At their basic form, words are nothing more than structured patterns of vocal vibrations. With roughly 27 or so different vocal patterns—k, sh, zh, t, f, ch, m, n, b, d, k, etc—we can convey incredible sophistication, share access to our inner most guarded sentiments, describe the physical reality taking part around us, and discuss metaphysical abstract.
These sound bites when arranged in structural patterns can deliver incredible spouts of emotional contortion. Fuck you vs I love you.
At their crucibles, these vehicles of thought and inner emotion are nothing more than sound bites strung together. They are inherently meaningless.
What is important to recognize is that any language is a filtered lense. This applies to any language, but we’ll refer to English in particular since that is my chosen vehicle of expression in this post.
An over reliance on one language creates binders from experiencing the rest of the spectrum. In a visual sense, it would be akin to putting on red filtered glasses that distorted the color of everything you saw to different shades and hues of red. We do the same thing when we rely on one vehicle of expression.
How do you prevent this?
Learning other languages will teach you how to perceive the world through different colored glasses. You are quite literally able to expand your base potential of thoughts and ideas.
The more languages you know = the more thoughts you can have = the more means you have for expressing thoughts and creating ideas.
Yet all these new thoughts and feelings are derived from the same inherently meaningless vocal structuring. Ultimately, it is still a lense.
While language is one of our best tools for self-expression, there is still something left behind.
Communication is a much more fuller word than language. It includes tone, facial expressions, body language, and gestures. I’d also venture to include intuition and gut feelings.
But again, is something left behind? Can we fully know that what we intended to communicate was 100% received? Learning how computers communicate has, in my eyes, demonstrated how much context matters.
Syntax is the study of grammar, while semantics is the study of meaning. Given that words rely on contextual clues as well, my intuition is to imagine that for full communication — in order to truly understand the contents of other’s thoughts — we would have to take into consideration all their previous exposure to a particular vocal pattern (words), as well as their brain state reaction to this.
We can still communicate, of course, but it begs the question in my eyes if something isn’t left behind. Perhaps this could explain all the quarrels and disputes that arise from miscommunication. It’s by no mistake that there are multiple independent tales around the world with similar versions of the “Tower of Babble.” Perhaps errors in miscommunication goes much deeper than what meets the eye.
And as I sit here writing this, I laugh to myself. Ohh the irony in trying to express my thoughts with words. Relying on the same tools I just denounced. Will communication evolve to encompass more? I tend to think so.