Are we trapped inside of language?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Magical Realist, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,535
    Really?
    Does that necessarily include relying on unfounded assumptions and a failure to address points raised?
    Such a novel approach to "enlightenment".
    Thanks for the info.
     
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. Me-Ki-Gal Banned Banned

    Messages:
    4,634
    You don't invent something out of nothing . You invent something out of something and that something has a word association . You work in the confines of language plain and simple . Monkeys would be able to do your job otherwise. Guerrillas think more independent than you do . That be why they can't do your job. They don't live in the confines of human language systems . You do.
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. Me-Ki-Gal Banned Banned

    Messages:
    4,634
    got to go later
     
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,535
    One more time: no.
    I work visually. You do know what that means don't you?

    If a monkey can hold the relationships, geometries and extrapolations in its head then yes, probably.

    You think?

    Also false. At least partially. And I take you mean gorilla rather than guerilla? For someone posting on the meaning and use of language you have a lax attitude towards it yourself....
     
  8. Lilalena Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    266
    Some people won't exactly know what that means. People have different types/levels of imagination. One everyday life example that constantly amazes me is how a person can talk about moving this or that piece of furniture to that space, without realising that it will never fit. I can usually tell if something will be off by 3/4 inch to an inch - but not less - so that is my limit. Some people, however, will be off by a few feet in their calculations (trying to move a 4 1/2 foot wide console into a 2 ft wide alcove) and never find out till they've actually done the move.

    OK the above might seem off-topic but my point is we can be trapped inside of language depending on our visual / creative skills / ways of expression and how serious we are about developing them.

    I appreciate Abstract art that makes an effort to be as independent of words and metaphor as possible. You could say this 'art movement' was an attempt to break out of the prison of (verbal) language. Not all abstract paintings succeed however. Even Jackson Pollock's use of titles for his paintings can sometimes be ironic - why go to all that trouble only to reduce the thing to words in the end?

    In contemporary art (art installation in particular) you will find artists' efforts to break out of the language that eventually resulted from the previous art movements (we all know how to 'read' abstract paintings now).

    So I would say that the history of art is a continuous attempt to break out of the trap that our various languages (verbal, abstract, emotional) can create.

    However, you don't have to be a visual person to be able to escape the trap of language. I wouldn't consider Shakespeare as someone who was trapped in language - he invented words and (seemingly) whole grammatical structures. Emily Bronte achieved the opposite - she turned language into her slave... Maybe you'll like Jorge Luis Borges - he seems to be considered another one of the greats - who never got trapped in their art...

    If you are serious about your question then perhaps you should check out Ferdinand de Saussure, the structuralist movement, semiotics (the study of systems of signs). This is a big topic among philosophers so if you're serious you better get reading.
     
  9. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,535
    Granted. But I expect them to at least understand it means something other than "thinking in words".

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!



    I do, and he is. And I had to educate my local librarian: "No, it's NOT pronounced George Lewis Bor-giss"

    Er, grandmother, eggs, sucking...

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  10. Lilalena Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    266
    Hey after the moving furniture paragraph I was talking to Magical realist.
    Didn't make that clear, sorry.

    Why would I ever suggest readings to you? (Read: I am not so dumb as to ever try to give advice to oldies)

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  11. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,535
    :spank:

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  12. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,656
    Good points about art. I think maybe the surrealists were also trying to break free from language. I really like Rene Magritte's works, like the picture of the pipe that says "This is not a pipe". Kind of brings home the mystery of reference and what it even means to refer.

    I've studied alot of philosophy in my life. Heidegger and Derrida were major influences as well as Sartre. So I am somewhat familiar with Saussere and his approach to language as differential in nature. Maybe language "opens" us up to Being as much as it "closes us" off from physical reality. Whatever can precede the copula "is" may be thought to "be" in some sense. So maybe we are not as trapped as I initially suggested. We just need to broaden our definition of what it means "to be".
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    That was only true during the initial development of the technology of language.
    • This occurred at least fifteen thousand years ago, because the members of the recently discovered Dene-Yeniseian language family split off at that time.
    • It could also have been 60KYA, when our species made its first successful migration out of Africa. Language, which makes possible planning, organization, and knowledge transfer across generations, may have been the key technology that ensured their survival.
    • Or it could have been hundreds of thousands of years earlier, since the brain of both Homo sapiens and H. neanderthalensis has a speech center.
    In all the languages we have available for study, including extinct unwritten ones reconstructed forensically, new words are routinely formed from old words or borrowed from the languages of neighboring peoples.

    This is not to say that spurious invention does not occur, usually beginning with slang. But even a word like "humongous" obviously borrows the first syllable from "huge" and the final syllable is a common suffix of Latin origin. "Rambunctious" has the same faux-Latin dignification and it shares its first syllable with "ramble." "Bloviate" is an autological (self-describing) word created by President Harding from the simple word "blow," meaning "to speak pompously," i.e., to be a "blowhard."

    No one knows, and probably will ever know, how the first Paleolithic tribe standardized on a particular whistle, grunt, hiss, yelp or other noise to communicate the idea, "Don't step in the mastodon poop" or "This is the best stone for knapping blades." Some of the legacy language families in Africa contain phonemes that mimic bird calls and other natural sounds, leading to the speculation that the camouflaging noises hunters called out to each other from their hiding places may have been the first rudiments upon which language accreted.
    You need the male perspective on this. The reason we don't communicate our feelings is not that we don't have the vocabulary to describe them. The reason is that we don't want to communicate our feelings. It's not macho. Gibbs's classic line in "NCIS" sums up the male attitude toward expression of feelings with his quintessential Marine Corps compact hyperbole: "Never say you're sorry. It's a sign of weakness."
    But as civilization advances and each generation is one step further disconnected from the land and the whole natural universe, our universe becomes increasingly one of words. Even in my childhood a mere two and a half generations ago, even a chess-playing bookworm like me went outside and played in the carbon world for several hours every day. Today's children spend most of their free time in the silicon world. Sure, many of them immerse themselves in MMORPGs, but most of them are immersed in Facebook, texting, or actual talking on their cellphones. Today's civilization is extremely verbally oriented.
    I prefaced my assertion with, "unless you're a professional athlete, musician, sculptor, etc." Those people are a tiny segment of the population. The rest of us think predominantly in words. I'm a D-list musician and I'm perfectly capable of thinking in melodies, chords, modalities and rhythms, but I only do that for a few hours every week. My primary occupation that supports the family and pays for my musical gear is writing and editing, so I think in words for hours on end. It's possible to do both, but for most of us who do both, words dominate.
    We all need to think visually (or in some other dimension such as tactile or non-verbal aural) from time to time. But for most of us that is a small fraction of our life.

    Note that in the modern era, with voice synthesizers that actually work, blind people usually get along increasingly well with little or no compensation for their inability to perceive the visual world. Whereas deaf people absolutely have to learn some other way to communicate in words, or they're screwed!
    That's because everyone you meet is a member of a post-industrial civilization who only needs one word for "rock." As the world inexorably draws together into a single global civilization, our referents will increasingly fall into conformance even if we continue to speak separate languages. A hundred thousand years ago your tribe might very well have had several distinct words for the kinds of mineral formations in its own territory--the ones that are good for knapping blades, the ones that are good for storing heat, the ones that make good pounding tools, the ones that pile up neatly for barricades, etc. A tribe several hundred miles away might have different mineral formations that serve different functions. It's possible that neither of you would have a generic word equivalent to "rock" because you had not developed a need for it.

    A good example: It appears that generic words for "animal" and "tree" were not in the vocabularies of Paleolithic tribes.
    Trust me, Chinese culture is just as sexist as Euro-American culture, if not more so. In their highly analytic language they use the one-syllable words for "male" and "female" as often as necessary.
    I'd like to see a link to the study that came up with that revelation. It's certainly not true in any human family I've ever known. Women know what things look like, men know how they work. My wife assures me that if I ever go blind it will take me a couple of days to notice it.
    Dog brains have no speech center. They have to be able to communicate by other means. It's usually a mistake to apply what we know about one species to another. Dogs are capable of learning to recognize a few dozen words, although they can't reproduce them. They respond better to gestures and other body language, often responding to signals we give unconsciously.
    Few of us do the kind of work you do. Your experience is valuable because it demonstrates what the amazingly versatile human brain can do. But it's not a representative example of how the majority of us use our brains.
    We are the only animal with a speech center in our brain. Gorillas and chimpanzees have been taught ASL (although some people are skeptical and I haven't seen enough feedback from deaf people, who should certainly be the acknowledged experts in this argument) but their vocabularies are small. Parrots have learned to organize words into meaningful phrases but I think the record for vocabulary is about 300 words.
    * * * * NOTE FROM THE MODERATOR * * * *

    PLEASE KEEP THE DISCOURSE CIVIL. THIS IS NOT THE POLITICS OR RELIGION BOARD AND I HAVE VERY LOW TOLERANCE FOR INSULTS AND FLAMING.
    How about if we replace the word "thought" with "mental process." The batter's brain that is analyzing the trajectory of the pitch, deciding whether it is likely to enter the strike zone, and calculating how to hit a home run off of it is performing just as intricate a mental process as coming up with the right words to say when your girlfriend sees you being kissed by a female coworker whom you just helped land a million-dollar account.
    * * * * ANOTHER NOTE FROM THE MODERATOR * * * *

    PLEASE DIAL IT BACK, ALL OF YOU.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2011
  14. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,656
    FraggleRock posted:

    "How about if we replace the word "thought" with "mental process." The batter's brain that is analyzing the trajectory of the pitch, deciding whether it is likely to enter the strike zone, and calculating how to hit a home run off of it is performing just as intricate a mental process as coming up with the right words to say when your girlfriend sees you being kissed by a female coworker whom you just helped land a million-dollar account."

    Well, in way I can see how we could call this "thought". But really isn't it more akin to an unconscious process of computation? It may be novel to suggest that our brain is capable of such feats of computational prowess, but maybe it goes on more than we think. Take those "idiot savants" who can calculate enormously complex equations in a matter of seconds. So, when a batter skillfully swings and consistently hits the ball exactly where he wants it wouldn't be so much a thinking process--whereby we usually mean a conscious and self-aware "figuring out" of how to do it-- as it is a trained unconscious process of computation. In the military when learning to shoot .45's on the shooting range it was called "programming muscle memory." Not really thinking as I think of it though.
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    I'm not at all convinced that consciousness and self-awareness are identifiable states so much as conditions that occur in greater or lesser degree. How many times have you driven home from work with your brain still wrestling with an unsolved problem, intending to make a stop, notice whether a particular store was open, or something like that, and realizing that you have no memory of the drive? You know that you were nonetheless driving safely and competently, perhaps even skillfully in order to get home as soon as possible. Were you conscious? Were you self-aware? It's laughable to suggest that a person who was not could have arrived home in one piece.

    It's possible to divide your consciousness or your self-awareness among multiple objectives, so that each receives exactly as much as it needs and no more.

    As for muscle memory, current research gives much credit to the concept, although the woo-woo community wants to extend it to parts of our anatomy that have a much less direct connection to the nearest neuron. Muscles certainly change shape with training and make certain motions quicker and more precise. Perhaps shooting a gun at a stationary target that isn't shooting back is largely under the control of muscle memory, but the hundredth-of-a-second decisions to aim a bat at a ball on an unpredictable trajectory are, in aggregate, under considerable conscious control.
     
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,656
    I think it's kind of ironic that here we are posting post after post thoughtfully using words to show that thought can indeed occur without words. I'm not saying that isn't possible, but doesn't that simply highlight the initial thesis that perhaps indeed we ARE trapped inside of language? It'd be abit like painting a picture of a pipe and entitling it "The unpainted pipe"!
     
  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,656
    FraggleRocker posted:

    "How many times have you driven home from work with your brain still wrestling with an unsolved problem, intending to make a stop, notice whether a particular store was open, or something like that, and realizing that you have no memory of the drive? You know that you were nonetheless driving safely and competently, perhaps even skillfully in order to get home as soon as possible. Were you conscious? Were you self-aware? It's laughable to suggest that a person who was not could have arrived home in one piece."

    If I wasn't conscious of doing it then I doubt that it can be said I was thinking about it while I was doing it. In fact what I was thinking about was the unsolved problem right? Now unless you are suggesting that we can engage in multiple thought processes at the same time, we'd have to conclude that driving on "auto pilot", much like sleepwalking or various hypnotic states, are NOT thinking processes per se. And even if they are, how could we ever be sure they aren't still using words in some unconscious way?
     
  18. Me-Ki-Gal Banned Banned

    Messages:
    4,634
    Yes , I work visually too. Pictographic " language" Very primitive . I would venture to guess it predates mathematical " Language". Now when I draw artistically I use what I call blob drawing were I don't have association of what I see with anything and if I look at something upside down it helps disassociate my mind with the objects having association and in that I can draw what I see instead of what my mind might try to associate to some preconceived Idea of what that preconception tries to make it be .
    I also see in 3d which can be very hard for some engineers and Architects. I can conceptualize a project start to finish in 3d . The shits is when I forget an important element like a water line
     
  19. Me-Ki-Gal Banned Banned

    Messages:
    4,634
    I believe your mind is using words in unconscious ways, or more of word identification , or even more primitive than that . Sound sight identification and the sight is intimately associated with sound . That sound is represented by the word . Combination of sounds coupled to sight and the word is associated to the sound/sight by its symbolism. Like wealth is to money kind of relationship . Were money is not the wealth , but money can gauge wealth. The word can gauge the amount of knowledge. Consider the impact of a well placed word in a sentence . Where one word can make the difference in motivation in OTHER peoples actions . The work of word smithy and how it can make the difference in failure or success. How our lives are entangled by language .

    I think it all runs deeper than that . I believe our lives are controlled by sight sound interactions of our environment. Just like the instincts of a herd of antelope with there clicks, grunts, stomps and what have you, dictating the response of the herd. All of said mentioned having sight sound association with actions and objects. That in it self making up language at the most primitive states of being.
     
  20. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,535
    And yet you've argued that I don't...
    Post #27, for one.

    What do you mean by "mathematical language"?

    If they have at least one functioning eye and a functioning brain then it's not that hard.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2011
  21. Aldrnari Registered Member

    Messages:
    5
    Many people who have learned another language can attest to the fact that sometimes a word comes along which opens up a whole new way of looking at some aspect of life. For example, in Swedish there is a word called 'lagom' which is incredibly hard to translate into English. In fact, I have never heard it done satisfactorily. That is because 'lagom' is, among other things, a philosophy which is very well developed in Scandinavia, but which I have not encountered anywhere else. It suggests a state of happy middle-ness, where something is perfect simply because it is imperfect. It brings to mind a state of almost contented (and self-inflicted) apathy. And yet... that doesn't do it justice at all.

    The bottom line is, before I learned Swedish I had no conception of the idea of lagom, but now that I speak the language the idea has become a natural part of my "analytical toolbox".
     
  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    This is a good reason for learning a second language. Most of our higher-level thoughts are formed in words (unless you're a musician, sculptor, etc.), so the words we have available both guide and restrict the thoughts we can have.
    The Wikipedia article on "lagom" offers some interesting thoughts. They compare it to our recent idiom "less is more" and contrast it to the alternative "more is better." They find similar notions in the Eastern philosophy of the Middle Path and the classical Western philosophy of Aristotle's Golden Mean.
    Anglophones, especially those from our quantity- and time-obsessed American culture, marvel at Chinese, which is devoid of inflections, and in which you can therefore carry on an entire conversation without specifying singular/plural or present/past/future.
     

Share This Page