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Module C ButtonTopic C3.1: Three Parts of a Definition

What is the condition of the identifying characteristics?
What is required to understand the definition of  any term is to recognize the condition of the identifying characteristics.  

The condition of the identifying characteristics is the indispensable requirements that must be met before something can be identified as an example of the term being defined.

Indispensable - absolutely required
Requirements -  something obligatory or demanded
Met - to comply with or satisfy

All terms have one or more conditions that must be met before something can be identified as an example of that term. The condition of the identifying characteristic(s) is signaled by the following  language clues:

Language Clue
One identifying characteristic
All identifying characteristics
One of several identifying characteristics
Emphasized identifying characteristic


What are the different types identifying characteristics?
The different types of identifying characteristics will now be given. For each of the terms used as an illustration of a specific type of identifying characteristic, an example of the term is given. Notice how the identifying characteristic(s) of the term is found in the example. This will be explained in greater detail in the next part of this program.

One Identifying Characteristic

When there is only one identifying characteristic given to identify something, no language clue is required to signal the condition.

A pocket knife is a knife with a blade that folds into the handle.

In order to identify a knife as a pocket knife, the knife must fold into the handle.

Term Being Defined: Pocket knife

Classification: Knife

Identifying Characteristic: One

1. Blade folds into the handle



All Identifying Characteristics

When there are several identifying characteristics required to identify something, the language clue “and” is usually found in the definition statement.

A hoity-toity is a person who is fussy, arrogant, flighty and condescending.

Before a person can be called hoity-toity, four conditions must be met. The person must be (1)fussy, (2)arrogant, (3)flighty and (4)condescending. If a person does not possess all four of these qualities, he or she cannot be called a hoity-toity person. For example, if a person was only fussy, he or she would be called a fussbudget.

Sometimes there is no language clue signaling when all of the identifying characteristics are required to identify something.  This can be illustrated with the definition of a suitcase.

A suitcase is a rectangular travel case  that opens into two hinged compartments.

There are three identifying characteristics required before you can call a case a suitcase. The case must be (1)rectangular, (2)used for travel and (3)open into two hinged compartments.

Term Being Defined:  Suitcase

Classification: Case

Identifying Characteristics: All required

1. rectangular
2. used for travel
3. opens into two hinged compartments



One of Several Identifying Characteristics

When the term "or" is used between the identifying characteristics, only one of the identifying characteristics given is required to identify something as the term being defined. This can be illustrated with the definition of "trash."

Trash is anything that is broken, discarded, or worthless.

While there are three identifying characteristics given to identify anything as trash, only one of these three identifying characteristics required in order to call something "trash."

Term Being Defined: Trash

Classification: Anything

Identifying Characteristics: One required

1. Broken
2. Discarded
3. Worthless



Emphasized Identifying Characteristic

An important identifying characteristic is the emphasized identifying characteristic. The identifying characteristic that is being emphasized is more important than the other identifying characteristics.

Words such as "yet," "but," and "however" are used to signal an emphasized identifying characteristic. This can be illustrated with the definition of agnostic behavior.

Agnostic behavior is fighting or the threat of fighting but excludes killing for food.

Notice that the term or signals that agnostic behavior is either "fighting" or "threat of fighting."

Also, notice that the term "but" signals that "excludes killing for food" is not a type of agnostic behavior. Therefore, when an animal kills for food, this cannot be called agnostic behavior.

Term Being Defined: Agnostic Behavior

Classification: Behavior

Identifying Characteristics: One or two and three

1. Fighting
2. Threat of fighting
3. Excludes killing for food

*Always put a mark beside the emphasized identifying characteristic.



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