TCU, Spring 2008

GS for Mass Communications Practitioners

Catalog Description: The application of the principles of General Semantics — how language affects the communication process — to the practice of journalism, advertising, and public relations.



General Semantics (GS) deals with how we perceive, construct, evaluate and then express our life experiences through our language-behaviors. This course provides an introduction to the discipline, focusing on practical applications for mass communications professionals.

Course Objectives

Students will:

  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of the basic terms, formulations, and system of General Semantics.
  • Relate the principles of GS to their chosen professional fields.
  • Apply the methods of GS to their own individual evaluating, behavior, and self-awareness.
  • Critically evaluate various aspects of the mass communications processes and outputs.
  • Practice and demonstrate the skills and knowledge associated with their chosen professional fields (journalism, advertising, public relations, etc.).
  • Research and report on topics of interest using the analytical and communication techniques of General Semantics.

eCollege and Email

The resources and capabilities of eCollege will be used for important class communications, announcements, assignments, and posting grades. Critical functions and capabilities of the eCollege class shell will be covered in class, but you are expected to be proficient in using eCollege capabilities. For help with eCollege, please see: . Email will also be an important communication means for this course. Your official TCU student email address will be used for all course notifications.

2008 Fall Syllabus Outline

The content for this course is somewhat fluid and may be determined based on current events, student interests, etc. Therefore I reserve the right to adjust the sequencing of the material based on the needs of the class. It is not anticipated that the dates for quizzes, projects, reports, and presentations will change. However, should they become necessary or desirable, changes to the Course Outline, or any other part of this syllabus, will be communicated to the class as soon as possible via eCollege Announcement.

Grades and Assignments

The grading philosophy for this course is that you earn points for completing assignments. Except as noted, the assignments are not “graded” other than to make sure the stated requirements are satisfied. The intent is to reward accomplishment of assigned tasks; in other words, you will determine your grade based on how much you choose to accomplish.

You will participate in two different Groups throughout the semester. You will be expected to participate in and contribute to each Group activity. You may lose points if, in my judgment, you fail to appropriately participate and contribute.

This course is worth a total of 1,000 points:

  • 930 points are required for an A
  • 840 points are required for a B
  • 750 points are required for a C
  • 660 points are required for a D

Assignments are divided into four types:

  1. Individual Assignments (625 points)
  2. Group 1 Assignments (125 points)
  3. Group 2 Assignments (150 points)
  4. Quizzes (100 points)

1) Individual Assignments (625 points)

Attendance — 232 points. There is no primary textbook for this course. Some supplementary articles will be assigned throughout the course to reinforce material covered in class, but the primary source for course content will be class presentations, lectures, and discussion. Therefore attendance in this course is very important. Each class is worth 8 points. If you attend the class, you earn the points; if you don’t attend the class, you don’t earn the points. If you miss class due to an official university absence or if you have an extenuating circumstance as determined by the instructor, you may complete make-up assignments for no more than two absences.

Journals — 168 points. You are expected to complete one journal entry after each class (except the final class, 28 total) throughout the semester using the eCollege Journal tool. An entry for each class is required, regardless of attendance. Your class notes may be included in your journal, but the intent of the assignment is to write about more than just your class notes. Each journal entry should be at least 300 words and provide a summary of what you felt were the most important points covered in that class, or how something from the class applies to something that happens outside of class. This is an opportunity for you to reinforce what you are learning in class and relate class material to your own ‘real world.’ Each of the 28 entries is worth 6 points. Entries for each Tuesday/Thursday class must be completed by the following Monday to earn maximum points. Journal entries will not be scored qualitatively, but entries shorter than 300 words or entries submitted after the Monday they are due will receive only 3 points each.

Online Discussion — 40 points. You have the opportunity to participate in a general online threaded discussion forum in eCollege. A maximum of eight (8) points may be earned for each three-week period in which you materially contribute to the general discussion. In this context, “materially contribute” means that you, during each three-week period, offer at least four comments that begin or propel a threaded discussion by expressing a well-stated opinion, observation, insight, or respectful argument.

Definition Task — 40 points (*a, *m). Two 20-point tasks related to definitions will be assigned. Details will be provided in class.

Current Event Task — 25 points (*f). You will be required to complete one assignment regarding a current event. Details will be provided in class.

Book Report — 75 points (*h). Select a book from the list of approved books, read it, and submit a 2,000-word book report that relates the contents of the book to material covered in the course.

Individual Report/Evaluation for Group 2 Project — 45 points (*l). Details will be provided in class.

2) Group 1 Assignments (125 points)

Time-binding Timeline Task — 25 points (*b). Details will be provided in class.

Process Diagram Task — 25 points (*c). Details will be provided in class.

“100 Greatest Discoveries” Project — 75 points (*d). Each group will be assigned one of the eight subject areas for the Discovery Channel’s series featuring Bill Nye. Each group will be tasked to study the content of its respective video (approximately 45 minutes) and prepare a report to the class, according to the requirements to be provided in class. Depending on performance, your Group may receive 75, 68, or 60 points.

3) Group 2 Assignments (150 points)

Project Plan — 25 points (*g). Details will be provided in class.

Dialogue Presentations (pairs) — 25 points (*i). Details will be provided in class.

Video Series Project — 100 points (*k). Each group will be assigned a major topic that includes a series of videos. Each group will be tasked to study the content of its respective video topic and prepare a report to the class, according to the requirements to be provided in class. Depending on performance, your Group may receive 100, 90, or 80 points.

4) Quizzes (100 points)

Two Quizzes (50 points each, *e, *j) will be given and may consist of multiple choice, true/false, short answer/essay questions, or other activities to be graded individually.


  • In-class lectures, presentations, and discussion will constitute the major source of learning opportunities. These learning opportunities simply cannot be made up. Therefore class attendance is extremely important. Attendance will be taken.
  • Late work due to unofficial absences will be accepted within one week of the assigned date and automatically penalized by a 20% reduction in possible points earned.
  • Graded work missed due to an official university absence may be made up with no penalty provided the make-up work is completed within one week of your return. It is your responsibility to notify me immediately of an official absence and to initiate any make-up work.

Quiz 1, 75 points

Match each statement to the GS term that best fits. You may feel that some of the terms apply to more than one statement. But you are encouraged to read over all the terms and matches in order to select the most appropriate term for each statement. (1 points each, 10 points total)

  1. “I hit the gas as soon as the light turned green. I never checked the cross traffic.”
  2. “He said he hated Pittsburgh. But he was only there for a day. He couldn’t have seen or experienced very much, so his assessment was based on limited observations.”
  3. “You either love me or you don’t. There’s no in between.”
  4. “I liked the movie until that guy fell through the ice and drowned in that icy water. I got so chilled I had to go outside to warm up.”
  5. “I just know he’s going to be late since he’s never been here before.”
  6. “I couldn’t believe she sent me that rude email. I’m not going to reply to it until tomorrow … maybe I’ll feel differently then.”
  7. “He used to be a radical socialist in college, but now he’s married with kids and a Bush conservative.”
  8. “Just because he’s Muslim doesn’t mean he wouldn’t make a good coach.”
  9. “I believe the prices at Tom Thumb are higher than at Albertson’s. I’m going to come up with a list of the items I usually buy and do a price check at each store to see if I’m right.”
  10. “I’m never going back there. There was absolutely nothing I liked about any part of that city.
  1. ____ inference
  2. ____ scientific attitude
  3. ____ delayed reaction
  4. ____ dating
  5. ____ indexing
  6. ____ identification
  7. ____ two-valued orientation
  8. ____ consciousness of abstracting
  9. ____ signal reaction
  10. ____ absolutism

MULTIPLE CHOICE (2 points each, 20 points total):

11.  Which is the most appropriate statement about general semantics?

  1. it’s just about the study of words
  2. it’s about choosing the right words to describe the objective world of reality
  3. it’s about evaluating the assumptions underlying language and symbols
  4. all of the above

12. Which is the most appropriate statement about the world ‘out there’?

  1. with more precise language we can accurately describe the objective world
  2. we can talk about general experiences that everybody should feel
  3. we can only talk about the world-to-me or the world-to-you
  4. we must talk objectively because there is only one world ‘out there’

13. What is significant about a statement such as “The rose is red”?

  1. it implies that red exists as a property in the rose
  2. it projects the reactions of the observer’s nervous system into the world ‘out there’
  3. it suggests that everybody should see the rose as the same color
  4. all of the above

14. Which of the following statements does not apply to a statement of fact?

  1. only a limited number of factual statements can be made
  2. a statement of fact can only be made after an observation or experience
  3. a statement of fact is open to interpretation and can be endlessly argued
  4. a statement of fact represents a high degree of probability, is close to certainty

15. Which of the following statements about assumptions and inferences is most correct?

  1. we must not make assumptions and inferences
  2. we must make assumptions and inferences
  3. they can only be made before an observation or experience
  4. there is a big difference between an assumption and an inference

16. An alternative to using polarizing (either-or, right-wrong, good-bad) language is:

  1. to eliminate all forms of the verb “to be”
  2. to take care to avoid making assumptions
  3. to talk in terms of degrees, with possibilities in between the extremes
  4. avoid subject-predicate constructions

17. Exactly, perfectly, and without a doubt are examples of:

  1. low-level abstractions
  2. absolutistic terms
  3. symbol reactions
  4. multiordinal terms

18. Which activity is part of  what we refer to as “abstracting” in general semantics?

  1. to select
  2. to construct
  3. to leave out
  4. all of the above

19. According to Edward Sapir, which statement about language is correct?

  1. the objective world of reality creates the language we use
  2. a single universal language is the only hope for avoiding future conflicts
  3. the language we grow up with predisposes us to certain choices of interpretation
  4. there is a direct correlation between the size of vocabulary and cultural progress

20. Which of the following statements is most accurate?

  1. words change faster than the world changes
  2. the world changes faster than words change
  3. the survival of a civilization depends upon its people being able to avoid change
  4. our senses are unlimited

The Structural Differential

Give a short explanation or description of the four components of the abstracting process noted below. (1 points each, 5 points total)

Korzybksi's Structural Differential

Final Exam



This video provides a review of the Spring 2008 semester, compiling over 70 different clips from videos shown during class to reinforce GS principles and formulations. Informative, educational, and entertaining.  *Some content may be considered objectionable and inappropriate for younger viewers.* (31:00)

Major sources of the clips used include:

  1. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
  2. “The Colbert Report”
  3. PBS: “Eyes on the Prize”
  4. “The N Word: Divided We Stand”
  5. “F**k: A Documentary”
  6. PBS Frontline: “The Persuaders”
  7. Independent Lens: “The Paper”
  8. “Toxic Sludge is Good for You”
  9. “The Brain: Evolution and Perception”
  10. Blue Man Group: “Inside the Tube”
  11. Herbie Hancock’s “Possibilities”