Constraints of Language

People may disagree on many issues relating to knowledge. What knowledge is, how knowledge is gained, how many types of knowledge there are, and so on, but one aspect necessary and a prerequisite to express  any of them is natural language. All of what people mean and identify has to be described in spoken or more precisely written Language.

So, is it far-fetched to speculate that language itself might be an impediment to knowledge, in the same way description can never communicate an experience or qualia. It is my belief that, as indispensable as language is to our evolution and the great development and achievements made by humans over our history, it is also a constraint in communicating what appears to be limitless idea’s, feelings, and experiences. It might be the only, and greatest tool we have to work with, however it will do us well to understand its limitations.

One only has to look at agreements in written contracts of the corporate world, to understand their inadequacy. Prior to the substance of a contract every important word is defined at the beginning, and the definitions, in most cases, are longer than the agreement itself. Clauses like the Spirit of The Agreement, Good Faith, Laws Governing the Agreement, as well as the need for Arbitration indicate clearly the distrust of a clear description of intentions in words and the inherent ambiguity of interpretation.

It sometimes amazes me how this very important factor is so easily dismissed when people disagree about something that cannot be explained in simple terms or words. How many wars have been fought and how many have suffered because of misunderstandings, because of lack of patience, the inability to listen carefully, the predisposition to an interpretation or opinion from a subjective point of view, the lack of the right words to use. Every one wants to know everything “in a nutshell”, but not everything, and in fact most things, can’t be explained concisely or absolutely.

The science of natural language better known as Linguistics, has not improved its accuracy, but only identified its complexity. No wonder science has chosen a more rigid communication tool, the language of mathematics. This in essence is nothing more than a further abstraction and an attempt to extract absolutes from a natural system that may not have them.

Here I am trying to communicate something I definitely feel about the limitation of language, yet I can’t communicate it, the way it feels, only as close as I can put it in words. So what exactly am I trying to say here. I don’t think there is such a thing as literal interpretation in a vacuum of shared experience. We can spend all day arguing what is meant by “literal” and what is meant by “interpretation”.

2 responses to “Constraints of Language

  1. Pingback: Decreasing Social Entropy | SWARM VERDICT·

  2. I completely agree with you on this subject. I think it’s also interesting to note that not all languages in the world have the same words to describe everything. Some languages are able to express an emotion, feeling, item, or even circumstance differently than others because of the society that created that language. Some languages shared by different nations have major differences. One needs to look no further than the English language. The UK and USA are both English-speaking countries, yet we have many words that are different. In the USA we call the back compartment of a car a trunk. In the UK the same compartment is referred to as a boot. This is but one example of the confusion that could arrive from one common language. It is an imperfect system, but so far it’s all that we have.

    Liked by 1 person

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