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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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What is English? And Why Should We Care?

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To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

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Academic Paper

Title: Wor(L)d- Spaces: The Definition of ‘Word’
Paper URL: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2016136
Author: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://isid.academia.edu/DebaprasadBandyopadhyay
Institution: Indian Statistical Institute
Linguistic Field: Lexicography; Philosophy of Language; Semantics
Abstract: It is dialogic paper on the epistemological status of “word”, where proposer, a word-atomist, introduces three definitions of “word” per se and the opponent, a discourse-holist, nullifies those three claims of the proposer. The three definitions of the proposer follow the arguments given by the word-atomists and are as follows: (a)Word (W) is subordinate to sentence (S) and thus W S; (b) Word is a minimal free form; (c) Word as a signifier denotes matter or the order of world. According the opponent’ strategic definition, word is something (visual black/any other colored figure) in between two (white or any other colors) spaces (grounds) and the boundaries of word depend on the particular literate community’s way of manipulating blank (“other” spaces or “silenceme”) spaces in their printing/writing. Thus, “word” is a culture-specific concept, which has only visual representation. A literate speaking subject, in her printing culture, has only a visual sensation of word. The blank/other spaces may be perceived/recognized as a category called absence.

Opponent’s first argument was against the vyaiakaranika definition of “word” as one of the levels of hierarchical linguistic analysis. At that moment of speaking, from the subject’s position, it is not (word-) stress, but it is rather a harmonic intonation of a discourse (that follows logarithmic pattern), which the speaking subject is expressing as a continuum without being ontologically conscious about the grammarians’ order of things. According to the opponent’s opinion, the memory of these blank spaces may also influence the way of speaking of a literate speaker. The isolated words are citation forms as it is legitimatized in the dictionary produced by the print capitalism. Thus, the typological differences of languages on the basis of word-morpheme ratio hold no water at all if one does not consider the literate culture-specificity of “word”. The opponent also opposes the definition-2 by questioning the ethico-epistemological meaning of “freedom” of word as a minimal free form. When anyone was asking me, “What’re you doing?” I said, “Nothing.” This supposed single word, ”nothing” , a supposed minimal “free” form in this so-called single word-sentence, is not free at all — “nothing's” freedom was pervaded by “other” non-signs. The act of speaking is constrained, appropriated, approximated by the unspeakable/unspoken spaces — so-called blank spaces are controlling the revealed speech. These blank spaces are emitting different surplus meanings in different space-times. Silenceme is a subjective spatio-temporal “perception” of absence of speaking. In case of definition-3, that puts word as a signifier, which is signifying something (signified), the opponent proposes (a) word as signifying representation represents other representative signifiers, but not the object, thanks to the anthropocentric perceptive limit as supposed object is always unknown and unknowable and all wor(l)ds are not subservient to intensive definition; (b) the order of supposed signified is always subservient to the spatio-temporal de-sign-ation and therefore, bears different representations in different space -time and thus equating pada (word as deployed in sentences) with padartha (matter) or wor(l)d-logic that pursues minimal substantive representation as the static meaning of the wor(l)d cuts a sorry figure. After refuting word-atomist views, the opponent proposes her discourse-holism (not the sentence-holism as proposed by Bhartrhari) hypothesis by introducing the hypothesis of intimate attachment of sound-continuum in a given discourse that also bears the marks of scattered, fragmented blank loci of silencemes.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Venue: Milan, Italy
Publication Info: Encyclopedia of Science of Language, Polimetrica Onlus, Milan, Italy 2007
URL: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2016136

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