How important is language? What would happen if we did not have language?

What would life be like if we did not have language as a tool to communicate with each other? How would we be able to understand each other without this tool?

                                                                                  -Purnima Das

If the concept of structured speech in the form of words and languages was absent, what would our world be like? What would our perceptions as well as mental projections be like? Would we have been at a dilemma as to how to communicate with each other? 

In order to understand language, we need to go into the essential roots from whence this tool of communication arose. In plain sight (or sound), language originated as a tool for us to express our internal workings and mental paradigms to others so that we can relate to what each one of us was feeling. The words essentially originated as sounds which we used as a medium to express ourselves. The words and syllables in language essentially help in building up a structured meaning of whatever we perceive from outside and visualize within us. In a way, language helps us in making sense of our random thought processes and hence, acts like a tool for shaping our perception towards reality. At the same time, the very aspect that makes language an essential tool to communicate also gives birth to a large divide in communication. This is due to the fact that each word in a language only functions as a superficial connotation assigned to a much deeper meaning or understanding which we harbor about reality within our minds. The problem arises due to the fact that our inherent perception towards language itself is a very subjective experience in itself. This means that each one of us assigns different depths of perception towards words and phrases as a whole.

“What is, like, frustration? Or what is anger or love? When I say “love,” the sound comes out of my mouth and it hits the other person’s ear, travels through this Byzantine conduit in their brain, you know, through their memories of love or lack of love, and they register what I’m saying and they say yes, they understand. But how do I know they understand?”

                                                                     -Kim Krizan, in the film “Waking Life” 


Here’s an article that we wrote on language and its role in shaping perception.

What we have to understand is that language acts as a limitation when it comes to conveying the feelings and mental formations that we have visualized within us. These mental formations and visualizations that we harbor within us are usually in the form of words themselves. On the other hand, the words may be replaced with visual images, even music, when it comes to painting our inner mind space with mental formations. Artists may be more inclined towards creating mental patterns using images while musicians may use music to build the foundations of their mental space, as do writers structure the internal head-space with words, phrases, and their inherent semantics. In other words, the mental space in us is essentially a culmination of all our inherent understandings of reality, which we use to build thought processes within our heads. In the same way, body language is also an inherent way in which communication can occur. This is due to the fact that the various feelings and sensations in our body can also be assigned with words, even though they may be representing much deeper internal though formations.

If language as a tool was not present, we would not have an outlet of expressing as well as learning more about the external world. This is due to the fact that the internal feelings, as well as the mental images which we have built up within us, are just a reflection of our perception of the external world. This reflection varies profoundly amongst all of us and hence, language for each person is synonymous with the tools that we use to build houses. These tools may vary according to the expertise of the person using them as well as the inherent complexity of the tool itself. Hence, the inner mental formations that you have within your head would be strikingly different from the mental formations that I have built up within my head. The only way we can achieve complete understanding is when both our perceptions meet perfectly. This is what we experience when we share perceptual bubbles between each other where, even if for a limited period of time, our subjective realities merge and become one. This is when we understand that language prevents us from truly connecting with each other. On the other hand, language also acts as the tool which helped us discover the fact that we are inherently more connected to each other than we actually realize. Hence, the importance of language rises from the fact that it is a tool for tuning into the perspectives of others and forming our own amalgamation of internal thought processes.

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