Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

Discussion Details

Title: Silenceme: the silent other in Linguistics
Submitter: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay
Description: If Linguistics is stipulated, for the time being, as an epistemological
discipline for the deployment of algocentric (a discourse that is motivated
by metamathematical formalism or computational algorithmic simulation and
which ignores the non-algorithmic constitutive “rules”) meta-symbolic order
on the symbolic order, one may find a marginal other in Linguistics—an
order of non-signs. For these non-signs, let me introduce a term:
“silenceme”, which is at a time a non-sign and a sign and does not have a
fixed componential meaning and thus violates the law of excluded middle.

A blank parchment with the supposed seal of Caesar, when “read” by Antony,
swayed the commoners (Julius Caesar, 3.2). In Tagore’s play, Post-office, a
conspirator, out of fun, sent a blank letter to an “illiterate” boy, who
was expecting king’s letter, when he was waiting for death. However,
another character altogether differently interpreted that blank letter.
This blankness of the white letter, then, was not interpreted as a
poisonous fun, but as a “real” remedy for that boy.

When you were asking me, “What’re you doing?” I said, “Nothing.” This
single word, ”nothing” , a supposed minimal “free” (Where lies the
essential freedom of word? ) form, is not free at all—“nothing” ’s freedom
was pervaded by “other” non-signs, nothingness, the unspoken or something
unspeakable, the non-discursive sonority or unintended sounds (as in John
Cage’s musical compositions or in Rauschenberg and Robert Ryman’s
Minimalist paintings with almost white surfaces.)

There may be a strategic taxonomy of silenceme: cognitive silenceme,
transcendental silenceme (as in case of seeking absolute silence and that
is impossible!); Pathological silenceme (as in case of Foreclosure or
Psychosis, the symbolic order is totally or partially rejected [instead of
being repressed]; one’s Language Acquisition Device is not working due to
the outside threat and violence); Creative silenceme ( as practiced by some
Buddhists by non-internalizing the outside threat and violence.); Silenceme
of conspiracy (the phrase “conspiracy of silence” was often used by Marx
and Engels) etc. Thus, spoke Sartre: being silent does not entail that I
am refusing to speak but it is a mode of keeping on speaking (What is

What will we, the linguist community, do with such so-called ambiguous
category? In Linguistics, what will be our agenda now? May we take
Wittgenstein or John Cage seriously? Alternatively, we may ignore the
silent marginal “other” space in Linguistics: the silenceme!
Date Posted: 26-Jul-2006
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Philosophy of Language
LL Issue: 17.2149
Posted: 26-Jul-2006

Search Again

Back to Discussions Index