NDA – Use of English (Passage III) – 2004

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Passage III

If Our thought is to be clear we are to and we are to succeed in communicating it to other people, we will have some method of fixing the meaning of the words we use. When we use a word whose meaning not certain, we may well be asked to define it. There is a useful traditional device for doing this indicating the class to which whatever is indicated by the term belongs, and also the particular property which distinguishes it from all other members of the same class. Thus we may define a whale as a ‘marine animal that spouts’. ‘Marine animal’ in this definition indicates the general class to which
whale belongs, and ‘spouts’ indicates the particular property that distinguishes whales from other such marine animals as fishes, seals, jellyfish, and lobsters. In the same way, we can define an even number as a r.ite integer divisible by two, or democracy as a system of government in which the people themselves rule.

There are other ways, of course of indicating the meanings of words. We may, for example, find it hard to make a suitable definition of the word ‘animal’. So we say that an animal is such a thing as a rabbit, dog, fish or goat. Similarly, we may say that religion is such a system as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. This way of indicating the meaning of a term by enumerating examples of what it includes is obviously of limited usefulness. If we indicated our use of the word ‘animal’ as above, our hearers might, for example, be doubtful whether a sea-anemone or a slug was to be included in the class of animals. It is, however, a useful way of supplementing a definition if the definition itself is definite without being easily understandable. Failure of an attempt at definition to serve its purpose may result from giving as distinguishing mark one which either does not belong to all the things the definition is intended to include, or does belong to some members of the same general class which the definition is unintended to exclude.

Adapted from Straight and Crooked Thinking, by R. H. Thouless


This is a timed quiz. You will be given 900 seconds to answer all questions. Are you ready?


The writer uses the expression 'fixing the meaning of the words we use' to mean

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One of these summarize the approaches to definition discussed in the passage

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The expression 'may well be asked' as used in the passage means

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Which of the following statements can be deduced from the passage?

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From the passage, which of these is a disadvantages of defining by enumerating?

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NDA - Use of English (Passage III) - 2004
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