I mainly agree with what you say. There seems to be a
double confusion:

- for some "objective" values, qualifying both ends of
the scale with "+" or "-" seems all right (when it's
about quantity in some or other way, I guess).

- but for other "objective" values, qualifying them by
"+" or "-" seems to be a mere convention
(temperature...) [common people don't think about the
laws of physics and the movement of the atoms when
saying "warm" or "cold"]

- and then for subjective values, some "+/-"
qualifications seem quite natural for almost everybody
(good / bad, pleasant / unpleasant, order / disorder,
civilization / barbary, etc), when other may depend on
local culture or on the psychology of the speaker (for
ex: colours, political opinion, etc).

I once tried to consider, for every entry of a lexicon
of some thousands substantives, whether:
- when I thought of that word, I felt it connotated
positively, negatively, or sometimes both (depending
on the field considered), or simply not at all, anyway
on a +/- scheme
- when I felt that there was a +/- connotation, how
strong it was (on a scale from 1 to 5), and what was
the reason why I felt it so.

This was of course perfectly subjective and personal.
The main interest was to determine the connotation
fields. For ex: life#death, health#disease,
order#disorder, hygiene#dirtyness, security#danger,
high spirit#low spirit (for ex: exotic dreams #
everyday banality), etc. I found about 20 to 30 of
such fields, as far as I remember.

Just as a test, how many of us, reacting on a purely
instinctive and immediate way, would think "-" when
hearing the word "spider", and how many would think
"+" when hearing "kitten" ?

--- Remi Villatel <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> IMHO, we don't think in terms of high/low but
> more/less. So "cold/warm" is
> "more or less temperature in C/F", "high/low" is
> "more or less high",
> "far/close" is "more or less distant in
> meters/feet", and so on. All scales
> are always oriented from minus/less to plus/more.
> The temperature climbs of
> fall. The speed increases or decreases, etc. We are
> conditionned by our
> thermometers, cynemometers, altimeters, barometers,
> rulers, numbers... and
> even our fingers! There is always more or less
> fingers. ;-)
> > - if we also consider the concept of good / bad,
> or
> > pleasant / unpleasant, than we have a tendency to
> > consider "good" or "pleasant" to be at the highest
> end
> > of the scale. So, logically, we consider that
> "hot" is
> > good, and "cold" is bad. But clearly there is a
> flaw
> > here somewhere, because "hot" cannot be good in
> any
> > circumstance (ask a fireman). So where lies the
> flaw ?
> The flaw is that you forget the context. You can't
> say a word out of context
> if you want to be understood. The positive/negative
> value isn't in the word
> but in the context. "long vacation" vs. "long
> agony", "long time on the
> beach" vs. "long time in a hospital". The
> "positive/negative" value depends
> totally on context... until we talk about good/bad
> or mean/nice which have a
> "positive/negative" value of their own.
> Length, weight, speed, distance, temperature are
> objective concepts.

Philippe Caquant

"High thoughts must have high language." (Aristophanes, Frogs)

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