When we say, The town is built of marble, we give the hearer what may be entirely new information, and this merely by the signification of the many-worded connotative name, “built of marble.” Such names are not signs of the mere objects, invented because we have occasion to think and speak of those objects individually; but signs which accompany an attribute: a kind of livery in which the attribute clothes all objects which are recognized as possessing it.
They connote both the absence of certain attributes, and the presence of others, whence the presence of the defaulting ones might have been expected. Thus, blind would be applied only to a non-seeing member of a seeing class. Correlatives, when concrete, are of course connotative.
And here we must turn our attention to the definitions of attributes, or rather of the names of attributes, that is, of abstract names. In regard to such names of attributes as are connotative, and express attributes of those attributes, there is no difficulty: like other connotative names, they are defined by declaring their connotation.
But it is a name applied to all of them in consequence of an attribute which they are supposed to possess in common, the attribute which has received the name of virtue. It is applied to all beings that are considered to possess this attribute; and to none which are not so considered. All concrete general names are connotative.
Those objects are brought under the name, by possessing the attributes connoted by it: but their possession of the attributes is the real condition on which the truth of the proposition depends; not their being called by the name. Connotative names do not precede, but follow, the attributes which they connote.
The Bromide is reflective, and the object is thrown back unchanged, unanalyzed; it is accepted without interrogation. The mirrored bromidic mind gives back only what it has taken. To use the phraseology of Harvard and Radcliffe, the Sulphite is connotative, the Bromide denotative. But the theory is constructive rather than destructive. It makes for content, and peace.
A connotative term is one which denotes a subject, and implies an attribute. By a subject is here meant anything which possesses attributes. Thus John, or London, or England, are names which signify a subject only. Whiteness, length, virtue, signify an attribute only. None of these names, therefore, are connotative. But white, long, virtuous, are connotative.
Proper names are attached to the objects themselves, and are not dependent on the continuance of any attribute of the object. But there is another kind of names, which, although they are individual names—that is, predicable only of one object—are really connotative.
It has been seen that all concrete general names are connotative. Even abstract names, though the names only of attributes, may in some instances be justly considered as connotative; for attributes themselves may have attributes ascribed to them; and a word which denotes attributes may connote an attribute of those attributes.
One of the chief sources, indeed, of lax habits of thought, is the custom of using connotative terms without a distinctly ascertained connotation, and with no more precise notion of their meaning than can be loosely collected from observing what objects they are used to denote. It is in this manner that we all acquire, and inevitably so, our first knowledge of our vernacular language.