Monday, May 15, 2006

The Power of Language: vindication of the slop

I got a verbal comment on my blog a couple of days ago. The commenter pointed my some-times sloppiness detected throughout the curse of reading the many stupidities posted below, of course I excused myself with poor allegations such as ‘they are just simple notes that I write on the run’ and, the saddest one ‘oh, English is not my first language, remember? Thus, I can be a little off/wrong sometimes, nobody will make a big deal, you know?’. Yet, the commenter knows me well enough, and knows that those mistakes and my lack of care on my writing are a sign of just being that: sloppy and lazy. He was quite disappointed since once I was well-known for my carefulness, somehow dissipated these days among, well, I don’t really know among what, or how it got dissipated at all. Anyway, here and while following his gracious advice, which accordingly will bring me some ‘against-sloppiness vindication’, I am posting some pieces that I wrote in a serious mode. The first official document written in proper English that has come out of many-times taps on an American keyboard, has to be my final essay/test for my English 101 class. The Power of Language was the central theme of the piece. The only guidelines given were the use of 3 quotations from authors we had read through the class, and to follow a regular descriptive essay form; the rest was all my mexican 'imaginación'. Here from August 2004, fresh, below…

Berenice Weber
English 101 | The Power of Language
Professor Richard Peters
August 5, 2004

The Power of Language

Language is knowledge, and as the German saying goes “knowledge is power.” So, power is implied in language. Susanne K. Langer in her essay Language and Thought explains that “language is the highest and most amazing achievement of the symbolic human mind.” Language is an inherent characteristic to human kind and civilization. Language conveys individual and social implications. The way we exercise language can determine whether its delivery is nocive or advantageous.

Language has personal connotations since we use it as a tool to originate thoughts and sensations. Our consciences talk to us in words. Our hearts arrange our feelings in sentences. Our minds bombard us with wordy images. Our daily worries and long-term goals are debated every morning, in our minds and souls, in the form of a soliloquy. Researchers affirm that the human perception of reality is defined by language. Therefore, regardless of our personal use of language—and whether we are able to speak it, write it, understand it, and communicate with it properly—it will always be our companion, since it is intrinsic to the human nature. Language empowers or undermines us depending on how we use it.

Civilization, by definition, is a state of intellectual, cultural, and material development in human society. Probably the most relevant instrument of amalgamation in society, and good indicator of the advancement of civilization, is language. An example that helps demonstrating the importance of language in society is that one of the largest systems of categorization of human groups is according to their language. The use of a common language confers a group the condition of unity and cohesion. Language is present in each and all of the social matters of a collectivity: economical exchanges, cultural interactions, political concerns, and arts and entertainment. As exposed in the text Exploring Language by Gary Goshgarian in the introduction to the case study: English Only or Bilingualism, “language is probably the most important element of our cultural heritage.” Without language, what we call society would be very different: an indecipherable concept, indeed.

The results of the use language are as vast as the humankind itself. Each of us can exercise language in a unique way. Language is organic, flexible, and it is always in constant renovation. Language has been transforming and adjusting its values and meanings since its appearance, according to the society’s demands. Even though we have created very specific semantical and grammatical rules, the use of language is still susceptible to adaptation. Depending particularly of the circumstances and context where it takes place, the delivery of language can either denigrate or praise a person. “Words themselves are innocuous; it is the consensus that gives them true power,” writes Gloria Naylor in her essay ‘Nigger’: The Meaning of a Word.

As individuals, language defines us internally. As collectivity, language helps us communicating with others and to identify as a group. It is in us as human beings, and members of a society, to use language in a responsible way. Because language is the base that supports the structure of who we are: our inner selves, our personalities, our dreams, our every-day issues, our identities, and our bonds with family and friends, are all regulated by language. As John Simon writes in his delightful essay Why Good English Is Good for You: “ You are going to be judged, whether you like it or not, by the correctness of your English as much as by the correctness of your thinking.”
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