The Treachery of Language
Language is a beautiful thing. But, how can we understand what Language is? I mean, of course we do understand that language is a tool that humans invented to express their ideas and communicate with each other.
But, here’s a question which I want to ask you. Can you think without the help of any sort of language or even conjure up the simplest of thoughts without it? Can you understand your ideas without language? Can you comprehend your thoughts without the help of language?
You see, that’s why that definition of language seems to me to be incapable of expressing the complexities of language ergo being unable to give us a proper understanding of what language is.
Language is something that man created but is it possible, that even though language is a creation of Humans, it is something that evolves with human and something that actually helps Humans evolve? I know that it’s long shot and I’m probably crazy for saying something as absurd as that but I want you to understand my views and if you disagree, tell me why in the comment box.
So, first of all, I’ll begin by telling you my definition of language.For me, Language itself is just a consistent patterned tool developed by Mankind for self analysis and as a way to reflect our thoughts and ideas and experiences through even more abstract concepts. Language is a synthetic pattern to describe synthetic yet abstract thoughts and ideas which are themselves born in the very matrix of the pattern used to describe the pattern. Language for me is a set of patterns and rules used to decode other patterns and strip them bare of their materialistic virtue and give us a pure, subjective and abstract “meaning” of that object in the context of the pre existing patterns in ourselves and re-visualise the object in a more compact and in a pseudo materialistic form and give us “meaning” or “definition” of the object with a rather arbitrary sense of direction and belonging towards ideas and thoughts of the pre-defined patterns in our “mind” or “brain” or abyss of our consciousness.
Now, all of that may even be complete verbiage. I don’t know. Let me know about that part too.
Although, if it is verbiage, it would prove my point of language about the meaning of language being subjective because what made sense for me did not make sense for you.
Let’s take a look at this painting. Paintings are opposite of what people think language is, which is why I chose this painting.
This is Rene Magritte‘s The Treachery of images.
This painting speaks to us in a Language that we have grown accustomed to understand, that is language itself.
When you stare at a painting, what do you see? Certain paintings are very stubborn in this manner. They refuse to move an inch in the direction of the viewer. They would rather make the viewer move in it’s direction and take the viewer in it’s world rather than it entering the viewer’s world. This is good when you want to point towards something in the painting that you want to put emphasis on, when your message is clear and you are absolutely sure of the painting’s connectivity with the audience and you are completely sure of the power of your painting to seduce the viewer in it’s world.
However, there are certain paintings which more than just move towards you but take the very message or question or idea of the painting towards the centre stage of your mind. This painting is one of them.
“This is not a pipe” reads the message written below the pipe. I mean, yeah, who would argue with that? No one would say otherwise. We all know that that is not a pipe but it is a representation of a pipe.
But, what If I showed you this.
This is a cow
This is a goat
This is a pipe…
This mere accident of Language tells us a lot about the nature of Language.
We connect the object we’re looking at directly with the word we use for it. What I’m trying to say is that we think that words = the object.
But, here, Magritte shows us that is not the case.
The famous linguist Ferdinand De Sausure had pointed this out too.
We tend to think that words are itself the object. That when I say dog, there instantly is an image of a dog in your mind. The human mind assigns meaning to words. The language that we use is abstract, however, it is more materialistic than we consider it to be.
Letters form words, words form sentences, sentences form paragraphs and paragraphs taken in context creates the desired meaning. Even though is abstract, it depends on the underlying materialistic world for it’s existence and meaning. That is the limitation of language.
You might ask how that is a limitation because the more accurately we can visualize an object, the more better it becomes for us to understand it and the better we understand it, the more uses of it can be theorized and tested. How exactly is that a limitation?
I agree with you. It is important for language to be the pseudo materialistic pattern decoder that it is.
But, we are forgetting something. We are forgetting the fact that our ideas aren’t materialistic. Ideas are abstract. Thoughts are abstract. If we use language primarily for expression of thoughts and ideas which are abstract, then shouldn’t language be better at conveying the abstract rather then the materialistic?
The tool that we claim to be for understanding the abstract understands the materials better. Or is it?
Better. Try and visualize that word. Can you give it a definite shape? Better is not a noun, which is why it’s difficult to imagine the word better and assign it any particular visual stimulus in our mind. Yet we all understand what the word better is supposed to convey. But we don’t know what better is. We don’t have a materialistic view for it. Even though we use materialistic things like Microsoft > Apple or the other way around to understand the meaning of better, it’s real materialistic meaning is still but unknown to us. That would imply that the word better is far more complex and far more reaching than any materialistic thing there is. Hence, it could be taken as something which is more meaningful than any thing else, making the idea of there to be a need of materials necessary for language. But there’s another possibility to it.
The word better is abstract and abstract things can be considered to be more meaningful than materialistic because it more pure in it’s meaning. Abstraction is far more appealing to us because we think about there being another meaning to something that we see. This is at the very core of our belief in the supernatural, at the very center of every broken heart longing to understand the meaning of it’s sufferings and in every hopeful soul trying to understand the cathartic and ecstatic place it belongs to and our desire for the struggle to know the meaning behind everything.
The thought that a string of letters like ajdgjhadsiwuehnlqinwc could hold more meaning than any book that can ever be written is the treachery of language…
If you guys like this post, please let me know in the comments below. And if you guys want more stuff like this, you can follow me on WordPress because as of yet, I haven’t gotten used to Medium, but, I will start writing more stuff on both of the places.