CAT 2017 Question Paper | Verbal Slot 2

CAT Previous Year Paper | CAT VARC Questions | Question 31

Para Summary type of questions are trickier than you expect it to be. In the CAT previous year paper, we saw that there were 3 questions on an average per slot in Para Summary. Since the topic is trickier, and carries negative marking, it will be wiser to attempt it after solving other parts of VA like Sentence Elimination and Sentence Rearrangement. We can expect atleast 1 question from this type to be easy to moderate difficulty. The best questions to practice for the CAT Exam are the actual CAT Previous Year Paper. Solve more of such questions by visiting 2IIM's CAT Question Bank.

The passage given below is followed by four alternate summaries. Choose the option that best captures the essence of the passage.

Question 31 : A fundamental property of language is that it is slippery and messy and more liquid than solid, a gelatinous mass that changes shape to fit. As Wittgenstein would remind us, "usage has no sharp boundary." Oftentimes, the only way to determine the meaning of a word is to examine how it is used. This insight is often described as the "meaning is use" doctrine. There are differences between the "meaning is use" doctrine and a dictionary-first theory of meaning. "The dictionary's careful fixing of words to definitions, like butterflies pinned under glass, can suggest that this is how language works. The definitions can seem to ensure and fix the meaning of words, just as the gold standard can back a country's currency." What Wittgenstein found in the circulation of ordinary language, however, was a freefloating currency of meaning. The value of each word arises out of the exchange. The lexicographer abstracts a meaning from that exchange, which is then set within the conventions of the dictionary definition.

  1. Dictionary definitions are like 'gold standards' — artificial, theoretical and dogmatic. Actual meaning of words is their free-exchange value.
  2. Language is already slippery; given this, accounting for 'meaning in use' will only exasperate the problem. That is why lexicographers 'fix' meanings.
  3. Meaning is dynamic; definitions are static. The 'meaning in use' theory helps us understand that definitions of words are culled from their meaning in exchange and use and not vice versa.
  4. The meaning of words in dictionaries is clear, fixed and less dangerous and ambiguous than the meaning that arises when words are exchanged between people.

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Explanatory Answer

The paragraph argues that the meanings of words are not fixed, but arise out of exchange, in the way the words are used. The lexicographer abstracts a meaning from that exchange and sets it down in the dictionary. The dictionary-first theory of meaning is not valid.

Option 3 touches upon all key ideas and sums up the paragraph best.

Option 1 incorrectly labels dictionary definitions ‘artificial’ and does not mention the ‘meaning is use’ theory. Option 2 contradicts what the paragraph says. Option 4 calls the meanings of words in dictionaries ‘less dangerous’ than meanings in exchange. This is not what the paragraph says.

Choice C is the correct answer.


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