I'm doing my Psychology paper this quarter on "Language." It's a very broad topic and has led me to some very interesting articles in my research. It has led me also to do a lot of thinking about it. We really take language for granted. It's an interesting thought - to me, at any rate - to consider that before books, everyone had better memories. They had to. Books came along and the need to remember everything decreased - the information could be looked up again, once forgotten. Then with the advent of the internet, the radio, the TV, memory had declined to practical non-existence. Education is a hollow word, signifying a piece of paper, meaning very little. University students today remember very little from their courses of last year. And what of the student who was studying frantically the week before finals, commenting, "I won't have to know this after next week!" What kind of an attitude is that, I ask you?!! That is not to claim that I am any better off than any other such person.
Language is the tool of communication. Words are the symbols for concepts. The average person's vocabulary today is pitifully small contrasted to that of an average person a century ago. Many words have acquired more than one meaning - for example, "hot," "cool," "sweet," "gay," even "ecumenism" - creating an ambiguity in communication. If we lose the words accurately expressing concepts, we lose also the concepts once represented by those words. What of words such as "ergophobic," meaning a fear of work, or "piscation," meaning fishing. These words, by their etymology, convey more clearly the concepts they represent than do the words and phrases we use today to signify the very same thing.
We find ourselves in a pitiable state.
Dr. David Allen White offers six steps to solve the plight of modern language:
Firstly, restore the habit of speaking directly to each other; get rid of answering machines and go to extra trouble to communicate directly and personally.
Secondly, language is easily corrupted by the use of technology. We can and should limit the use we make of the internet.
Thirdly, he suggests that public reading should be restored. It is captivating unlike any movie. It stimulates thinking, encourages a love of language, and facilitates the ability to form images on one's own.
Fourthly, beware of advertising. " In 1997, it (the advertising industry) spent an estimated $187 billion to sell us an unconscionable amount of stuff, much of it useless, environmentally destructive, and deleterious to our health."
Fifthly, we must honor local/regional businesses, discourage big business, in an attempt to preserve local dialects. We will thus preserve those parts of our culture where memory, tradition, and devotion to locality still exist, because it is there that language is most vibrant.
Finally, we must, in the schools and universities, preserve the integrity and clarity of language in every way possible. Rhetoric - the ability to speak clearly and well - should be restored to the liberal arts curriculum.
I think, above all, the main - the first - step on the way to a restoration of language is to READ. To read good literature, classic literature, works by those who had a mastery of the English language! Shakespeare, Tennyson, Milton, Chesterton. They had a fabulous command of the English language. Such works as theirs leave one far more satisfied than the shallow rubbish commonly written today.
Food for thought, is it not?
Well, I will leave you with that. If I mounted my soapbox, it was unintentional. I was merely thinking aloud. Thanks for bearing with me and I hope you agree that Language is indeed a fascinating subject!
Until next time, God love you all and Take care!