Are Words Inadequate?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Bowser, Oct 19, 2018.

  1. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

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    Is it possible to capture more than an idea with words? It seems that we can only offer the essence of a subject in a lineer fashion with words; whereas human experience is more of a totality. As an example, I'm sitting in my living room. What I experience at this moment would take me hours to write into words?

    What I'm getting at is that words have limitations.
     
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  3. origin In a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect. Valued Senior Member

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    Of course.
     
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  5. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    Sex.
     
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  7. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

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    Not enough to get me excited.
     
  8. geordief Valued Senior Member

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    Words allow you to make a record of experience. Not a faithful one but at least a signpost to allow you to orient your attention in its direction.

    Since words come with inter community protocol as part of the package we can all imagine/assume we are at the same experience (again unfaithfully).

    Was the word the first "virtual reality" ?
     
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  9. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

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    The thing is, a word can encompass a great many interpretations depending on the experiences of the those hearing it. If I say I am sitting in my "living room," that doesn't tell you whole lot about my surroundings. You get a general idea based on your concept of a living room, but it really doesn't reflect the reality of where I'm sitting and my surroundings.
     
  10. geordief Valued Senior Member

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    Yes but we all see things in different ways anyway. The words just tell you where to look(either in the past,present or future)

    They also contain extremely detailed instructions as to how to understand the situation but any interpretation of any situation will lose faithfulness in the re-representation (we should be grateful for that-we don't want to be set in stone and fixed in the past;life moves on)
     
  11. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Everything has limitations.
    Language is meant primarily for communication and incidentally for the development of logical (as distinct from artistic, musical or mathematical) ideas.
    You don't need to communicate the totality of your experience, any more than you need to relate your dreams: nobody else needs (or wants) to know.
    Whatever people did need to communicate - and that's a different set of information in different cultures as they arose in different environments - they invented words for. The current inadequacy of language is not a property of language itself, so much as a failure of education coupled with deliberate sabotage by professional propagandists.
     
  12. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

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    Art is a language of its own. I have a painting on the wall that no amount of words can describe accurately. You would need see it to completely understand its beauty.
     
  13. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    I was just going to say that. Both words and art are a code. A smiley face is code for a smiling face. It is not an accurate representation of a smiling face but most people will understand what it means to convey. Similarly, the word "smiling" conveys a message that invokes a mental image. Of course, the more complex the message is, the more difficult it is to encode it accurately and have it decoded accurately.
     
  14. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Art is a medium - well, really, several media - of communication that I would not strictly define as a language. It's a medium for conveying emotion and visceral experience, as well as sometimes intellectual meaning, evoking memory and arousing reaction through visual stimulus, but it lacks vocabulary and grammatic structure.
    Music, oth, is a language, with all of those properties; mathematics is another, and so is Morse code or COBOL - each self-contained and with its own rules and syntax.

    PS I like the avatar.
     
  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Of course not. No reproduction of a past experience does - even your own memory.

    (Let's leave aside for the moment that even what you are experiencing in your living room in real time is still not "reality"; it is merely what you can take in, and what you interpret.).
     
  16. geordief Valued Senior Member

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    Going down that rabbit hole,"reality" can be said to be dynamic(moving) in any case and so not subject to definition at all.

    "Definition" would imply clean cut off points.
     
  17. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    And thast's what language does.
     
  18. geordief Valued Senior Member

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    Which is why it can only approximate.

    Our finest tool(well so it seems) has an inbuilt Achilles heel.

    What is worse, we may not realize it and so give it uncritical trust.
     
  19. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    No, it can be very accurate and precise in matters of description, location, observation, conceptualization, narrative of events - all the objective matters that need to be communicated effectively for a functional society.
    Communicating the minutiae of internal experience is neither necessary nor desirable. At least, it's almost universally less desired by the recipient of such information than by the transmitter. The general words for affection, anger, frustration and fear suffice to convey any useful message. Besides, if you need to tell other people more about how you feel and what you experience, face-to-face conversation is accompanied by body language and can be further illustrated, dramatized or otherwise enhanced.
    I doubt we do that very much in the present climate. But we do, perhaps, overestimate our own communication skill.
     
  20. geordief Valued Senior Member

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    Interesting observations , but perhaps contestable.
    By understanding (or gaining a window into) the minutiae (or not so minor aspects) of others' experience we can perhaps be led to a better understanding of our own. That could be seen as a worthy ambition in life.

    Yes ,such communication could be unwelcome if overbearing or gauche. (not personally claiming to be neither)
     
  21. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    Just how did you interpret my treatise?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  22. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Where language is insufficient to perform this function is a circumstance so rare as not to justify modifying language for. However, both psychologists and novelists keep trying to expand language to cover just such contingencies. In most cases, however, it's the experiencer who wants to share, far more than the hearer.
     
  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    This seems to underestimate the capabilities involved in good writing, speaking, etc.
    What language is potentially sufficient for, and what most people can do with it, are far from the same.
    Some traditions of art, cultures and schools, present visual images that are primarily or in the first place code - have "meanings" as words do, and are employed to communicate these meanings. The stained glass windows in Medieval Christian churches exemplify this - the beehives, the palm fronds, the colors of the garments, the various religious symbols woven into a kind of narrative.
    But even with these, a high level artist will hand one something that does not reduce to a coded message:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Albrecht_Dürer_-_Knight,_Death_and_Devil_(NGA_1943.3.3519).jpg
    but instead to something more like this: http://hedgeguard.blogspot.com/2007/01/some-ekphrastic-poems.html
     

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