Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Significance of Word

I find this article very interesting, primarily the first few paragraphs, before Erard delves into a political connection and analysis. He is addressing at the start the importance of a word, and what a word truly is. In reality, a word is nothing. A simple string of sounds tied together in a universally agreed upon manner, a symbol for the entity itself, a "grafting of the arbitrary onto the utterly conventional", Erard states. A word in itself is just that- a powerless nothing. However, he finds interest in language as a whole, as an entity in its own right, with the stringing together of individual words to produce a thought being an output of the mind, a creation of a being, as described through his nail analogy. A word can tell you nothing. However, when processed through the mind, their combination and output can tell you everything, as Erard addresses as he flows into a political realm.

I found this video by a cognitive psychology and linguistics professor, here he speaks of the meaning of the word, language, and specifically in this clip how it relates to politics, connecting well with the issues that Erard establishes.

1 comment:

Landoonnn said...

The article caught my attention as well, as I was going through Erard's website. His remarks reminded me of the discussions we were having in last week's class about language.. our group had settled on the fact that words were simply symbols or representations for a more complex idea. A single word could sum up an entire idea/communicate slightly more conceptual ideas (like colors, smells, etc.) that otherwise would not be describable without a title, a universally understood and agreed upon representation, in the form of a 'word'.
While I personally do find words to be interesting, as I believe that they do have a meaning (as small in relation to the meaning of a compilation of words as it may be), I do agree that they have a much more significant meaning when working together to communicate a greater idea.
More important than his argument about the absurdity of individual words, I thought Erard made a phenomenal point in his last paragraph. After ranting about political speechmaking for a couple paragraphs, he brought up the fact that writers have only written about the contents of political speeches, and have deeply analyzed the words that came from their mouths (but rarely their own minds). In his final paragraph, Erard proposes that there should be a history of political listening, rather than one of speechmaking, as it, in Erard's own words, "discards the mystery of how words and images work and focuses on how people work".