Anil Mitra © July 2009, latest revision April 3, 2010


A resource document for Journey in being-2009-reserve.html

Primary: from talk.doc


Also see the introductory section On meaning in that, in the most recent version, is in Being

The section on language concepts is especially complete and ends just before Exceptional achievement

Main concepts

sign, symbol, language, function, expression, representation, and communication

Language and para-language

language, para-language

Speech and para-verbal language

speech, para-verbal language, drama-form, dramatics, music

The thought that speech and music occur in different brain areas—with or without overlap—does not imply a conceptual divide between music and speech (there is of course a conceptual distinction)

Recorded forms of language and para-linguistic expression

writing, graphic form, sculpted form, architectural form

Regarding the distinction between writing and art, comments similar to those on the distinction between speech and music may be made

The spoken and the recorded forms are not islands

Syntax and structure of the world; semantics and objects

states of affairs, processes, structure of states and processes, words, syntax, syntactical form, semantics

Subject-predicate form. Generally linear form of language

subject-predicate form, generally linear form of language

Other forms. Speech, linear and nonlinear expression

non subject-predicate forms, e.g., perhaps the groan

non-universality of subject-predicate form; non-predicative utterances; formal exclusion from written form-the domain of the priest and the scholar... a mark of distinction… distinction as a source of the intuition of correct syntax over and above the semantic content of syntax

Meaning function—literal and non-literal

meaning or semantic-syntactic function, literal and non-literal functions including poetry, meaning in ‘non-formal’ elements such as sound, alliteration, meter

Non-meaning function

non-meaning functions, e.g., social bonding

Written language, comparison with spoken language, special features or functions of written language

written form-sign, alphabet; word; punctuation including sentence structure and para-verbal; dissociation from context-a strength and a weakness

From Journey in Being-New World-essence.doc

Language has the following typical characteristics. Its syntactical forms correspond to states of affairs and modes of communication regarding such states. The standard form of language that corresponds to a state of affairs is the subject-predicate form. The modes of communication are assertion, direction, commission, expression, declaration (assertion includes the sub-forms of fact, exclamation, and question…) In spoken form there is a vocabulary; the spoken form follows syntax; the spoken form is associated with para-verbal communication. The written form includes letters that are not signs in themselves but from which signs—words—are built; there are punctuation marks and of which some indicate para-verbal communication. However the written form tends to have degrees of dissociation from context that is both strength and weakness. Language is generally a linear form. Language production and comprehension is a form of intuition but this does not mean that it is entirely innate

This picture of language has a number of deficiencies. Is the subject-predicate form the universal mode of expression? Are there not utterances that are not predicative? Is a groan a linguistic form? Are the parts of speech ‘kinds.’ Is the suggestion that syntax and semantics are separate fully valid? As communication and expression, how complete is language—even though there may be special language centers in the brain does this force us to regard language as an entity unto itself—or is it continuous with iconic and dramatic production and recognition? Does not the central place of linear language in culture dispose human beings to see language as larger than it is—especially, perhaps, because language becomes a selective factor for kinds of intelligence and activity

From Journey in Being - whereof one cannot speak.doc

The free symbol is the foundation of language… and symbolic language. The introductory sections as well as the sections linked contain a number of reflections on language. Here, I will repeat only some of the main ideas

The structure of the language used in a context reflects the form of the possibilities for the context. Given that some possibilities actually obtain, some further possibilities turn out to be necessary, others ruled out, and yet others are neither necessary nor ruled out. Thus, the structure of the language implies at least some of the rules of logic that obtain in the context. Language regards forms; logic expresses structures inherent in the forms. Logic is inherent in language form. To what extents are these inherencies complete?

Language form may but need not accurately ‘depict’ actual form… and depiction is not the only function of language. Therefore, ‘depiction’ is used figuratively or, alternatively, as a generic marker

Typically, language ‘elements’ are abstract signs in linear arrangements. Such language lends itself to ‘linguistic expression.’ However, thought or mental ‘content,’ in general, may be conceived as language

The following questions and projects are open. Construct a map or catalog of ‘kinds of language and linguistic expression.’ Evaluate the kinds for ‘faithfulness.’ Study the inter-translatability –when meaningful– among kinds. Study the reduction of systems of language and logic. Is there a universal language and logic? If there is, what is it – the language of propositions? I.e., if the world is a world of objects or facts could the kinds of language be reduced –in principle– to the language of propositions? If there is no universal language or logic, to what extent may universality be realized? Just as depiction is not the only function, so faithfulness is not the only measure of validity. What are some other functions and measures? This question is implied by the study of kinds of language. It is not suggested that validity is always possible, useful or meaningful. This possibility has been mentioned earlier. A possible project is to describe or depict language as a medium of connection and immersion and to describe its connection with action

From Journey in Being-New World.doc

First set up some characteristics of language proceeding intuitively and informally (‘definition’ will be taken up later)

Language is symbolic i.e. although its roots may be iconic, particular icons (sounds, images) come to have a significance that is over and above their iconic content; perhaps simultaneously there are simplifications to the icons. How language comes about in the spoken stage (it is assumed that, initially, language is spoken language) is not clear (some aspects of origins will be addressed below.) It seems that first written language is (mostly) iconic. The origin, in temporal sequence, with causes identified, of word (and Meaning) and syntax and of alphabet and word construction is not clear. However, it may be reasonably assumed that the end (and intermediate) results have adaptive characteristics but are not entirely adaptive for the idiosyncrasies of (and freedoms in) cultivation must be among factors that make it erroneous to expect that all characteristics of languages are determined by optimality (in any sense) and or adaptation

Syntax arises perhaps because facts have a standardized form – the ‘subject-predicate’ form. Thus, the valid forms of syntax have adaptation. There is also freedom as seen in the variations in syntactic form that correspond to the subject-predicate form (e.g. in some languages ‘They went home’ is rendered ‘They home went.’) However, it may be that adoption of subject-predicate form is a limitation on the kinds of Fact that may be expressed (perhaps one mark against rigid rules of syntax. It may be interesting to speculate whether ‘natural’ rules preceded syntax)

It is not being suggested that all uses of language concern factual or propositional expression –of states of affairs– and its variants: assertion or question, and the variations – direction, commission, expression and declaration regarding which there is a standard analysis that purports to show that these variations exhaust the variations on communication of states of affairs. It is not suggested that these exhaust language – or that language is exhaustible; however, further ‘uses’ will be taken up, perhaps in future editions of this narrative, as they become of interest to the endeavor

Whereas thought is iconic at root (and has the dimensionality of the associated sensory mode,) in the case of a linguistic animal, thought (in language) is highly symbolic and linear. Literal spoken language is necessarily linear; therefore, written language is (typically) linear since, perhaps, it might be inefficient or even burdensome for common spoken and written language to be distinct. Especially spoken language is not altogether linear since it is accompanied with what may be called ‘dramatic effect’ i.e. volume, pitch (and overtone,) rate, cadence and inflection, variability in form or syntax including poetry and ‘non language’ factors such as gesture, posture and affect. Still, both spoken language and written language are highly linear and symbolic whereas the environment of language is highly iconic and contextual. Thus in producing language there is a reduction in the ‘physical information content.’ Speech provides some context through drama; written language by elaboration and poetry. That the speaker and listener may be in the same room (not the case of media) or culture provides some context; writers and readers in the same language are likely to have some common context

However, it is also characteristic of language that it expresses and evokes context; and, although the expression and evocation must suffer attenuation of context, this characteristic is among the factors that make language an instrument of human communication i.e. that language may communicate, even if incompletely, degrees and modes of information that exceed the literal information content (perhaps made possible as a result of standardized –common, routine– contexts.) Perhaps it is standardization of context (e.g. human species, culture) that makes expression-evocation possible. Perhaps language is some roughly optimal mean adaptation to the multiple requirements of thought, communication, and (in story and written form) preservation

Written language enables communication, even when not intended, over space and time and across cultures (a greater loss of written context may contingently evoke a wider variety of interpretation)

As a result of linear form, language also provides the following ‘adaptation.’ It is well adaptable to the requirements of precise expression and processing (thought) – especially in precisely defined contexts (strictly syntactic, logics, mathematics, and science.) Language does not attain the precision of such contexts outside them; nor need it: precision in communication or reflection is not a universal Value over all (conscious) mental process

Although thought and language (thought in language) do not appear to be identical, there does not appear to be a (distinct or root) ‘language of thought’

Many persons act as though precision of being –know yourself– and of communication –being known to others– is the end of being. Note of course that these ends are not said to lack value; and that there are settings where some degree of precision must be inherent. There are also contexts where precision must be relaxed as the constitution of that context. Two such contexts are the intimate or personal relationship that stands between friends and the context of discovery. ‘Contexts of discovery’ are typically associated with science but are also pertinent to most reasoning including logic and mathematics. Additionally, if someone had an insight that there may be forms of language better adapted to processing, communication and preservation it would at first be necessary to relax the standard forms. This appears to occur routinely in poetry, a variety of prose forms, in mathematics and science. Although the scientific view has been criticized when it pretends to model being, it provides significant analogy and metaphor

It is first necessary to say what is meant by the ‘scientific view.’ The basis of their metaphorical approach from science has origins in the ‘great’ theories of physics and evolutionary biology. There is a view from physics in which the Universe is seen as an interconnected system moving in space, through time and in mutual interaction. Darwinian Theory supports such a view applied to life but also adds the mechanism of incremental variation and selection. These views entered their thought as metaphor; but not as exclusive metaphor; this metaphor and reflection on its necessities or otherwise and alternatives led to the Theory of Being of ultimate depth. They experienced to some degree what seemed as though it were a private language – perhaps a language with private elements whose translation into public form required a translation from intuition to language… Is there a language of metaphor – and is it more than a few new symbols or a few new forms e.g. poetry? The expression of multi-dimensional intuition in linear form –even if affect is excluded– appears to involve omission and distortion of information. Omission is compensated by context and distortion by adaptation. However such compensation is, in the normal case, incomplete and in-process. Language appears to have a metaphorical character at its root

It is now appropriate to ask ‘What is language?’ ‘Definition’ can be restrictive or expansive. Human being arrives at a stage – the present stage. ‘Language’ has been a particularly human instrument and in language, ‘language’ is recognized. ‘Language’ has variations – the ‘languages’ of the world with their syntactic forms and uses; formal ‘languages’ and so on. ‘Language’ then is distinct from iconic thought (that ‘iconic thought’ has a degree of remove from the ‘thing,’ provides an approach to seeing thought in language and thought in images as lying on a spectrum.) This appears to be a fact of human existence and thought; yet it also becomes a theory of human existence as soon as, beyond thought and expression, someone says, pointing, that is language, this is the correct usage of language (even if adaptation and cultivation play a role in what has come about.) The situation is complex since, in the modern world, it is the academic who tends to reflect on language, whose notions enter into school curricula; but the nature of ‘language’ is also determined in human transaction, law and politics. The line of argument here is informal; a way is being felt. Relaxation of the idea of language (e.g. by relaxing distinctions among the concepts of thought and communication, linear speech and drama, icon and symbol) might result in less precision but greater content (value – in intimate, formal and political contexts.) Persecution of linguistic groups might end or diminish (this is of course a dreamy speculation, ‘Language-as-it-is-known is constitutive of Human being,’ comes a possible response to the present line of thought. Yet, even the improbable –when seen even vaguely to have significance for being– deserves consideration.) Recall the earlier discussion in which an essential indefiniteness in the Definition of human artifacts was identified. It appears to be characteristic of the (human) psyche to ‘see’ definiteness where there is indefiniteness. Since language is (if only partially) an artifact, these thoughts apply also to language. In regarding language to be what is given in the (Kantian) intuition of language there may be gain in apparent precision but loss in realism