Retrospective Facilitator Gathering

Regardless of what we discover...

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In this session we explored how the meaning that people have for words and phrases impacts our ability to facilitate and guide them.

Our area of work creates an “expert community” of language - a subpopulation of the general meaning set. So, sometimes the words and phrases we use are misunderstood at a meaning level by those we work with.

Certain words and phrases cause high levels of misinterpretation - I call these words “loaded”. In this session we started with some introduction to semantics from a linguistic point of view and then worked on a few words the group thought might be “loaded”.

`Concepts of this session from George Lakoff's book Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things

Linguistics/Semantics background:

  • Semantics ⇒ meaning of language
  • Pragmatics ⇒ usage of language
  • System ⇒ Idealized Cognitive Model (ICM)

Categories and Category Hierarchies:
The general theories of Lakoff's book state that our minds use categories to help us understand meaning and that there are hierarchies of meaning in the categories that help us relate concepts to a “basic” meaning.

We define release as a noun with the following possible meanings in a category.

  • Release
  • Timebox
  • Internal Release
  • External Release
  • Mid-Range Plan

We can look at these examples (and others) to try to determine if there is an example in the set that we might consider to be a Prototype for the category. Other members of the category are then compared to the prototype to understand membership.

A single word or phrase with multiple meanings from the same category hierarchy.
Example of polysemy:

Warm as in “It is warm outside” and Warm as in “I should have brought something warm to wear”

False example:

Bank as in “I put my money in the bank” and Bank as in “The house is built on the bank of a river”

Release example:

  • Liberation
  • Grant of permission
  • For use

Bodily Experience:

In addition to the meaning perceived by our minds, we can also understand meaning through our bodily experience. We watched each other as we discussed the meaning of our selected words to see how our bodies might be expressing the following constructs.

  • Container
  • Part-Whole
  • Link
  • Center-Periphery
  • Source-Path-Goal
  • Up-Down and Front-Back


the_semantics_of_retrospectives.txt · Last modified: 2018/10/27 07:58 (external edit)