Intensional-Extensional Language As A Measure Of Semantic Orientation -- By: Raymond W. McLaughlin

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 10:3 (Summer 1967)
Article: Intensional-Extensional Language As A Measure Of Semantic Orientation
Author: Raymond W. McLaughlin

Intensional-Extensional Language As
A Measure Of Semantic Orientation

Raymond W. McLaughlin

Does a liberal preacher use fewer dogmatic and more qualified language forms in his preaching than a fundamentalist does? Or, to put it in semantic terminology, does a liberal preacher use fewer intensional and more extensional terms in his preaching than a fundamentalist does?

One might think that the liberal claim to tolerance and scientific orientation would come through to people in extensional language and that intensional statements would be reduced to a minimum. The opposite, of course, might be expected of a fundamentalist who often is portrayed as rigid, intolerant, and dogmatic both in attitude and word.

One study cannot settle the above questions but it may serve to launch analytical efforts and provide a pilot study for future reference.

The purpose of this study, therefore, is to discover whether or not the general semantics theory of intensionality-extensionality applies in the expected way to two speakers who differ significantly in theological beliefs, education, scholarship and other ways, but whose speeches fall into similar categories. This analysis makes no attempt to study the theory that intensionality and extensionality are indexes of mental health. Neither does it seek to determine whether or not they are factors affecting the mental health of listeners. Vocal, rhetorical, and various non-verbal factors, while undoubtedly important, are not treated in this study.

Characteristics Of The Speakers Studied

The two speakers under consideration are Harry Emerson Fosdick, former pastor of the Riverside Church of New York City and for many years a leading voice for the liberal wing of American Christianity, and Oral Roberts, contemporary fundamentalist mass evangelist and “faith healer” whose preaching is heard currently by thousands of people in tent and auditorium meetings, on radio and television.

Although the common bond that qualifies these men for consideration is the preaching task, their theological and personality differences should contribute to our understanding of their usage of the various intensional-extensional types of language structures.

Educational differences

Fosdick attended the public schools of Buffalo, New York. He studied Greek and Latin under his father in high school. He graduated from Colgate University in 1900 where his dominant activity was public speaking. He won numerous prizes in oratorical contests and was named to membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He studied at Colgate Divinity School for one year and then transferred to Union Theological Seminary

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