October 1, 2012

Unraveling The Thread

I tried to pick a single reading to concentrate on, but in the end, one thought kept circling me as the accumulation of all our reading up till now, and that is: “Language shapes our reality”. I’ve heard this phrase before, but I think I am now beginning to truly comprehend it in a way I never had before. First we have Locke discussing the failings and frailties of language and the debate of whether words or ideas came first. In class, this question was jokingly, but very aptly, compared to that of the “chicken or the egg”, a phrase which is also ingrained into our cultural lexicon as a well-worn idiom (or is it a metaphor). Now I question how that phrase was spawned and how we have adapted it to so many other situations. I think Locke was very right about use the word ‘frail’ to describe language. It’s like picking at a thread; the more you examine it, play with, the more it unravels.

If we look too closely at the model of language, does it collapse? By analyzing or ‘over-thinking’ the structure and function of words, do they lose their meaning, like repeating a word over, and over, and over? Is there a safe distance we can observe from? And, in looking too closely at words, how much are we understanding only what we to understand, like we question with Mischa the talking dog? How does our, individual, understanding of language, shape our reality.


Michelle Macchio said...

I originally wrote out a lengthy response to this post, but accidentally hit the "back" button on my browser and subsequently lost all that I had written. But I will summarize what I had in mind. In regards to your question of whether language collapses when we look too closely at its structure, I would like to provide a parallel. When you watch a television show, you become consumed by the subject matter, allowing your thoughts and emotions to attend only to the happenings of that show. What you are not consciously aware of is the mechanisms at work behind the scenes: the camera filming the show, the director, crew, contributing writers, the building where the stage is set up, etc. Just like when you are reading a book you do not consciously consider the author sitting at his desk writing it, the publishing company that printed it, the manufacturer of the paper, cover, or binding, the store that distributed the book, etc. However, if at any point an actor on the TV show looks directly at the camera, addresses the audience, or simply points out that they are, in fact, part of a television show, the viewer is forcibly distracted and a meta-awareness of the mechanisms at work comes into consciousness. This altered viewpoint takes away from the meaning of the show itself, but may also provide a new perspective for the consumer. This is much like a text that refers to itself as a means of systematically deconstructing language. By focusing on the construct of language rather than the meaning of the language itself, the significance of language can deteriorate. However, like the TV show addressing itself, this also places a new perspective on the text. Such a perspective can help us understand and utilize language in ways unknown to us prior.

Katie Latchford said...

I think you present some good questions, and I think they can be found within the texts, but it's to your discretion whether or not you want to accept it. Locke brings up a lot of what you discussed and how language is abused, but I wouldn't say it totally collapses with abuse, it just changes shape. Language does shape how we perceive things, but I don't think it changes much with the human experience or the means of communication-- I think it shapes how we understand things. Something can be expressed in one language one way and be explained completely different in another, which can shape how the message is perceived.

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