“To be in love is not the same as loving. You can be in love with a woman and still hate her.”
This statement of Dostoevsky reminds me of ambiguous nature of language(s).
We, humans, express everything in the form of a binary. For us either this exists or that. Here, Dostoevsky cleverly puts two opposite words, love and hate, within a single sentence. Both grammatically and syntactically his expression stands correct. However, what about practical aspect of the sentence? Here comes the play of language.
The general practice denotes love and hate in the category of antonym. The common people practice, though unconsciously, any one feeling rather than both at a time. They either love someone or hate them. It’s unusual for common folks to use both words in the same sentence.
On the other hand, the world rarely reflects clear-cut dichotomy. Evolution of languages felt comfortable in division of everything into two parts. But the closer inspection reveals the existence of various layers and shades between any binary. For example, there are different forms of time like dawn, dusk, etc. in between the clear demarcation of day and night. Similarly, human feelings consist of unique nature differing from person to person. Even love and hate possess multiple interpretations, rather than containing definite meaning they’ve been assigned to.
One of the tragedies of humans associates with failure of expressing feelings through language(s). We can agree upon names of objects and other materials as well as physical entities. The confusion arises when it comes to pouring out abstract thoughts and the way we feel at the given time. Oftentimes we fail to show the reality of our feelings toward others. Our reaction in the light of certain events and experience mostly betrays us when it is represented by words. Languages have their own limitations. One may not find suitable word or phrase for particular feeling in the native language, thus settling with the supposed near-about word.
Emojis have been a kind of solution for the drawback of the language. Various sets of emojis fill the void of exact representation of one’s own abstract nature. Increasing use of emojis with minimisation of words among youths and teenagers points out the new direction our society is moving towards, where actual portrayal of inner feelings matter.
Despite its beauty, power and broader aspects, literature has been criticized for distortion of meaning by playing with words. Most of the literature contains ornamented language along with literary tools like metaphors, irony, pun, and simile and so on. Such playful uses of words make it difficult for common people to comprehend. William Wordsworth’s paradox, “the child is father of the man” adds confusion among poetry readers, let alone non – literary people. In general, literature has appealed to a tiny portion of the population. Thanks to its use of language, literature signifies as elite activity.
Likewise, movements that claimed for general people, academic and non – academic researches as well as government studies, use jargons in every next sentence. The targeted audience gets deprived off from the basic understanding of what those big words meant. The clash of common use of language with ‘official’ language brings sense of inferiority in people. Meanwhile, systematic national language traps different ethnic language speakers.
No matter which language we speak, it victimizes us. Humans may argue about their superiority because of languages but thousands of languages act just as means of communication among similar language speakers and nothing much. Poets and writers often talk about the beauty of unexpressed words as they know ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ Words are cold, dead bunch of symbols until we provide them with meanings. Interpretation based on time, location and culture determine meanings. As Jacques Derrida argues, language is ambiguous, slippery and changeable. How can we blindly trust on such language which lacks credibility of its existence?
I sometimes ponder about the world without language(s). Sadly, my thoughts speak to me in the form of language. Our brains have been trained in such a way that we are taught to hear our inner voice instead of feeling it. Language surrounds us. Words float everywhere. Even these words don’t express what I initially thought of writing. We suffer from pros and cons of language.
It might sound pessimistic; however, Greek Philosopher Gorgias has boldly expressed the human weaknesses of meaninglessness that can be attached to characteristic of language(s): “First and foremost, nothing exists; second, even if it exists, it is inapprehensible to man; third, even if it is apprehensible, still it is without doubt incapable of being expressed or explained to the next man.” The truth is we talk about drawbacks of language by the help of language.