"Literates make up a very small minority of the world’s population. ..of the approximately 3,000 languages spoken in the world today, only some 78 have a literature. Of these 78 only 5 or 6 enjoy a truly international audience.
"Words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."
"At the beginning I should urge examining in all seriousness that ancient belief that a divine element is present in language."
Richard M. Weaver
Ideas Have Consequences
"The Word is the master key for the whole world, inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked."
"A word after a word after a word is power."
"Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality."
"Logopoeia" (coined by Ezra Pound) means; the dance of the intellect among words. "Who now of all dancers sports most playfully?"
"I am trying to highlight the fact that our language habits are at the core of how we imagine the world. And to the degree that we are unaware of how our ways of talking put such ideas in our heads, we are not in full control of our situation. It needs hardly to be said that one of the purposes of an education is to give us greater control of our situation."
The End of Education
"An education for freedom (and for the love and intelligence which are at once the conditions and result of freedom) must be, among other things, an education in the proper use of language."
Brave New World Revisited
"Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language."
"Man was given the gift of speech to make it easier for him to conceal his thoughts."
"Our ability to talk to one another is what makes us human."
"There is no doubt that words have tremendous effect on people. Witness today's large propaganda machines-advertising agencies and controlled media worldwide-which all deal with words and images to shape society, and to influence the opinions of those who mater in the society. How much more powerful were words in ancient days, when only the elite could read and write, and there was less of a demarcation between the symbol and the actual thing symbolized."
W. Adam Mandelbaum
The Psychic Battlefield: A History of the Military -Occult Complex
"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."
"This is a confusing and uncertain period, when a thousand wise words can go completely unnoticed, and one thoughtless word can provoke an utterly nonsensical furor."
"To give in so many articulate words one’s innermost thoughts and feelings, is taken by us (the Japanese) as an unmistakable sign that they are neither profound nor very sincere."
"In the Japanese language exactness of expression is purposely avoided."
Ah! Matsushima, ah!
(the subject is an archipelago in Northern Japan-hundreds of islands carved by the sea)
"words are mere sound and smoke, dimming the heavenly light."
"All our life is crushed by the weight of words: the weight of the dead."
"Words are seductive and dangerous material to be used with caution."
"The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become."
"Oh, words are action good enough, if they’re the right words."
"It is astonishing what power words have over man."
"Words are loaded pistols."
"If the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to blind, imprison, and destroy."
"My general theory since 1971 has been that the word is literally a virus, and that it has not been recognized as such because it has achieved a state of relatively stable symbiosis with its human host; that is to say, the word virus (the other Half) has established itself so firmly as an accepted part of the human organism that it can now sneer at gangster viruses like smallpox and turn them in to the Pasteur Institute."
The Adding Machine
"Man knows that there are in the soul tints more bewildering, more numberless, and more nameless that the colors of an autumn forest....Yet he seriously believes that these things can every one of them , in all their tones and semi-tones, in all their blends and unions, be accurately represented by an arbitrary system of grunts and squeals. He believes that an ordinary civilized stockbroker can really produce out of his own inside noises which denote all the mysteries of memory and all the agonies of desire."
"Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality."
"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. I you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words."
Philip K. Dick
The Adding Machine
"Give the people a new word and they think they have a new fact."
"A very great part of the mischief’s that vex this world rises from words."
"Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men."
"We are governed by words, the laws are graven in words, and literature is the sole means of keeping these words living and accurate."
"Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind."
"Only unimaginative people conceive of language as a means of communication. Language, said Herbert Spencer, must truly be regarded as a hindrance to thought. At best, languages are tools for obstructing communication, if this sounds paradoxical, remember that they were intended as such by the Lord. Whatever the supposed merits of dubbing and simultaneous-translation earphones, they have not succeeded in defeating His design.
Before the curse, all the world spoke Babylonian. As every child knows, the Lord confused people’s tongues to frustrate a building program that had grown too ambitious, too advanced for its time."
(I lost the author?)
"Humboldt…..said that real language is that speech which can only be fostered, never taught like mathematics. Only machines can communicate without reference to vernacular roots. Their chatter in New York now takes up almost three quarters of the lines that the telephone company operates under a franchise that guarantees free intercourse to people. This is an obvious perversion of a public channel. But even more embarrassing than this abuse of a forum of free speech by robots is the incidence of robot-like stock phrases in the remaining part in which people address each other. A growing percentage of personal utterances has become predictable, not only in content but also in style. Language is degraded to "communication" as if it were nothing but the human variety of an exchange that also goes on between bees, whales, and computers. No doubt, a vernacular component always survives; all I say is that it withers. The American colloquial has become a composite made up of two kinds of language: a commodity-like, taught uniquack, and an impoverished vernacular that tries to survive."
In the Mirror of the Past
"Conservative, liberal and left-wing thinkers in contemporary schools of linguistic philosophy agree about one thing; man became man not by the tool but by the Word. It is not walking upright and using a stick to dig for food or strike a blow that makes a human being, it is speech. And neither intelligent apes nor dolphins whispering in the ocean share with us the ability to transform this direct communication and commune between peoples and generations who will never meet."
"The Unkillable Word" The Essential Gesture
See Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing published by UNESCO
"The death of languages has been repeated many times in history. Localized disasters such as great floods or warfare have played a part, but in the modern era the spread of Europeans and their diseases has greatly accelerated the destruction. Local languages may be overpowered by a metropolitan language, thus increasing the pressure to neglect the ancestral tongue in favor of the new one, which is seen as the key to prospering in the dominant culture. Children may be forbidden to use their mother tongue in the classroom, as has occurred to many groups, including the Welsh and Aboriginal Australians. Speakers of minority languages have been forcibly relocated and combined with speakers of other languages, as happened when Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves. Practices such as these have made Native American languages the most imperiled of any on the earth."
Scientific American Mar 1998
"In the spring of 415, an episode occurred that epitomized the portentous change in women’s fortunes. Hypatia was a renowned woman mathematician and the head of the neo-platonist school of philosophy in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria. AS such, she was the leading advocate of the Orphic creed. Her modesty, and eloquence attracted a large number of pupils of both sexes, and she exemplified wisdom, learning and science. Cyril, Alexandria’s Christian Patriarch, resented her position and influence. One day as she was passing through the streets, he had a group of Nestorian monks ambush her and drag her from her carriage. They took her to a church, where she was stripped and spread-eagled. The monks tortured her to death by scraping her flesh from her bones with oyster shells, and then tore her corpse apart. This torture and mutilation echoed the frenzy of the mythical maenads rendering the male victims. With the steep ascension of a patriarchal paradigm based on the alphabetical text, both the maenads and their sacrificial victims had changed."
The Alphabet vs. the Goddess
"....In his book Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, British psychologist Robbin Dunbar suggests that humans developed language (and also flattery) as a substitute for conventional primate grooming behaviors. Burr-lipping, louse-picking, and other highly personal forms of grooming serve, for most primates, as the main social pastime binding friends and family together, and also as one of the chief tools for social climbing. Monkeys and apes devote far more time to these activities than hygiene alone could possibly warrant, up to 20 percent of their day in some species. Grooming releases enkephalins and endorphins, the body's natural opiates, and the recipient bliss's out on a tide of mild euphoria. The idea is that the grateful recipient will return the favor, assuming he or she has not fallen asleep."
The Natural History of the Rich
"The limits of my language stand for the limits of my world."
"….When I use the English language, the rules of grammar act as a constraint on the changes that I might make to the letters or sounds I employ. This is something we take for granted, an ordinary miracle in which I pass from one sentence to the next, almost as if crossing an abyss by means of a series of well-placed stepping stones."
Commentary June 1996
A Tour of the Calculus
"The Greek alphabet….is a piece of explosive technology, revolutionary in its effects on human culture, in a way not precisely shared by any other invention."
The Literate Revolution in Greece and its Cultural Consequences
"We are in love with the word. We are proud of it. The word precedes the formation of the state. The word comes to us from every avatar of early human existence. As writers, we are obliged more than others to keep our lives attached to the primitive power of the word. From India, out of the Vedas, we still hear: "On the spoken word, all the gods depend, all beasts and men; in the world live all creatures….The word is the name of the divine world."
(speech given at 48th International Congress at New York Public Library
Jan 12, 1986)
"The phonetic alphabet is a unique technology. There have been many kinds of writing, pictograph and syllable, but there is only one phonetic alphabet in which semantically meaningless letters are used to correspond to semantically meaningless sounds. This stark division and parallelism between a visual and an auditory world was both crude and ruthless , cultural speaking. The phonetically written word sacrifices worlds of meaning and perception that were secured by forms like the hieroglyph and the Chinese ideogram. These culturally richer forms of writing, however, offered men no means of sudden transfer from the magically discontinuous and traditional world of the tribal word into the cool and uniform visual medium. Many centuries of ideogramic use have not threatened the seamless web of family and tribal subtleties of Chinese society. On the other hand , a single generation of alphabetic literacy suffices in Africa today, as in Gaul two thousand years ago, to release the individual initially, at least from the tribal web. This fact has nothing to do with the 'content' of the alphabetized words, it is the result of the sudden breach between the auditory and the visual experience of man. Only the phonetic alphabet makes such a sharp division in experience, giving its user an eye for ear, and freeing him from the tribal trance of resonating word magic and the web of kinship. "
"The art of writing is mysterious; the opinions we hold are ephemeral , and I prefer the Platonic idea of the Muse to that of Poe, who reasoned, or feigned to reason, that the writing of a poem is an act of the intelligence. It never fails to amaze me that the classics hold a romantic theory of poetry, and a romantic poet a classical theory. "
Jorge Luis Borges
Doctor Brodie' S Report
"But after all, writing is nothing more than a guided dream. "
Jorge Luis Borges
"It skims in through the eye, and by means of the utterly delicate retina hurls shadows like insect legs inward for translation. Then an immense space opens up in silence and an endlessly fecund sub universe the writer descends, and asks the reader to descend after him, not merely to gain instructions but also to experience delight, the delight of mind freed from matter and exultant in the strength it has stolen from matter. "
"Words are finite organs of the infinite mind. They cannot cover the dimensions of what is in truth. They break, chop, and impoverish it. "
"For instance, while the words 'honour ' , ' love, ' democracy ' are universally used , it is almost impossible to find two people who attach the same meaning to them. That is to say , different uses of the same word may be quite incomparable . On the other hand- strange thought it may seem-the Cathedral of Chartres, a pack of Tarot cards, and certain many armed and many-headed bronzes of Tibetan deities, are in fact 'formulation of exactly the same ideas, ' that is, they are directly comparable. "
The Theory of Celestial
"Of course, the statement that a deity created the Universe by means of the Hebrew alphabet is literally absurd. It can be expressed differently in stating that every letter is , in fact, an ideogram which symbolizes one aspect of the cosmic energy. Thus we know where to look for meaning and purpose of the biblical text: it describes the inter-play of those energies in the Universe and in Man. Thus we free our minds from all mystical imaginings. In following the text we then are subjected to an amazing mental exercise which can modify our way of thinking to the extent of uniting us with those very energies which are being described. That, and that only , is the Revelation. "
The Cipher of Genesis
"But perhaps the most mysterious thing he ever said about it was this. I was questioning him on the subject. . .and had in- cautiously said, "of course, I realize it's all rather too vague for you to put into words," when he took me up rather sharply by saying, "On the contrary, it is words that are vague. The reason why the thing can't be expressed is that it' s too definite for language. "
Voyage to Venus '
"But no language is perfect, no vocabulary is adequate to the wealth of the given universe, no pattern of words and sentences, however rich, however subtle, can do justice to the interconnected Gestalts with which experience presents us. Consequently the phenomenal forms of our name-conditioned universe are "by nature delusory and fallacious." Wisdom comes only to those who have learned how to talk and read and write without taking language more seriously than it deserves. As the only begotten of civilization and even of our humanity, language must be taken very seriously. Seriously, too, as an instrument (when used with due caution) for thinking about the relationships between phenomena. But it must never be taken seriously when it is used, as in the old creedal religions and their modern political counterparts, as being in any way the equivalents of immediate experience or as being a source of true knowledge about the nature of things.
"The lore of the trees, or Ogham, became part of a secret language by which different aspects, qualities and uses of trees could be repeated like nursery rhymes: 'How many groups of Ogham? Answer three, namely eight shrub trees' . The eight noble trees-birch, alder, willow, oak, rowan, hazel,apple, ash - formed the initial consonants of an ancient cryptic alphabet, the Beth-Luis-Nion, that could be used as a seasonal calendar if necessary. There were many kinds of Ogham for different parts of the body; thus a tic-tac hand language used the joints of the fingers as letters. Such dactylological codes could be quite useful in the feasting halls and . night-long banquets where honour was always seen to be done and the protocol of the spoken word had pre-eminence. "
"I have discovered that when you are thinking at an inspired level you are not really thinking in English, or in any normal, secular language; you are thinking in crystal-forms of hieroglyphs which you then translate into English for the purpose of your lecture."
William Irwin Thompson
Nation to Emanation
" Now at the level of consciousness of the Daimon, I believe there is a form of thought which is archetypal and a form of expression which is hieroglyphic. What now seems to be happening in the realm of the intellect -around the world is that there is a reconvergence of science, art and religion into a new synthetic way of thinking. Hieroglyphic thinking is poly-phonic thinking; it is like a four-voiced fugue in which a sound, a geometrical figure, a mathematical equation and a mythopic image all become expressed in a single crystal-like form. In hieroglyphic thinking there are not words and concepts but crystals which are like seeds; if you drop just one of these crystals into the solution of time-space, it would take volumes to express all its meaning."
William Irwin Thompson
"How the ancient speech of the Britons, after battling for eighteen centuries against three such powerful languages as the fact that it is today more studied, more written and more read than ever before is a miracle. a quiver full of steel arrows, a cable with strong coils, a trumpet of brass crashing through the din with two or three sharp notes--such is the Hebrew language. ..The letters of its books are not many, but they are to be letters of fire. A language of this sort is not destined to say much, but what it does say is beaten out upon an anvil. It is employed to pour floods of anger and cries of rage against the abuses of the world, calling the four winds of heaven to the assault of the citadels of evil. Like the jubilee of the sanctuary it will be put to no profane use; but it will sound the notes of the holy war against injustice and the call of great assemblies; it will have accents or rejoicing, and accents of terror; it will become the trumpet of judgment."
"These thoughts did not come in any language formulation.
I rarely think in words."
"They are language destroyers. That is a grave offence. An offence against feeling and against the mind, a darkening of the world, a breath of the ice age."
by Gustav Janouch
"for words are magical formulae. They leave finger marks be hind on the brain, which in the twinkling of an eye become the footprints of history. One ought to watch one' s every word. "
"That' s the great danger. Words prepare the way for deeds to come, detonate future explosions."
"Let the truth be told, and let things If words aren't concerned with deeds and don't lead to deeds, then what good are they? They' re no more use than the barking of village dogs in the night."
"The sacred letters used among the Egyptians were called hieroglyphs...which were images. . . .taken from the things of nature, or their parts. By using such writings and voices (voces)the Egyptians used to capture with marvelous skill the language of the gods. Afterwards when letters of the kind which we use now with another kind of industry were invented by Thoth or some other, this brought about a great rift both in memory and in the divine and magical sciences."
"Emerson urged us to use 'exactly fitting words.' 'the art of using words that fit, words that are 'vascular and alive, ' words that run and dance and speak to the imagination , words that have power and punch and drive -all this is supremely important for words convey impressions and a life can be made or ruined by impressions and it receives. Often the wrong word can cause a misunderstanding that is never erased. The wrong word spoken at the wrong time may lead to war. Bad expression may start a revolution. "
"O what is it that makes me tremble
so at voices? Surely, whoever speaks
to me in the right voice, him or her
I shall follow."
Leaves of Grass
"Voices-I think they must go deeper
into us than other things. I have
often fancied heaven might be
made of voices."
"Thamus now describes Theutates as a beast, at which Theutates strongly protests. 'You culminate, Thamus..,the use of letters, of mathematic, are the work of beasts?' Whereupon Thamus replies, closely in the word of Plato's story, that whew he was in the city called Egyptian Thebes men were writing in their souls with knowledge, but The dates has since sold them a bad aid for memory by inventing letters. This has brought in superficiality and quarrelling and made men little better than beasts."
De Umbraa Rationis
"The ancient languages are the scabbard which holds the mind’s sword."
"It begins to look, more and more disturbingly, as if the gift of language is the single human trait that marks us all genetically, setting us apart from all the rest of life."
The Lives of a Cell
"We are the slaves of language, not its masters…Language is the most significant and colossal work that the human spirit has evolved."
"…Language, for instance, looks like a cultural artifact-after all it varies between cultures. But to speak enthusiastically, grammatically and with a large vocabulary is preeminently an instinct of our species that cannot be taught, only learnt."
The Origins of Virtue
"But of all other stupendous inventions, what sublimity of mind must have been his who conceived how to communicate his most secret thoughts to any other person, though very far distant either in time or place? And with no greater difficulty than the various arrangement of two dozen little signs upon paper? Let this be the seal of all the admirable inventions of man."
"As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good-I use it because I have to, but I don’t put any trust in it. We never understand each other."
"We are heirs to the Greek intellectual tradition, one of single file logic and rational analysis. And it is not only the formal arguments of Aristotle that have passed down, it is the alphabet itself that may play an unexpected role in our brain organization."
"There is one fact that can be established. The only phenomenon which, always and in all parts of the world, seems to be linked with the appearance of writing…is the establishment of hierarchical societies, consisting of masters and slaves, and where one part of the population is make to work for the other part."
"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind."
"The linguistic system shapes ideas’ it does not merely mirror it."
Benjamin Lee Whorf
"The power of the word is real whether or not you are conscious of it."
"…because of the moralistic obsession with language that has dominated modern academic thought. Words are not the only measure of mental development. To believe that they are is a very Western or Judeo-Christian illusion. It stems from our invisible God, who talks creation into existence…The most ancient conflict in Western culture, between Jew and Egyptian, continues today: Hebrew work-worship versus pagan imagism, the great unseen versus the glorified thing."
(see The Goddess and the Alphabet)
"The inability to correctly perceive reality is often responsible for humans insane behavior. And every time they substitute an all-purpose, sloppy slang word for the words that would accurately describe an emotion or a situation, it lowers their reality orientation, pushes them farther from shore, out into the fogy waters of alienation and confusion."
Skinny Legs and All
"Human speech is like a cracked Kettle on which we tap out tunes for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars."
Earth’s peoples once spoke perhaps as many as 15,000 languages, according to linguist Michael Krauss of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Of the 6000 that remain, he says, up to half may be dying because they’re not being taught to children. Krauss considers a language "safe" if children will still be learning it by the year 2100-if it has state support and/or is spoken by millions of people.
Large populations spoke Breton and Navajo earlier in this century, but both are now severely endangered. Other experts fear Gaelic, Basque, Yiddish and Pennsylvania Dutch may be in trouble too. Krauss worries that if present trends continue 90 to 95 percent of the world’s languages could be doomed or extinct by the year 2100.
"After listening to tribal elders from the various reservations, the committee identified two central ideas to be emphasized in teaching the language. First, the language is wakan
, "very powerful". We use it to communicate with the other nations: the Deer Nation, the Eagle Nation, the buffalo Nation, and so forth. We talk to the wamakakan, living beings of the earth, through spiritual communications. Language must be taught with this in mind. Second, when teaching the language to younger people, its good and evil powers must also be taught. Children need to understand that language contains great power, that it can be used to injure peoples’ feelings or to compliment the achievements of another human being, that it can be used to harm or to honor and bless. Young people need to understand that language contains the power to give life or to take it away and that it therefore must be used with respect."
Albert White Hat, Sr. (Lakota)
Sinte Gleska University
"Few people realize that within the confines of the United States there is spoken today a far greater variety of languages ….than in the whole of Europe. We may go further. We may say, quite literally and safely, that in the state of California alone there are greater and more numerous linguistic extremes that can be illustrated in all the length and breadth of Europe….It would be difficult to overestimate the value of the (technical studies documenting these languages) for an eventual philosophy of speech."
Edward Sapir (1929)
See article: "New Alphabet Disease?" ATLANTIC MONTHLY July 1997
See article: ""Learning the World’s Languages-Before they vanish" Science, 19 May 2000…
See article: "More than Words" Whole Earth spring 2000
Book: "The Secret Lives of Words" by Paul West
"Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he or she has been born-the beneficiary inasmuch a language give access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all to apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things. That which, in the language of religion, is called "This world" is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed and, as it were, petrified by language."
The Doors of Perception
"If art can be called the re-creation and formal expression of reality through the medium of human experience, then the creation of language may be called the greatest achievement of art. Each word originally was a focus of energies, in which the transformation of reality into the vibrations of the human voice-the vital expression of the human soul-took place. Through these vocal creations man took possession of the world-and more than that: he discovered a new dimension, a world within himself, opening upon the vista of a higher form of life, which is as much beyond the present state of humanity as the consciousness of a civilized man is about that of an animal."
Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism
The lore or the trees, or Ogham, became part of a secret language by which different aspects, qualities and uses of trees could be repeated like nursery rhymes: 'How many groups of Ogham? Answer three, namely eight shrub trees'. The eight noble trees~birch, alder, willow, oak rowan, hazel, apple ,ash - formed the initial consonants of an ancient cryptic alphabet, the Beth-Luis-Nion, that could be used as a seasonal calendar if necessary. There were many kinds of Ogham for different parts of the body; thus a tic-tac hand language used the joints of the fingers as letters. Such dactyl logical codes could be quite useful in the feasting halls and night-long banquets where honor was always seen to be done and the protocol of the spoken word had pre-eminence."
Book: "Language and Relation:....That There is Language" by Christopher Fynsk
Book: "The Power of Babel: A Natural History Of Language" by John H. McWhorter
Book: "Mysteries of the Alphabet: The Origins of Writing" by Marc-Alain Ouaknin
Book: "The Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination" by Johanna Drucker
Book: "The Atoms of Language" by Mark C. Baker
Book: "Language Visible: Unraveling the Mystery of the Alphabet from A to Z" by David Sacks
Book: "Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language" by Robin Dunbar
Book: "The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse On Language" by Michel Foucault
Book: "The Languages of the World" by Kenneth Katzner
Book: Language Spoken Here: Travels among Threatened Language" by Mark Abley
Book: "Verbatim: From the Bawdy to the Sublime, the Best Writing on Language for word lovers, Grammar Mavens, and Armchair Linguists" Ed. by Erin Mckean
Book: "Modern Philosophy of Language" Ed by Maria Baghramian
Book: "Hieroglyphics" by Ronald L. Bonewitz
Book: "Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt" by Maria Carmela Betro
Book: "Caught in the Web of Words: James A.H. Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary" by K.M. Elisabeth Murray
Book: "The Book of Babel: Words and the Way We See Things" by Nigel Lewis
Book: "Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care" by John McWhorter
Book: "Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do with the Other" by Walker Percy
Book: Logic Made Easy: How to Know When Language Deceives You" by Deborah J. Bennett
Book: "The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discoure On Language" by Michel Foucault
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