8.17.2010

What is Language? -- Schopenhauer & Wishydig

A recent and barely civil (my fault) comments string brings me to a question: what is language? For my purposes, it'll be helpful if we all start with the following paragraph from Schopenhauer (play along). This is from The World as Will and Idea:
Speech, as an object of outer experience, is obviously nothing more than a very complete telegraph which communicates arbitrary signs with the greatest rapidity and the finest distinctions of difference. But what do these signs mean? How are they interpreted? When someone speaks do we at once translate the words into pictures of the fancy, which instantaneously flash upon us, arrange and link themselves together, and assume form and colour according to the words that are poured forth and their grammatical inflections? What a tumult there would be in our brains while we listened to a speech, or to the reading of a book. But what actually happens is not this at all. The meaning of a speech is, as a rule, immediately grasped, accurately and distinctly taken in, without the imagination being brought into play. It is reason which speaks to reason, keeping within its own province.
Comments? Does that sound right: reason speaks to reason?

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