School Survival Forums
Language Limitations - Printable Version

+- School Survival Forums (http://forums.school-survival.net)
+-- Forum: Sticky (/forumdisplay.php?fid=46)
+--- Forum: Best of School Survival (/forumdisplay.php?fid=25)
+--- Thread: Language Limitations (/showthread.php?tid=13250)



Language Limitations - Happy Camper - 07-27-2008 04:47 PM

A thought occurred to me today. The limitations of language have been on my mind recently this year. One of my favorite words is probably “queer”. But the way I use the term is often misunderstood by others. To many queer means gay. To others it means bi. To some it transcends the dichotomy of gay and straight and is in its most ambiguous form, “I am sexual. I lack any orientation”. In that sense, it isn’t even bi. It is giving the finger to labels and classification. I don’t like that this term is usually exclusive to sexuality. In a postmodern world of uncertainty, I think its use could be broadened to religious, political, and cultural subjects.

We’ve talked on the site lately about religion and a lot of people have given their own definitions, fully aware that a simple label isn’t enough. In fact, a label is often misleading and can be misrepresentative. When people ask what religion I am, I like to answer “yes”. I am spiritual, I just think that to express it in words doesn’t do it justice. So many things in this world are abstract. Particularly the field of ideas and intellectual conversation. Even the most articulate person is limited when it comes to using the tools of language that we are presented with.

It may or may not be coincidence that I went to see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull today. Which happened to deal with the subject of psychic activity or telepathy. I didn’t dwell on it much upon leaving the theatre. But the old biblical story of the tower of Babel came to mind tonight. And traditionally we seem to think that man spoke one language and then all of a sudden, with a snap of God’s fingers, they all started speaking different languages. What if this isn’t so literal and there was no “language” as we know it today, to begin with? What if communication and understanding was instinctive? Miscommunication wouldn’t have been a problem because they were not limited by language? I’m not suggesting they were telepathic, although I can’t rule it out. But maybe there was an undercurrent of something…

Or an alternative theory could be that they were the traditional idea of cavemen before. Using simple grunts and gestures to understand each other…

A tangent here: the idea of a “tower” seems sketchy to me as well. Perhaps the building of this tower was simply a metaphor for cultural and technological evolution? The BC humans got big heads and became worldly and advanced.

So if the tower is metaphorical as is the Poof-different-languages idea.

What if using language was part of that advancement? What if they developed language as their tower? And language complicated things and caused miscommunication and blurred understanding? And it continued to evolve until we have the languages that we have today?

The tower of babel was just a tangent. What’s really on my mind is both the potential that language has to help us understand each other…as well as the many obstacles and misunderstandings it can create. People can talk a lot and at the same time say nothing. And so much can be said with a simple nod of the head. Even as I write this, there is so much that I wish I could convey better. Without words.

Food for thought.

Edit: Some clarification maybe. This is an incomplete thought process, not an essay. And when I talk about Babel, I try to not be exclusively referring to christianity but the general mythology of towers and language development. The story of the fall of man takes many different forms, from apples to boxes. "Babel" has similar parallels.


Re: Language Limitations - AWOL - 07-27-2008 07:16 PM

Chocolate please.

Interesting thought. However, what if we made this a little broader. Two Englishmen having no idea what the other means by queer. An Amerika-jin who's never heard a word of Nihongo and a Nihon-jin whos never heard a word of Eigo. It limits everything. They revert to sign language and trying to learn each other's language by pointing and talking. It'd confuse the hell out of anyone.


Re: Language Limitations - croush - 08-01-2008 08:55 AM

Happy Camper Wrote:But maybe there was an undercurrent of something…

Oh, definitely. I have friends from South America who only understand a quarter of what I'm saying and I only understand half of what they're saying, but we always understand what each other mean. Language assists, and today is has become quite exclusive, but a lot of things are expressible without spoken word.


Re: Language Limitations - Michio-kun - 08-01-2008 11:40 PM

Check out the philosopher Wittgenstein, much of his work is based around his opinion that philosophical problems arise from language problems.

He said that metaphysical debate is meaningless because we "run up against the walls of ourselves."


Re: Language Limitations - croush - 08-02-2008 03:50 AM

Stratovarius Wrote:Check out the philosopher Wittgenstein, much of his work is based around his opinion that philosophical problems arise from language problems.

He said that metaphysical debate is meaningless because we "run up against the walls of ourselves."
Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote about something like this too, in the Postmodern Condition.


Re: Language Limitations - Happy Camper - 08-02-2008 05:00 AM

croush Wrote:
Happy Camper Wrote:But maybe there was an undercurrent of something…

Oh, definitely. I have friends from South America who only understand a quarter of what I'm saying and I only understand half of what they're saying, but we always understand what each other mean. Language assists, and today is has become quite exclusive, but a lot of things are expressible without spoken word.

That's the amazing thing. Like...10% of what we communicate is with words. The rest is body language and facial expressions. But that 10% takes care of the finer details. And I think we've become obsessed with the finer details. We're getting less capable of looking at the big picture.

Stratovarius Wrote:Check out the philosopher Wittgenstein, much of his work is based around his opinion that philosophical problems arise from language problems.

He said that metaphysical debate is meaningless because we "run up against the walls of ourselves."

Exactly.


Re: Language Limitations - cryptevah72 - 08-02-2008 08:27 AM

language and labels almost always lead to stereotype and generalization. humans are flawed in many ways, including that of which we cannot fully understand eachother. you know how you sometimes feel like you cant put what you're thinking into words (i get that way too often) well who's to say that you put it perfectly into words, and that the person who is listening to you interprets them wrong, thereby thinking the wrong thing? its impossible to tell which happened, yet you still have a misunderstanding on your hands. i dont think it will ever be possible to completely communicate what we mean or feel. perhaps its merely because everybody is differant, and so the way i understand even a simple fact can change between conciousnesses.


i'd continue much more, but i have guests over...


Re: Language Limitations - Ahab - 08-02-2008 04:20 PM

Meanings are subjective. Were we just universal in meanings, language would be a terribly unamusing field, and there would be no variation, no dialects or languages but one unless language acquisition and creation is innate if one doesn't exist. There is no language which will fit your meanings exactly, but it's the general idea of the word (and context) that counts relative to the meaning. So, does language limit itself by meaning? No, it just varies, really. The communication is inhibited, but language remains the same (ie language extinction, you might only have one person speaking the language anymore, but it's still language until they die, even if they haven't spoken it in ten years or only use it when talking to themself.)

So take "queer." Queer is a variation on the theme weird, and has in modern English taken on to have a general idea attached that something with the same sex is involved. So if you call me queer, I might filter it down to a point. I, not taking any offense to the word or any distinct meaning beyond attraction to the same sex or weirdness, would probably attach the meaning as "okay, so he's trying to call me either gay(jokingly), gay (with ambiguity), gay (generally), or faggot."

Those conditions alone make it complicated what you are communicating, but when we speak the same language with fluency we are not inhibited, we are rather helped. Telling by your intonation, by the context, etc., I can draw a conclusion that you are saying one of the four, and then by that see if one of those four have any additional context I might draw. This is all part of language to such a degree to help keep us somewhat on the same track.

Now, that additional context is where communication draws a blank. This is where the slightest change will make it come out different from your brain to my brain, and that slightest change is what causes this so called limitation. Really, it has more to do with neurology than linguistics. The slightest change can make the difference everytime, but language isn't destroyed, because if I said the same thing to myself, I'd be fine, I'd get the language. It's the communication of meanings aspect that proves difficult.