Effective Language: Sign Language

One who believes the purpose of language is simply to convey information…is absolutely mistaken. If this was the case, we would write sentences like this:

One who believes the purpose of language is simply to convey information…is absolutely mistaken
if believe (language = information), wrong.

Doing so allows the speaker to say nearly exactly the same thing in only 6 words (as compared to 15) and less than half as many letters. Such a scenario would allow for faster transfer of spoken information and leave us with more time to do other things. So let us invent something to do just that!

In reality… we already have. Continue reading

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Radiolab: Leopards, Language, and Mr. Fernyhough

This week, take a load off your eyes and just listen. One of the most influential pieces of technology to ever hit the human race is surely the radio, is it not? Radio, in all its forms, influenced our grandparents and will surely influence our great-great grandchildren. Years ago (and not too long ago, mind you) if you missed a show on the radio, you would either write to the broadcaster for a copy of the program or wait to hear it again…somehow. Today, with the invention of the internet, nearly everything is available for listening consumption at any time you deem worthy…many times in the form of podcasts.

One such podcast that has never let me down both in variety of subjects as well as entertainment value is the American show Radiolab:

Radiolab believes your ears are a portal to another world. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience. Big questions are investigated, tinkered with, and encouraged to grow. Bring your curiosity, and we’ll feed it with possibility. -Radiolab

With a new podcast every week, Radiolab is the perfect way to escape your routine and challenge your mind for twenty minutes to an hour a week on subjects ranging from natural selection and fate, words and language, or time and gravity (as well as many other subjects!) It is to this podcast that I highly encourage a bored blogger to visit in their spare time for it not only offers you a ears a world of entertaining sound but it offers your mind a new way to take in the world.  What with all this reading, our ears certainly are ready for some stimulation!

Radiolab is a member of WNYC radio as well as a part of National Public Radio.  Radiolab is supported, in part, by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

If you have not listened to it before, here are a couple good ones to get you started:

1) Words: Imagine a world without words!
2) Wild Talk : Animals with grammar? Words in the wild.

When Language Doesn’t Cut It

I am at a loss for words.  What do you say when no words will suffice.  I am simply,__________.

 

Life, Without Words: Photo Courtesy of D.L Ennis Photography

Life, Without Words: Photo Courtesy of D.L Ennis Photography

Continue reading

Silence: The Language of Thought

Our Thoughts are a Universe

Our Thoughts are a Universe

Within the confines of our mind in places where no one may ever be able to map out precisely, lie our thoughts and emotions, our feelings and hopes, fears and secrets.  Inside our minds lie our unspoken words, our shouts of pain and joy.  In this vast confined space of our brains and beyond into the ether lie what no one will ever be able to hear but is there nonetheless: Our Personal Dialogue.

To say that it does not exist would be ridiculous! Consider only the moment that is NOW.  Upon the reading of the word “NOW” you evoke the feelings and all memories associated with that word, the memories may lead to more thoughts and feelings and–if you never returned to reading my blog but instead expounded on the internal energy you possess from the word “NOW”–you very well may drift off into an eternal internal personal dialogue. Continue reading

Consciousness: Impossible sans Language

Every thought, every consideration, every observation, and every emotion is realized in our consciousness though the medium of language; without language, conscious human thought is impossible.  In other words, without a language as a medium, none of our human experience could even exist.

Korean SOS

SOS in Korea

The idea occurred to me prior to any kind of reading into the subject (later research found such references to this idea in such books as The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language by David Crystal) and I was struck at the realization of how deep the repercussions of a world without language would be.  If such a catastrophe were to occur and all knowledge of language of any kind were to disappear from our race, I concluded, we would plummet instantly into an animalistic, prehistoric, and utterly instinctual state.  Literally overnight our financial status, thoughts of loved ones, future plans (for the nest 10 minutes let alone the next 10 years), and our own well-being would revert to a level of importance no higher than eating and relieving oneself for the time being. Continue reading

Happy Kanji: Positive vs. Negative Japanese

 

Eternal Kanji Symbol

Hand-Painted Kanji: Eternal

As a way of mediation, contemplation, and preparation for the new year, I decided to write down 400 kanji (the sino-Japanese text).  In an effort to call forth positive energy into my life  this new year, only characters that had some positive connotation were chosen.  The kanji  are chosen from a list of 1,947 kanji that can be found in the reference book “Kanji in Context” The list includes all Joyo kanji.  Joyo simply refers to the set of kanji that have been set up by the Japanese Ministry of education as mandatory for all students up through secondary school.  The Japanese language in total consists of roughly 3,000 separate kanji characters but luckily for us non-native speakers any kanji outside of the list of 1,945 Joyo kanji that is used in Japanese newsprint must be accompanied by corresponding furigana.

So with this in mind I set out to create a list of 400 kanji that have some kind of positive denotation.  Of course it occurrs to me that there will be some subjectivity when it comes to determining what things are positive and what things are not so please do not regard this list as definitive.  There are certain characters which may have positive connotations if not widely then personally and I am sure that we all can agree that certain gray areas are quite acceptable. Also be aware than many kanji can have more than one meaning: 安(AN) for example can mean either safe or cheap.

What becomes clear as the list is being made is that there are relatively few kanji that have positive denotations.  Out of the 1,947 kanji reviewed only a few hundred can really be handpicked as uplifting, positive, soothing, etc.  The final hundred or so come down to things that I would like to consider as positive.  That is to say, these final kanji are no more positive than they are negative but because I have no more positive kanji I simply have to settle for something which is at least not harmful or negative.  You will see that many elements of nature stand in for the final section. Also notice that I chose to include many elements of the body because any and all good feelings must originate and radiate from the body.

The list is as follows:

人金生家自男女子私安新春多明強若始来作休勉住知者英世界全体頭口目耳手足心立走聞く読書出入買着歌習思言渡覚調続考答教開直集窓質問料真好気静利親笑喜咲勝進受取流晴発意解参加究案味花犬文公園医図暖楽甘有和簡支賛成功束想首身然正能化仏供必増感協係谷林森空天星光風祭敬鳥鳴論識活宅守庭葉産宝現望神禅良皆演絵声暇曲豊富興任信得環境情適許認実美善誕基招賞致緑絶老才財接志恩忠訳提指赦験夢確示清拝輝了浮礼祈祖助努将奨励陽泉雪格資源貴願勢灯精請育報告吉幸福鮮盛塩像城誠詩桜松桃枝株根瞬杯札柱靴命巨哲抱占祝陵童健築筋粋超恵恋愛互雇胸属展永骨胃蔵脳創念息欲添歓迎仰卵勇我仲優促秀献繁栄標賢臨稼穏偉宇宙挑兆豪昇糧糖鼻憩舌紳寿妊肌肥膨克寧寛踊躍る征奮獲穫魅俊俸給傑壮悟愉懐披浄潤澄朴棋胎矯謙謹勧耐彩敢朗雄雅頂頑宜宰賓芳菓慕冒是奏泰笛篤覇霊塗慰香薫誉貫匠層尽慶魂勘貞淑斉巧髄唇懇敏栽麗到誘拾趣技倫芸夫徒快植礎縁貯蓄隆褒仁菊芽苗滝峰峠柳

(If you want to know the meaning: Go to this site->Polarcloud and download Rikaichan for Firefox, Thunderbird, or Seamonkey.  Then download the corresponding dictionary.  Now all that is left is to simply activate Rikaichan and hover your mouse over the kanji you want to know more about and VIOLA! )

That’s it.  That should be 400.  For those of you who can read Japanese (or Chinese as well) it should be easy to tell that some of the characters above are a bit of a stretch;  “Peach Tree” (桃) would be one such case. No matter, my point is not that there are exactly 400 examples of positive kanji but it is that fact that there are really quite fewer than that number.  While the amount of kanji people are required to know in order to read a newspaper in Japan may be roughly 2,000, of those less than 1/5th of them are positive even just slightly!  Let me repeat,  fewer than one-fifth of all the Chinese characters used in Japanese text are positive even slightlyContinue reading