September 23, 2012

Just sounds or communicated ideas?

Locke's explanation of language is not very clear to me. I feel like he tries to really explain all of the issues with language in very in depth ways, but then talks about how more simple ideas are better for easier communication between humans. This essay to me was not a simple idea at all, and I found it hard to follow. One part that stood out to me was under number 9 when he says that sounds are learned first and then the meanings come later. this interested me because I remember I have many nieces and nephews that I watched learn how to talk and then in turn learn the meaning. At first, they would try and mimic what we were saying and only paying attention to the sounds they were hearing. they were not even yet old enough to hold a conversation. Later, I watched them try and put meanings to all of these sounds that they were learning. this was fascinating to me, but I never looked that closely into it until after reading this essay.

One part of Locke's essay that particular lost me the abuse of words. Section 23, He said that language was used to make known one man's thoughts to another, and to do it with as much ease as possible and as quick as able,  and third to convey the knowledge of things. He said that anything outside of those is where words are abused or deficient. I can not wrap my head around this being true. I don't think that I can agree or possibly I don't fully understand the ideas that he is trying to get across about this matter. I think trying to use language as quickly as possible can make ideas hard to follow and less clear. No?


Shanae Simon said...

I see where the trouble lies between him saying simple ideas are better for communication and his ideas are not presented as simple. I had a different effect than you. I do feel that his ideas were simple and easy to follow because he broke up each of his points in sections and briefly explained each one. I understood that words were imperfect because they had to have an agreed meaning between the two people communicating ad how they were learned depends o their knowledge of a word.

It is interesting to me that you included this example because I can relate. The fact that infants learn the sounds first is so true and when I read this I did not think of that.

I definitely agree with that when he says "using language as quickly as possible can make ideas hard to follow," is a difficult concept to grasp. Is it possible that Locke could be saying use language in a way that it can be understood by all? He says that "words fail" "when they apply them very unsteadily, making them stand out" and in this sense I think he means when using words one must pronounce them correctly and quick enough so they understood the full word, but slow enough to be heard. Most people when speaking speak very fast and if they say it slowly it may loose some of its understanding, so maybe that is the idea Locke is tying to present.

A Cycene said...

In reference to your first paragraph-from what I understood in the reading, Locke was making a relation between the words that people say versus what they want to say. For example, when you think of Hellen Keller, think of the way she was taught about 'water'. She was taught the hand signals and the letters that spell it, but she didn't really know what it was. She understood that it was a label for something, but did not have the image of water in her mind. However, when her teacher actually put her hands under the water, letting her feel and experience what it was. Only then did she know the truth of the word 'water'.
In terms of applying this to rhetoric and speech, what I got from his points was that there is no way to telepathically transmit one person's thoughts and what they want to say perfectly, which is why we must rely on our words. But even then, unless the receiver of the message has experienced the exact same scenario as the person who is speaking, the words do not hold the same meaning, and therefore the "truth" or at least, what needs to be fully expressed, fails to get completely expressed.
In reference to what you were saying in your second paragraph on the abuse of words, I believe that what I said previously could be applied here. Unless the speaker and listener have experienced the exact same phenomenon, the words could be seen as meaningless, or simply as 'sounds' which have no value to the listener. For example, if you remember the first time you watched The Lion King (I know you've watched this movie because you won't have had a fulfilled childhood if you haven't, and if so, I am truly sorry you missed out) remember when Mufasa and Simba were having that father/ son discussion under the stars after Simba was nearly killed by the hyenas? The first time you saw that scene, you probably had no idea the meaning of Mufasa saying, "You deliberately disobeyed me!" But you knew that Simba had done something wrong. In that moment of time, those words were empty and meaningless to you. But later on when you knew the meaning of 'deliberate' and 'disobeyed', you probably realized that Mufasa was scolding Simba. I really hope I didn't confuse you more and that I cleared things up a little bit!

Kari K

Catalina said...

What is interesting about Locke's text is he has several instances in which he doesn't effectively employ his own claims. For example -- the point which you pointed out. Point 24, to communicate with quickness. You saw the word and it signified the speed at which someone communicates. For me, it signified something different, and, hopefully, closer to what it signified for Locke. I believe he meant 'quickness' to mean something like concision. If this is the case, then quickness would mean using as few words to completely convey your meaning as possible. This reminds me of the example he gives on p.826 about the man with the cover-less books: "... and so is fain often to use twenty words, to express what another man signifies in one." In this way, using one word that signifies your entire meaning would be 'quicker' than using twenty, but not in terms of speed -- it is concerning concision.

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