ChapterÂ 8.Â How Language Works
Thought is made in the mouth.
Looking at Language
TO UNDERSTAND HOW LANGUAGE FUNCTIONS AS SUCH A CRUCIAL PART of our environment, we need to look at how it manages to mean anything to begin with. That means understanding some basics about signs and symbols, the mechanisms of signification.
Language is so much a part of human life, we hardly ever think about it explicitly. Like fish in water, we just use it as a sort of natural human medium. Thatâs one reason language works so well. If we had to ponder the depths of meaning for every utterance, we wouldnât get much done. In everyday usage, we frankly treat language in much the same way scholars of the sixteenth century believed language to be: that words are essentially copies of the objects they name.
Eventually, though, the question of how language means anything became an obsession that nearly consumed the philosophical work of the twentieth century, and especially energized the field of linguistics. Over the years, linguistics experts have broken down the study of language into layers, as pictured in FigureÂ 8-1.
There is physical, ecological information involved in language, but only at the level of the center circle. (For writing, the equivalent ...