words

Jake Wood-Evans - Sir John Fawcett, after Sir Thomas Lawrence (2013)

or how about this:

we can agree that words are arbitrary sounds, represented by symbols, that have meaning only to the extent that we (a community sharing a common language) have agreed upon it. a word has no inherent truth of the world.

further, a word is not a vessel for truth but for intention: the intent to convey a truth that is held internally. this is how a word can be used for sincerity (to mean what is said) or for irony (to mean other than what is said).

when speaking of things somewhat less defined than gravity, internal truth may be difficult or impossible to quantify precisely. therefore a word represents not only an intention but a belief: that the word in its use will cohere with reality not as-it-is, but as-it-is-experienced. (note that this is coherence not as in affirming opinions about the red sox pitching rotation or of a preference for coca cola, but as in the boundary between sense and nonsense.) this is the reason that both absurdists and materialists do not abandon fundamental principles of grammar and syntax.

the belief in the coherence of words is, then, a belief that the world is composed not only of that which is material, but of the shared experiences which are the result of material interactions. that is, words reflect a belief of a world not necessarily as it is but as it ought to be. here we might define “language” as a set of conditions governing a belief in the coherence of words.

language is a belief in a world that is not permanent and inflexible, but malleable. this is the atomizing capability of words: that reality, which is experienced as a whole, can be expressed analytically in segments (the parts of speech). it is in this sense that words do not act only from the outside in, but from the inside out—that by identifying and defining components of reality, we construct reality. by defining the contours of an internally held belief, words similarly define the contours of an external reality.

from this abstract discussion of the nature of words, their function and behaviour, we conclude that:

  • words are arbitrary, truthless signifiers of an agreed-upon meaning;
  • words are motivated equally by intention and belief;
  • words define the parameters (which is to say, they construct) an internally-perceived reality as well as an externally-acting reality.

it might be useful at this juncture to acknowledge that politics are not relevant to any point of this definition; however, from this definition we may understand how discussions concerning the use of language are relevant to efforts to redefine or reconstruct the parameters of our shared world.

Actress – Shadow from Tartarus

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