture it. To see speech as activity, that is to say as' goings on' is to treat it in functional terms, and is to see the difference between language and speech solely as one of scale. Such a view would state that language is activity in the universe of discourse while speech is activity in the world of man. This is not acceptable because it takes the investiga­tion out of the universe of discourse, and, more importantly, because it fails to bring out the essential difference between the two. It is, however, possible to translate actionis, not as activity, but as action. Language will then remain the activity, but speech will become the action of discourse. If this is done, it becomes possible to perceive the beginning of a sub­stantial difference between the two, while yet remaining within the universe of discourse.

The important point to be realized is that language is extensive and configurational and can therefore be represented by vocabularies, gram­matical rules and other observable regularities. Speech, however, has its differentiations in the power of expression and communication which vary from one utterance to another. There can be very great differences in the expressive power of an utterance when it is used on different occa­sions. The activity remains the same but there is a significant difference in the action. These variations cannot be represented by a visible pattern for they occur in depth rather than in sequence. Speech is not extensive in character but intensive, like the scale of temperature.

Speech has the power to organize discourse in depth, whereas language orders discourse in form and sequence. The degree to which discourse is coherent and organized in depth corresponds to the 'intensity of its inner-togetherness'. This was the first definition given for being. The most 'evident symptom' of the inner coherence and organization of speech is to be found in the ' success with which we disturb our living space'. The effectiveness of an utterance is indicative of the degree to which it is organized in speech. That the effectiveness of utterances varies considerably suggests that there is equally a variation in the degree of speech organization present. Herein lies the relativity of speech. Speech is an intensive magnitude with the inner relationship of 'more or less'. It can be represented as a scale on which the calibrations indicate the differing degrees of coherence and inner organization. At the bottom of the scale would be ' undifferentiated speech sounds ', at the top would be fully cogent and effective speech, and there would be a series of gradations between representing the different transitions that have to be made to move from the bottom to the top. A single linguistic element like a word could travel right up and down this scale. With this understanding of speech, it is not possible to reduce language and speech to the same terms, but, at the same time, it is not possible to separate them in any possible situation.

The organizing pattern in speech is its potential for evoking experi­ence. If it were not for this quality that attaches to all speech—and all modes of expression that operate in the same manner as speech—there would be no 'arts of speech'. Great Oratory is the name given to speech with a great power to evoke experience in the hearers. Dull and colourless speech is an indication of a low potency. The ' being' of an utterance can therefore be defined as the depth and coherence of its potential for awaking experience.

It must not be thought from this that speech creates meaning, rather it 'puts it over'. It does not add to the content of what is being said, but it makes this content an effectual medium of communication. The organizing power of speech is thus quite distinct from both the ordering process of language and the shared understanding of meanings. It is this property that enables speech, unknowable and elusive as it is, nevertheless to fulfil the requirement of being, that is to say, it is the power by which discourse is what it is.


There remains the will element or the 'why, how and thus' of discourse. This is readily recognizable as meaning. Meaning is thus given, ex hypothesi, the definition being the principle of relatedness as a dynamic quality in discourse. This is satisfying both inherently and also because it accords with much of the thinking in semantics which connects meanings with relations.

Following the generalized model, meaning can first be thought of as the ' omnipresent active element' in its universal aspect. This aspect of will always remains remote from the situation that is being studied and could be regarded as an affirmation "Let human beings share their experience by means of their voices", which can be thought of as the 'incomprehensible urge' that makes the universe of discourse go round. Then, in a given situation, meaning is to be found in the laws that are operative. These laws break down into the three components of the laws of language, the laws of speech and the laws of meaning. Again these laws are found to be not passive and negative, serving only as a restraint upon the arbitrariness of utterance, but as active and affirmative, so that meaning is to be seen not only as the universal active element, but as the particular active element in every recognizable whole.

Meaning can then be seen as the ' why, how and thus ' of discourse. Suppose a park-keeper produces an utterance to a little boy. This utterance has its own unique ' thusness '. The little boy could first ask, “Why did he utter thus? ". To this the answer might be, “because that is how one pronounces the words 'get' 'off ' 'the' 'grass' ". The boy might then ask, “Why did he utter these words? ". The answer to this might be, “because that is how one produces the sentence 'get off the grass' ". The boy might then ask, “Why did he produce the sentence ' get off the grass'?". To this the answer might be, "because that is how this particular speech community handles situations in which it does not want people to be on the grass ". Then the boy might ask, “Why did the park-keeper say this to me?". To this the answer would be, “because you are on the grass and he wants you to get on to the path ". Any further question would take the enquiry out of discourse and into the laws of the local borough council. It is thus seen that each ' why' is answered by a ' how' on the level above. The levels can be regarded as the various levels of coherence which belong to speech. The final ' why ' is answered by the park-keeper's intention, which is a concept commonly associated with the will. It is hoped to demonstrate in a later communica­tion that ' all whys ' can be said to originate in intentions and all 'hows' in usage. For the moment it is enough to see that it is ' how' that always reconciles the affirmation of 'why' with the denial of 'thusness' in discourse, and that 'how' can only be explained in terms of laws.

At all levels relations are to be seen as the expression of laws. Thus, for example, syntactical relations, according to this proposition, are ' meaning' at their own level, for they clearly belong to the ' why, thus and how ' of discourse. It should also be remembered that 'will' permits a degree of freedom, and it can be said that, in discourse, there is freedom to choose, but only within the limits of superior laws. The notion of fragmentation of the will can be a very powerful concept in semantics, as it is hoped to show at a later date, for this enables us to account adequately for ' word meanings '.

Finally, attention should be drawn to the sentence in the generalized model, "The power to see 'Why' and 'How' as a single question is that which we call understanding." This accords well with experience of discourse; means are not known but rather understood.


There remains a great deal that could be said about each of the three elements that have been identified as the primary elements of discourse, but for present purposes it has been enough to establish that language, speech and meaning are universal, inseparable in any discourse situation, yet substantially different in that none of the three can be reduced to the terms of either one or both of the other two. It is now necessary to face the ambiguity of the approach that has been followed so far.

In taking discourse to be a universe and, in setting up three distinct primary discourse elements which are seemingly susceptible to objective study, we have followed a procedure that is at variance with the initial insistence that discourse is, for us, an area of experience. The two approaches have been termed the immanent approach and the transcen­dental approach. "By an immanent approach we mean an approach which, considering any sort of object to be investigated, including language and music, will neglect man as its producer and recipient. In contra­distinction to this, the transcendental approach, as understood here, will lead us to investigate specifically those relations by which an object, such as language or music, may be related to man as its producer and/or recipient. ' Transcendent' then is here understood to mean what we might call' psychological' hi the broad sense."* To insist that discourse is experience is to follow the transcendental approach, while to treat discourse as ' objectively real' is to follow the immanent approach.

* Roland Harweg. Language and Music, The Foundations of Language, Vol. 4, No. 3, 1968.

This is not merely a question of approach, but is rather the recurrence of an old dilemma; namely the relationship between appearance and reality. “We cannot believe that reality is wholly subjective, but equally we cannot admit that it is wholly objective. There can be no division of reality into two realms, one subjective and the other objective, one all experience and the other altogether devoid of experience. All that we have discovered . . . must convince us that such a dichotomy is spurious. The dualism that seeks to retain both views without seeking to reconcile them is unfruitful, and the pluralism that regards multiplicity as ultimate is a confession of failure."**

** J. G. Bennett. The Dramatic Universe, Vol. 1, p. 231.

The first step towards resolving this dilemma lies in the realization that discourse can only be experience for us, that is to say, for experiencing selves. Any attempt to investigate discourse that fails to take these selves into account, has already lost contact with the reality of the situation. The most important question to be answered in order to reconcile the two views of discourse, is, “How does language, speech and meaning become experience?" We answer this by saying that, language becomes experience for us as experiencing selves through our competence, by which we mean our knowledge or our ability to order the regularities of linguistic activity, speech becomes experience through our performance, that is to say our ability to participate in discourse effectually, meaning becomes experience for us by means of our grasp, that is to say our ability to understand, to relate, or to structure relations. These three abilities, taken together can be said to represent our ' discourse faculty'. They stand in relation to one another as do the three primary elements. The difference between competence and performance can be seen, for example, if we consider that there must have been very many Welshmen with an equal or even greater competence than Dylan Thomas, but few could boast of being his equal in performance.

The important point is that competence, performance and grasp, are the paths by which language, speech and meaning become unified in experience. The experiencing self experiences discourse as unity because these three paths converge and meet. We have then to introduce into the model that we are setting up, in addition to language, speech and meaning, a fourth component, the experiencing self, whose role is always to act as the unifying factor.


* This section is an application of the model developed in The Dramatic Universe, Vol. I, pp. 230-233.

The universe of discourse can be represented as a triangular pyramid, with unity at its apex and multiplicity at its base:




U - Unity

L - Language

S - Speech

M - Meaning



                                                               Fig1 Unity and Multiplicity

Here the three elements, language, speech and meaning are shown at the three lower corners of the diagram, as if they were mutually exclusive components. The apex shows the experiencing self as the unifying factor. The three lines which connect language, speech and meaning at the lower corners with unity at the apex are competence, performance and grasp, that is to say the paths by which the three primary elements become experience for the experiencing self. Each point O represents a combination in which each of the three elements are brought together in a certain proportion, which makes it possible to account for the different degrees to which they are fused in various kinds of situations.

In the diagram, points on the vertical axis O U indicate the balance between determinism and freedom. The axis passing through the point L on to the plane U S M similarly measures the ratio between abstraction and concreteness. That which passes through the point S indicates the degree of coherence and effectualness; that which passes through the point M to the plane L S U gives the ' simplicity ratio'. At the apex, there is only one law, that is freedom; whereas on the plane L S U meaning is manifested in- all the complexity that can arise from the relativity of speech and the multiplicity of language. Here there is no freedom but only the operation of mechanistic laws.

The plane L S U is the concern of linguistics, the plane L M U is the concern of semantics, and the plane S M U is the concern of communi­cation theory. Each of these disciplines studies this pyramid but regards a different point as its apex. It has been axiomatic throughout this enquiry that' pure language' divorced from speech and meaning is an abstraction that has no place in any possible experience. Every concrete experience is a blending of language, speech and meaning. If it becomes necessary to study any one of these separately, it can best be done by placing oneself in a perspective that will reduce to a minimum the relative significance of the other two. This then is the situation that confronts the linguist; he cannot hope to find pure language; he can only place himself in the perspective where the relative significance of speech and meaning are reduced. This he does by placing the pyramid in the following position:




L - Language S - Speech

M - Meaning U - Unity



                                                                         Fig. 2 Linguistics

 At the apex there is the perfect order of the universe of discourse conceived as a single functional mechanism, language. The base with its three vertices, speech, unity and meaning, represents the whole wealth of immediate experience with its inextricable complexity and its disorder, both real and apparent. The three base points now direct attention to what could be regarded as the three basic postulates of linguistics; namely,

(i) Unity—that is the self-consistency of discourse, (ii) Framework—that is the omnipresence of universal laws, (iii) The Stratification of Discourse—the notion of levels is common to every linguistic theory.

The ideal situation that the linguist seeks to achieve is represented by the point language, at which all possible experience appears as the operation of simple, universal, self-consistent and functional ' laws of language'. Only at this point are all the uncertainties of meaning and speech eliminated from his picture of the universe of discourse.


At the outset it was stated that the purpose of this study was to set up a model of the universe of discourse and to examine the dual role of the observer as experiencer and investigator. This has now been done. It says much for the fertility and creativity of the generalised model that, though metaphysical in the extreme, when it is applied to the particular universe of discourse, it is of sufficient heuristic power to raise and clarify points that are rarely touched on in theories of language, though they are central to it. The model should now be able to serve as a foundation for future studies.