LINGUIST List 9.999

Sun Jul 5 1998

Disc: Equality among languages

Editor for this issue: Elaine Halleck <>


  1. teruko, Equality among languages

Message 1: Equality among languages

Date: Sat, 04 Jul 1998 04:48:29 +0000
From: teruko <>
Subject: Equality among languages

In reply to:List 7.890 (which I have just noticed was raging two years
ago. The machine will give my name as "Teruko", whereas it is in fact
Michael Sandeman).

David Harris observes, "If your speech partner doesn't know the other
language, you make the attempt to stretch the functionality of the
language s/he does understand in order to say as precisely as you can
what it is you want to say". However, having found some points of
interest in an article dealing with dignity in shougi, published in a
Japanese newspaper, I wrote to the author seeking their
clarification. In the reply I received there was a particularly
puzzling passage, this was explained to me, by a friend, as having
been inserted to make the meaning "more vague". There is a function of
language, that may be instrumental in it's genesis, concerned with
direct and simple communication. This seems to persist as the
distinguishing factor in the growth of technical languages and perhaps
also of slangs (though exclusionism is perhaps more important in the
majority of the latter). The greater portion of spoken language, on
the other hand, would seem to be recreational in function. The feeling
one hopes to express is only approximated to by the language employed,
communication is further distorted by one's interlocutor's
relationship with the language and the ideas generated in them by
it. This involves both parties in a distortion of their perceived
realities amounting to intoxication. To my mind this distortion and
it's accompanying intoxication is likely to provide a greater spur to
originality than does the direct transfer of concepts. Whether or not
it is more suited to the production of "bullshit" is another
question. One is left with the image of a Japanese addressing a
non-japanese speaking english speaker and trying to make, in english,
the meaning as vague as possible.
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