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[Xmca-l] Reply to Lois Holzman
You asked about me rather than about my statements.
My parents were labor organizers/teachers. Some of my relatives were crafts workers; others were artists/writers, etc.. Since childhood, I asked why the world is such a mess, why people do things contrary to their own self-interest, things such as war, smoking, excessive drinking, fighting and general nastiness. Originally, I assumed the problem resided within their own personal psychology but eventually realized that the culture is the repository of our misconceptions. The question arose of how the values of culture migrate to the minds of individuals. After patiently anticipating the arrival of the answer, I realized that all we had to go on to gain an official sense of the meaning of things was the effects on us of our words for things. These effects are the stuff of our basic, bottom-line benchmarks for assessing the meaning of the things that make up our world. The meaning of any thing can only be the same as its effect on us. How a thing affects us is its meaning. Its all very survival-oriented: How could it possibly be any other way? The phones are units of body language that we use in words to communicate the basic ways in which we are affected by the things of our world. Each phone carries its own charge. These effects of the phones can be experienced by voicing them, one at a time, out loud, repeatedly. Once we separate the phone from the word, we switch our focus to the effects of the sounds rather than on the referential meaning of the words. When we verbalize, we must concentrate on what we are talking about, on the referential function of words rather than on the primal and universal effect of the phones on our emotional canvass. So we loose awareness of the primal effect of the constituents of words (the phones). Nonetheless, we are still affected by our phones when we verbalize as we are when we vocalize. In order to understand how we are affected by phones when we verbalize, we must understand how we are affected by them when we vocalize. Verbalizing is a special case of the larger category of vocalizing. Verbal communication is based on (founded on) vocal communication. We can vocalize without verbalizing but we cannot verbalize without vocalizing. What is being communicated when we vocalize? What do the sounds of words tell us about the things to which those words refer? What information can be conveyed vocally by the phones?
Understanding these things clarifies how different languages present us with different cultures and foster particular behavioral patterns in different societies.
Lois, I reside in Ojai, Ca. on 3 acres with about 12 others. I have been reaching out to the established academic community with these findings for a long time and have encountered a lot of resistance and denial. The tools of one’s bread-and-butter-getting are not to be challenged without stirring up resentment, or so it seems. The premise that there is no meaningful relationship between the sounds of words and their meanings, that that relationship is “arbitrary”, is ridiculous at best and misleading. It stems from looking for the meaning of words solely in terms of what they refer to. The primary meaning of words is how they affect us as sounds, as vocalizations rather than as verbal expressions.
Those of us who want to make the world a better place may be glad to know that it is possible to do that. Despair and apathy are disease states that promote self-destruction. Nature equipped species with self-culling mechanisms. If an individual ran up against too much frustration, that genetic unit was “judged” by nature to be a liability to the species and a candidate for removal from the gene-pool. That may have worked well enough for our non-linguistic ancestors, but for us now, works against our survival. If we avoid frustration, as personal policy, we will avoid dealing with whatever issues cause us to experience frustration (the very issues we most urgently need to address). With the institutionalization of vocalizing as verbalizing (the advent of spoken-word language), an alternate reality has been created. We socialized humans inhabit a world of our own making. Our language (the product of our ancient reaction to our circumstances) keeps us within the mindset of our linguistic ancestors, for better or for worse. We need to understand how we are affected by spoken-word language and to deliberately create language that represents our best current understanding.
Please get back to me on this.
Joseph C. Gilbert