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The Human Involvement With Language, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1591

Essay

In exploring oral listening and speaking dimensions of interaction alongside literate reading and writing dimensions, the human involvement with language reveals some very interesting concepts. According to David Abram’s in excerpts from his book “Animism and the Alphabet,” there are Theological and expressive potentials present in each modality of linguistics, specifically oral and literate. Each modality presents challenges and opportunities.David Abram’s text shed light on these issues through empowering the use of language as more than just a tool for communication but as a form of cultural expression. He shows that language is evolving. Some logical expressive potential that I see each modality contributing to linguistic communication both originate from popular culture. For example, text messaging is a form of literate modality for the illiterate communicator. Many text messages between fellow international students have a wide range of types. I have friends who express laughter or happiness by typing “lol” for laugh out loud, but I also have other friends who express this feeling by typing “ha ha ha” and many of my Spanish friends type “ja ja ja” for the same meaning. Text abbreviations like “lol” or “omg” find their way into oral language.

Abram notes that the linguafranca, or working language, is ever evolving growing and changing. In a way this is tells a lot about human existence on the planet. Ultimately, Abram’s work points to the history of anthropology and its need in society to preserve certain factors that we may be leaving behind, specifically the connection between language and nature, or the connection between language and the human tradition. This concept can specifically bee seen with the growing gap Abram finds is occurring between humanity and nature.  In his work, “Animism and the Alphabet,” David Abram, argues that language has evolved in such a way that the connection between humanity and nature is being lost. This is one of the core challenges and opportunities posed by technology as it relates to linguistics and communication. The real issue is that the way in which people communicate has evolved to be technologically based. The challenge this poses is one where body language, and cultural ideology are no longer and significant within communication as they once were. With so many people communicating through online text messages and hats, it makes it harder to understand when someone is being sarcastic.

Abram talks about how poets creatively improvised and ultimately shaped history as the world knows it as well as the culture in which people lived their lives. . When the songs became the first large written texts, like the Iliad and the Odyssey, they were passed on from story teller to story teller before being documented as a literary work. Abram believes this is how the English language was exchanged “language was beginning to separate itself from the animate flux of the world” (Abram, 38). The examples he provides here demonstrates the process that made this transition occur, are very telling as to what is happening now with online communication and it’s glob bal influence Retracing this history is the core of anthropology. Abram states that the Homeric epics ballads and songs in Greek culture developed and promoted the idea that men interact with a non-human world. This became a common belief and in many ways the religious faith of its era. The fact that there were many people who developed their faith and life values around a book just because is was widely read, demonstrates the power of the literate modality as a form of communication.  All of these concepts by Abram point to the value of anthropology as a culture within Western society that can save the connection between humanity and nature.

This can be seen in my own experiences as an international student in that many other internationals with whom I interact are always balancing their contemporary ideals and trends with past forms of language from their countries. Combining the old with the new in this way creates something newer. I think this is what Abram is touching on, in that many people are taking concepts and introducing them to popular culture and then when people make these ideas go viral. An example Abrams uses to explain the way language fluctuates from lingual to animate the flux of the world. It is ever evolving and an example can seen with the transition from hieroglyphics to communicating in modern media and marketing through image. Abrams founded the Alliance for Wild Ethics (AWE) and was a journalist for the Environmental Ethics. These experiences as well as his historical background as an anthropologist have led him to a life of seeking to understand language and human culture. It is Abram’s view that writing , in addition to hieroglyphics, comes from an ecological background . Specifically in regards to hieroglyphics he argued that he says, “remained tied to the mysteries of a more-than-human world ( Abram, p30).”  When Abrams refers to the most ancient forms of writing represented  by society today, As a result of these primitive methods of expression, Abram then describes humanity’s need to convey and define other terms that cannot be expressed through pictures.

An example Abram uses to define how language separated itself from, what he called, the animate flux of the world was the transition of songs and stories from memory to actual literary works such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. He noted that despite the fact that these stories were passed on from generation to generation, many would improvise and add on to the tales, but when they became literal text, that is when they established their timeless quality. Abram points out in his book that after hieroglyphics, the development of phonetic script formed. This was specifically the transfer  The transfer of sounds and speaking, rather than  picture. Meaning through listening as opposed to meaning through vision was established. All of this was established through the use of Semitic alphabet language (Abram 38).  The modern alphabet originated from these as Abram notes, “indebtedness of human language to the more-than-human perceptual field…preserved in the names and shapes of the Semitic letters” (Abram 34) to be forgotten. Original text, most notably “oral texts” (Abram, 36) was first mastered in a formula, and then it was practiced by poets and story tellers. Musicians sang the language and used it to tell tales.

Abrams is correct to asserts that human language is distancing itself from nature.  As a multilingual communicator, it is very easy for me to see that language is becoming more globalized and this globalization of language is driven capitalism and emerging business fields. It’s only natural that this language will be more technical and less tied to nature. In many ways I believe language is distancing itself from humanity as well. Many view mathematics, music and now programming code as language forms. These are all language computers use to communicate with one another and that humans use to communicate with computers. While music has a recognizable way of connecting with the emotions of human being and making them feel more human, math and programming code tend to push ore towards evaluating human beings as nothing more than measurements and increments of value. In this way, these are both literate and oral modalities. In addition to this most of the words that are introduced into the English language, or the languages of other nations, are done so as a results of emerging markets like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), iPad, iPod, Mac, Multi Level Marketing (MLM), credit default swap, omg, lol, and many more. These are just example of some abbreviations. There are many words that become a part of common language that are just a product of media or the corporate world and they have no connection to humanity or nature, but a humanity that is growing less human.

David’s view of linguistic communication is more about the direction of where language is going as opposed to where it’s been. In regards to oral and literate’s contributions to linguistic communication, he clearly thinks society is taking a turn in a new direction.  He says this direction is further from nature, but I believe what he is trying to say is that this direction is more globalized and moving further from traditional forms of communication as a whole.

Trends in contemporary society such as the Facebook obsession and the abundant exchange of social media validate Abram’s point here about human beings and their desire to express themselves through pictures. In Chrsitine Rosen’s The New Atlantis Article “Image Culture,” she supports Abram’s view on this subject. Her core argument is that social networks and the internet have influenced mass culture in the way individuals talk and interact. Abram suggests that communication is moving further away from nature, but I believe that communication and language is moving further away from being human. The reason why this type of interpersonal communication is able to thrive is due to the exact value which Abram identifies as a core part of the human psyche, the desire to tell stories through pictures. Hieroglyphics’ is still a common way in which people communicate. still exist today except instead of putting pictures on cave walls, people place pictures on their social network walls. For multi language individuals this is a very valuable form of communication because it means language is eliminated as a core factor of communicating, or a hybrid of language is used, that is halfway between English and image culture.

Work Cited

Mead, Margarete. “Visual Anthropology in a Discipline of Words “<retrieved from>http://www.wou.edu/~smithr/369%20VISUAL%20ANTHROPOLOGY/Readings/2A1_Mead_in_a_discipline.pdf

Rosen, Christine. “Image Culture” The New Atlantis. p27-46 Fall 2005

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