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Personal Glossary

writing about a word’s meaning, or about the topic a word points to (reference), with regard to one’s own experience, rather than with regard to the consensual meanings defined in one’s personal dictionary – which may or may not be represented in general/specialized dictionaries A “glossary” is typically attached to a book. So a personal glossary would be attached to a person – the meanings that make sense to someone based on their own experiences and ideas – regardless of whether it is shared by others.

The “personal glossary” is a place for personal reflection – reviewing one’s life experiences, and how experiences been understood through language practices in different communities the person participates in. For example, people often develop and discuss their own personal definitions of words like “success” or “love” or “friendship” or “family”, etc. These are words that refer to important parts of our lives, and there are competing conceptualizations of the part of the world the word refers to – the core examples, the range of acceptable examples, and the relations with related parts of the world captured by related terms.

The meaning of a term in the Personal Glossary may not agree with the meaning in someone’s Personal Dictionary, because the meaning in a dictionary is a consensual meaning, a negotiated meaning – an outcome of a consensus process – even if there is a power differential among participants. The meaning in someone’s personal glossary is tentative and exploratory, part of the attempt to think with a language that may not have meanings to cover a particular experience. The writer can stipulate a meaning, without committing to use the word that way in any particular speech community.

The development of science emerged from the personal glossaries of scientists as they developed their theories, eventually advocating and gaining acceptance (or rejection) by the scientific community in a specialized dictionary.

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  • rqparks
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