Quotes on Language

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Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group... We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.
A word is an arbitrary label - that's the foundation of linguistics. But many people think otherwise. They believe in word magic: that uttering a spell, incantation, curse, or prayer can change the world. Don't snicker: Would you ever say, 'Nothing has gone wrong yet' without looking for wood to knock?
One does not inhabit a country; one inhabits a language. That is our country, our fatherland --and no other.
I'm very interested in language because it reflects our obsessions and ways of conceptualising the world.
Language continually asserts by the syntax of subject and predicate that 'things' somehow 'have' qualities and attributes. A more precise way of talking would insist that the 'things' are produced, are seen as separate from other 'things,' and are made 'real' by their internal relations and by their behaviour in relationship with other things and with the speaker. It is necessary to be quite clear about the universal truth that whatever 'things' may be in their pleromatic and thingish world, they can only enter the world of communication and meaning by their names, their qualities and their attributes (i.e., by reports of their internal and external relations and interactions).
People are under the impression that dictionaries legislate language. What a dictionary does is keep track of usages over time.
Look at almost any passage, and you'll find that a paragraph has five or six metaphors in it. It's not that the speaker is trying to be poetic, it's just that that's the way language works.
It's likely that taboo words are stored in the right hemisphere of the brain. Massive left hemisphere strokes or the entire surgical removal of the left hemisphere can leave people with no articulate speech other than the ability to swear, spout cliches and song lyrics.
Language mavens commonly confuse their own peeves with a worsening of the language.
Language commonly stresses only one side of any interaction.
Language is a window into human nature, but it is also a fistula, an open wound through which we're exposed to an infectious world.
11 quotes