Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I finally understood words with the meta- prefix

I have a friend and language partner who happened to use the word "metaphysical" on me. And I had to tell him I only have a vague inkling of what that word means. 

But since he brought it up, and being language partners and all, I had better figure it out. 

But instead of searching the dictionary for its meaning, which I have done before and it wasn't of much help, I searched the Internet for "words with the meta- prefix" and found a Wikipedia entry

This portion was very helpful: "In epistemology, the prefix meta- is used to mean about (its own category). For example, metadata are data about data (who has produced them, when, what format the data are in and so on). In a database, metadata are also data about data stored in a data dictionary and describe information (data) about database tables such as the table name, table owner, details about columns, – essentially describing the table. Also, metamemory in psychology means an individual's knowledge about whether or not they would remember something if they concentrated on recalling it. The modern sense of "an X about X" has given rise to concepts like "meta-cognition" (i.e. cognition about cognition), "meta-emotion" (i.e. emotion about emotion), "meta-discussion" (i.e. discussion about discussion), "meta-joke" (i.e. joke about jokes), and "metaprogramming" (i.e. writing programs that manipulate programs)."

The "an X about X" gives me an excellent explanation of what those words means. However, I also need to be careful because that section comes with a "citation needed" notation. Looks like I still need more reading up on it. 

But it helps for now, particularly with words like meta analysis (analysis about analysis), metafiles (files about files) and meta-language (language about language).

I also realised why it took me so long to understand it. It all boils down to the word "metaphysics", one of the more commonly used meta- words. It's physics about physic/ and I didn't understand it because I don't understand much of physics to begin with!

It figures. 


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