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Academic Paper

Title: 'When Silence Would Swallow Non-Silence': Linguistics of silence
Paper URL:
Author: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Indian Statistical Institute
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Ling & Literature; Linguistic Theories; Philosophy of Language; Pragmatics; Semantics
Abstract: By quoting a part of song of Lalan Fakir, (“When silence would swallow non-silence…”), the author enters into a particular discourse of Jean Paul Sartre with a goal to understand linguistics of silenceme (author mentioned it as Silence Studies). The author mainly analyzes the first chapter of Sartre’s book, “What is Literature?" (1948), where a type of meta-verse was assumed by breaking the signifying chain (as presumed in linguistics as signifier-signified relationship) and which was, latter on, in Barthes’ misspelling, termed as signifianc’ — play of signifiers without any designated signified. Sartre was searching for living signified — in his meta-verse or meta-paintings, nothing was signifiers — rather every “representation represents itself”. In this context, Sartre commented on silence: “Silence itself is defined in relationship to words, as the pause in music receives its meaning from the group of notes round it. The silence is a moment of language; being silent is not being dumb; it is refuse to speak, and therefore keep on speaking.” The act of speaking (non-silence) is constrained, appropriated, approximated by the unspeakable/ unspoken spaces — so-called blank spaces are controlling the revealed speech. These blank spaces are emitting different meanings in different situations and non-signs were endowed with the supposed sign-ness. That is the de-sign of “silenceme” as it is de-sign-ated within the sign-ness. /L//L/The author of this paper also compared Sartre’s agenda with the stands of early “mystical” Wittgenstein. According to him, the correct method of philosophy would be, “to say nothing, except what can be said.” This leads to an area of differentiation: difference between unspoken and unspeakable. /L//L/These blank spaces may be perceived /cognized as a category called “absence” (“abhava” — In the Nyaya-Vaiseska tradition in Indian Philosophy, categories are distinguished on the basis of their presence and absence, which is subject to the knowledge or cognition by means generic perception). One could perceive absence by assigning the absential qualifier/counterpositive to the locus of empty locus/referend, qualificand. Thus, the absence of speaking means perceiving the dyadic relations between two constructs: speaking and non-speaking in a certain locus. There is no absolute non-speaking silent zone — all silent zones are pervaded by the non-silence and vise versa. Silenceme and non-silenceme are not antonymous, but it is matter of privilege on the part of listening/speaking subject, who is providing hierarchy of silenceme/non-silenceme by choosing different pockets of noise (unintended sounds/non-discursive sonority), music, speaking, non-speaking etc./L/Keywords: Silenceme, Abhava, signifiance, de-sign-ation
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: 2005. “jedin niSSObdo SObdore khabe’ ”: noYSObder BhaSatOtto” (“When silence would swallow non-silence”: Linguistics of Silence) Ebang Mushayera. XI:4(pp. 226-47) RNI.53193/94

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