last changed in 2002
An idea is exactly what you might expect given the ordinary meaning of the word IDEA. It is the concept of a concept, so we distinguish 'the idea of sunshine' from 'sunshine' itself - even though 'sunshine' is a concept (in someone's mind), not the real thing.
This distinction is essential because we have words such as IDEA, THOUGHT an MEMORY, meaning Idea, Thought and Memory. The semantic structure of a phrase such as the memory (thought, idea) of Rome is obviously different from that of Rome, so we need some kind of analysis. The relationship between memory and Rome seems similar to that between, say, picture and Rome in a picture of Rome, so if Rome is the 'model' of the picture, it may also be the model of the memory, thought or idea.
Idea is one of the top-level concepts in the WG ontology. A particularly important kind of idea is a proposition.
This is an article from the Encyclopedia of Word Grammar and English grammar. If you refer to it, please give the url as "http://tinyurl.com/wg-encyc".