Language and society.

April 2024 Forums General discussion Language and society.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 58 total)
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  • #250559
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    From an email i wrote in reply to someone who said “words are just sounds.”

    I do not agree with you about words simply being sounds. No word is just a sound. Similarly, no bark, miaow, growl or whinny is just a sound. All communicate something and the profound and varied body language of our fellow animals is an incredibly rich treasure trove of communication, both within a species and without. The swish of a tail, the positioning of ears, the rubbing of snouts – all constitute language.
    If a man refers to a dog as “it”, rather than “he” or “she”, or a nonhuman fellow animal as a “thing” rather than a “being”, it tells me a lot about the prejudices, attitude and world-view of that man. Furthermore, if he, as he will, passes on such language to his children, he perpetuates his attitudes through them. Language not only indicates, it perpetuates.

    As George Orwell said, “Loose thinking leads to the loose use of words, but the loose use of words also leads to loose thinking.”

    Similarly with expletives such as – you said is just a sound – “c***.” Such are never just sounds. They are expletives which denote anger and hatred. When a sexist man uses words like “c***” and “f***” or “screw” when speaking of women, it tells me a lot about that man. If he uses the word “bitch” it tells me he is a speciesist too. If someone is offended when called an animal or an ape, it tells me that person is a speciesist. When the f-word is used superfluously, it denotes a general rage, dissatisfaction and anger towards the speaker`s life and social environment.

    The use of words both reveals and perpetuates. Words are always communicative. Similarly, changes in the use of words indicate changes in the wider society, for good or for ill.

    All animals are social and even the generally solitary will need social communication at some point in their lives.

    Were you to have lived among the native Americans and showed contempt for their social rules by your communication with them you would have been expelled from their society. Similarly, act wrongly in the company of lions and you will rue it.

    All living beings have language. Words form a great part of ours – the human ape society – whether spoken or written. A plate is a plate; “c***” is an angry expletive. Everything means something.

    #250560
    Lizzie45
    Participant

    “c***” is an angry expletive

    Not necessarily and hasn’t always been. Principally it’s a slang term for a woman’s genitalia – i.e. vulva or vagina.

    Its etymology can be traced to a Germanic word – kuntō.

    The earliest known use of the word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was as part of a place name: a street in Oxford, England called Gropecunt Lane during the 13th century, which now goes by the name of Grove Passage or Magpie Lane.

    Use of the word as a term of abuse is relatively recent, dating from the late 19th century. The word appears not to have been taboo in the Middle Ages, but became taboo towards the end of the 18th century, and was then not generally admissible in print until the latter part of the 20th century.

    Which just goes to show how language changes over time.

    #250561
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    Yes, language changes. It’s use as an expletive today does, however, reflect rage, and specifically rage against women (though not in all cases). There are other uses, e.g. in erotic poetry, and historical uses. The same with f*””, one of the oldest terms for coitus in Latin; but context is also an aspect of language, and when used as expletives, or superfluously, that is what the words indicate.
    In English it is mostly offensive to say “I’m f****d”, but in French it is less so.

    #250562
    DJP
    Participant

    All living beings have language.

    If you say that, then it seems to me you are using the word “language” in a very loose kind of way.

    But yes, of course words are not ‘just sounds’. Sometimes a saying something *is* also a doing something, what we might call a ‘speech act’

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/speech-acts/

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by DJP.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by DJP.
    #250565
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    And you, i take it, take human verbal language as the only form of language.

    #250567
    DJP
    Participant

    And you, i take it, take human verbal language as the only form of language.

    No, I didn’t say that – that’s your invention.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by DJP.
    #250569
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    Then you don’t want to use the word to apply to nonhuman communication.

    In terms of the Latin “lingua” you are correct historically, as it means “tongue”, but it has a broader definition today.

    #250570
    Thomas_More
    Participant
    #250572
    DJP
    Participant

    language is communication

    Depends how technical you want to get. But strictly speaking I would have thought “language” and “communication” are separate categories. A language is something that has a certain logical structure. (In theory you could invent a language on your own without communicating it to anyone). And there are types of communication which are not language – a fire alarm going off communicates something, but it would be a bit of a push to describe that as a language.

    #250573
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    So nonhuman animals are things, like a fire alarm is.

    Pure Descartes.

    #250574
    DJP
    Participant

    So nonhuman animals are things, like a fire alarm is.

    Again I didn’t say that. Stop inventing things – it’s quite irritating.

    Communication works a lot better if you don’t make too many presumptions.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by DJP.
    #250575
    Thomas_More
    Participant
    #250578
    DJP
    Participant

    The above examples are very good and interesting.

    But there’s still a herculean leap from “some” to “all”.

    #250579
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    Use of the word language beyond the human ape:

    Octopuses.

    Camouflage is Language

    #250580
    Thomas_More
    Participant

    Is not the communicating of emotions also language?
    Even humans among themselves speak of body language.
    And other animals also vocalise.
    Their communication is language, which brings me back to the fact that your interpretation of the word is limited to the verbal.

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