09 November 2012

Words that sound like castles

FBI WARNING: The following post may be a waste of your time. This is always a risk, since this blog is basically where I talk to myself. I am about to take you deep into Abstract-Land and back, and if I don't lose you somewhere along the way, I'm bound to lose myself. We're dealing with Wild Ideas here.


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT
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Read that last sentence aloud. Seriously, say it. I'll wait.

What did you just do? You saw a succession of symbols. Each symbol represents a certain sound that you can make with a combination of your throat, voice-box, tongue, teeth, and lips. Every single one of those sounds represents specific ideas and things, and all these ideas and things come together in a sentence with an even more specific meaning.

Also, I don't think it's a coincidence that the three main vehicles of articulation have an obvious correlation between the sound and it's meaning.

You need your tongue to say TONGUE.

You need your teeth to say TEETH.

You need your lips to say LIPS.

You see, language is not just a way to converse. It is the unity between sound and meaning. The closer the union, the closer you are to the origin of language, more specifically, the original language spoken before the fall of man.

This is my idea: When God confused the languages of the people in the Tower of Babel, the original universal language was destroyed. All the other languages after were deteriorated imitations of the original language. So when we move our mouths and vocal chords, we're actually not moving them in the correct way, or how they were originally designed to move. This is why we often struggle with describing things--sound and meaning has become increasingly polarized.

Have you ever read the Space Trilogy? If you haven't, allow me to pass on the torch of wonder. C.S. Lewis hit this head on, he called it the Ancient Solar Tongue. In the book, one of the characters actually speaks it.

"Dimble raised his head, and great syllables of words that sounded like castles came out of his mouth. Everything else in the room seemed to have been intensely quiet; even the bird and the cat were still, staring at the speaker. The voice did not sound like Dimble's own; it was as if the words spoke themselves through him from some strong place at a distance, or as if they were not words at all but present operations of God, the planets, and the Pendragon. For this was language spoken before the fall and beyond the Moon, and the meanings were not given syllables by chance, or skill, or long tradition, but truly inherent in them as the shape of the great Sun is inherent in the little waterdrop. This was language herself, as she first sprang at Maleldil's bidding out of a molten quicksliver of the star called Mecury on Earth, but Viritrilbia in Deep Heaven."

Owen Barfield (a friend of Lewis who wasn't quite as good at saying things but equally as genius) said the same thing in "Saving the Appearances":

"Languages seem to point us back to the old unity of man and nature, through the shapes of their sounds. We feel those shapes not only as sounds but also as gestures of the speech organs--and...those gestures were once gestures made by the whole body...when the body itself was spoken even while it was speaking."

I don't think it's merely subjective that languages like Arabic and Japanese are just downright ugly to listen to (aren't they?) while French and Spanish and ancient languages like Gaelic and Latin sound perfectly delicious. The more beautiful it sounds, the closer imitation the language is to language itself. And when it reaches language itself, you'll know the meaning just by hearing the sound. The words are so full of meaning that its essence is conveyed merely by saying it. Which means it would be near impossible to actually speak or learn the Solar Tongue in our fallen condition. Our voices are not solid enough. Plus, we'd practically be like babies again, because we would have to completely re-learn how to manipulate our mouths.

There. I've taken you into the unimaginable-but-not-necessarily-imaginary void that is my brain. How do you like it? Because I'm just getting warmed up....


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