Alternatives to Language
Human beings are creatures of language. It is our primary way of communicating. There is an inherent satisfaction in being able to put your thoughts to words. And when we can’t put feelings to words, we idolize the people that can. The novelists, the singers, the greeting card companies.
Yet it is apparent that language breaks down when it comes to discussing some objects. While it works as narrative (fiction) or as information (non-fiction), its power to describe certain objects is quite limited. The raw emotive power of music provides a fine example. No combination of words will ever put you in the ecstatic state that music can. And for this reason we have ipods, car stereos, etc. Clearly us linguistic apes operate outside of language quite a bit.
But even as we operate outside of language, we still find ourselves bound by it. Our reaction to music, or other non linguistic forms such as smell and taste, is highly personal. While language is not immune to subjectivity, it’s the only form of communication that human beings can readily share. A short talk over the phone with the fire department is the quickest way to call for help, not music or perfume. Even in our increasingly pixelized society, the direct power of words still holds sway. Thus it is hard for us to imagine a communication system that is not language. But it can be done.
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