Words perfect the illusion of communication. Language defines a metaphorical alternative to the reality we experience through our senses. The seminal advantage of the linguistic alternative is its apparent communicability; that others seem to understand as we do. The more specific the subject the more precise language can be in representing it, but it is always a representation. A representation twice removed: all sensory experience is first mediated through the inherited prism of our ancient nervous system and its’ accumulated accidents, it is only beyond these filters that auditory or visual stimuli can enter into the form of language to be cast back into the world as representations. The filters are not neutral, they are driven both by mind and instinct and color our perceptions with motives, with emotions, even down to the words we hear and the words we choose to speak, or just find ourselves speaking.
Language changes everything. First, nominative words for actions or things; then phrases with action content; then simple syntax and within 18 months of the first word, complex, complete, though not yet perfect, grammar. Possibly our most powerful and productive aptitude, our shot at language is almost entirely lost by age seven where if lack of culture has robbed us of exposure we will never fully recover. For our purposes, how language evolved is interesting but not essential: how it now works on and in our minds is.
Wresting our kids from the feral pit of pre-linguistic solipsism that is infancy into the flowering of humanity we call childhood, as my father succinctly put it, “you’ll take bullshit from baby you’ll never take from anyone else.” From a certain distance and perspective, those formative years can be looked at as each succeeding generations introductory clinic on the ascent of man. So much that for the rest of our lives looks like determinism is in fact framed in those years. But an equal amount is not. The form and reach of each individuals final mastery of language determines their point of entry, trajectory and speed into the majority of the proliferating subcultures of civilization, but in no way predicts the actual journey.
At our first introduction to the use of words, we are entering into what will likely be the most coercive contract of our lives: the agreement of linguistic meaning. In ignorance we submit to its’ immense and obvious utility. We fail to understand its’ treachery until