Tuesday, January 13, 2009

clarity and crystalization (and octopi and parrots, later)

so many times we have thoughts about the behavior or intentions of others. they can be passing or excessive thoughts, but i find that mine never become real until i speak them aloud or type them to share on the internets. there are even, occasionally, thoughts i didn't know i had until sitting at a computer screen or being pressed on some subject at a dinner table. the act of sharing somehow crystalizes that thought; makes it clear even as it flattens it out and scrapes off the extra bits and tangential sub-thoughts and prepares clever snippet for delivery to someone else via communication.

there are a few conversations that i replay over and over in my head until i forget the other player in the conversation, and i can only guess that it was probably whit or sean or whoever, because they would be the kind of person to have that opinion. they are never life-changing or even particularly passionate arguments. just exchanges that i remember the echos of, presumably forever. reminds me of a passage from something i read once, where the main character was afraid that some terrible curse word or phrase she had thought was burrowing into her neural pathways, never to be de-entrenched, and that when she was left an aged,  wobbling head propped between two wobbling tent poles of brittle arms, that all she would be know to repeat was 'FUCKING ASS-CUNTS!' over and over and over until oblivion, left only with that one repeating phrase.

i am fairly obsessed with language. not in learning new ones, which i find generally to be tiresome rote memorization, which i am terrible at, but rather languages themselves; HOW what we use to communicate influences what we do end up communicating. english is a language with a dizzying array of words and synonyms. english also lacks a formal royal society of language (present in both spanish and french and probably a ton more), which means we can invent as many words as we want and no one can tell us that we are wrong for doing so. it's a language that has reached every corner of the map, and a language that's been assailed by several others over its longish history; an adaptive, rich, relatively simple language, but strangely free from the confines of arbitrary, bureaucratic rules of use; a pint, not a decaliter of language.  i am sort of obsessed with it, in an amateur butterfly specialist kind of way.  

one of the important differences between human language and the way that most animals communicate is explained by categorizing the kinds of communication systems they use.  human language is an open system; certain combinations of sound stand for certain things and ideas, but they can be combined in any number of different ways to explain NEW ideas, on the fly.  in a closed system of communication, a sounds stands for one thing.  ideas are exchanged (LION! FLEE!) but they cannot be combined to explain greater or more complex ideas.  that is, as far as researchers can tell.  there is some evidence that certain cephalopods are capable of understanding and using language, and that the large parrots can use true language as well as a 2 or 3 year old human child.  this might mean we should stop teaching them, unless we want to be attacked by a coordinated uprising of beaked, 8-tentacled flying tropical monsters.  it's also possible that other creatures use true language in the wild and we just haven't noticed yet.  i leave you with this:

1 comment:

benzado said...

Ask me sometime about learning new languages and the infant sucking rate.