The Importance of Language

The Importance of Language

The Importance of Language

The Importance of Language

Excerpt

The essays that follow, all of which contain original and illuminating ideas about language, have appeared in places where they will be overlooked by the readers who would most enjoy them.

In spite of an impressive amount of work on language by linguists, literary critics, psychologists, and philosophers, language still remains a marvel and a mystery. It remains wonderful that mere puffs of wind should allow men to discover what they think and feel, to share their attitudes and plans, to anticipate the future and learn from the past, and to create lasting works of art. One need only imagine the consequences of an onslaught of semantic amnesia, with progressive loss of meaning of the words we employ so casually, to be reminded of the importance of language in human affairs. Without words we would be dumb in more senses than one. Yet we understand very little, after centuries of investigation, about how this infinitely fine web of communication is established, improved, and preserved. We can be sure, however, that the old definition of language as a vehicle serving primarily for the expression and transmission of thought is too narrow to be helpful. All the essays that the reader is now invited to enjoy celebrate in their diverse ways the flexibility and versatility of language. And this, if I am not mistaken, is one of their chief merits.

M. B.

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