Tuesday, February 1, 2011

And for that name which is no part of thee

Name. I did not like it as a child. It is Heather. I have never considered changing it.

Parents name their children. My parents are reflected in my name. If I had been a boy I would be Leonard Robert III. Can you imagine such a thing?

I study linguistics, even now, 10 years into a different career, I always include linguistics in my course load of continuing education. Linguistics is an interesting mistress. It is the escape hatch from language. In very complicated ways it teaches you that words are everything and nothing. 'We are such stuff
As dreams are made on.'

Words are a construct. They are sounds put together. The sounds only have meaning because groups of people unconsciously accept their combinations and associate those sounds with some type information. There is actually no absolute truth.

Let me give you an example:

MorphologyThe structure of word forms and patterns
Morphemes are composed of morphs

Morphs are composed of phonemes
 Phonemics The perception of sounds within a language
Phonemes are composed of phones
 Phonetics The pronunciation of speech sounds within a language
A phoneme is the smallest contrastive unit in the sound system of a language.

This is a simple chart to explain how words are created. We assign specific information to phonemes and these  phonemes are combined to make morphemes (we call them words or parts of words). Phones on their own are given multiple meanings by different cultures around the globe. Your phonemes are only meaningful in your context.

With all of that in mind, words have no 'absolute' meaning. They only have a 'percieved' meaning. They are assigned phones collectively understood to mean something.

Which, to bring this all back around, leads me to never see words as profound or meaningful. I can't say that any one word in any language has more or less meaning than any other. I don't really believe in words. They certainly exist and transmit meaning between people. They encode many of our thoughts and I sometimes resent them for that reason. Our thoughts are constrained by the 'words' that we have available.

I am lucky. I can think the world in a few different languages. I know that my thoughts are different when I use different morphology and syntax to represent them. But ultimately, that leads to the terrible beauty of no truth to hold onto and there be dragons in those waters.

Too much knowledge is dangerous. I know that all of the truths we hold self evident are not. I know that we construct our world, our gods, and our distance from our animal reality. My name means nothing. It just is and there is no point in really caring about it.


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