The Mouth Speaks, The Mind Boggles

Where English and other Western Indo-European languages are noun-dominated, Native American languages are verb dominated-, they are relationship/process-oriented, rather than object-oriented: watching the dancing rather than the dancers — the dancers fade back- into the background as you just describe the rhythms and the motions of what is.
-Dan Moonhawk Alford

Buckle your seatbelts! He says more…

My Indian friends say that they can talk all day long and never utter a single noun. And this is real boggling to us English speakers. We couldn’t even think of doing that. But when you have verbs that are like our English verb “slither,” where there’s basically only one thing that slithers, you know what the subject is; and [it] you multiply that by many thousands, you can get an idea of how you can talk without nouns.

So what, right? Well: when the language that you’re using to describe phenomena no longer adequately describes the phenomena, you want to change the language.

We make a fundamental error when we confuse our words, our language, with reality. So any language we develop and employ must stay clear on this point, that we only attempt to describe, we do not define.

The map is not the territory.
Alfred Korzybski

It sounds like a nice quote, doesn’t it? But what kind of cultural madness makes the statement even necessary? Of course the map does not equate with the territory to which it refers. But perhaps our relationship with maps creates the problem, not the usefulness of maps themselves.

In a language governed by “nounyness”, the speakers must pretend to “identify” objects as nouns, as things, as well…objects. But we know that any line we draw between an “object” and its surrounding environment, we draw arbitrarily, or to point out one aspect of that particular territory. We define the map by excluding the details we don’t find relevant. A map that includes all the details of the territory it maps, would constitute the territory itself!

A perfect map of New York, with every last nuance included, could only constitute New York itself! A perfect map of the planet Earth, well, we live on it, and we call it…the planet Earth.

So a language map of reality would best not pretend to equate to reality itself.

To say, “a cat ‘is’ a cat” means nothing. To say, “Frank ‘is’ a teacher” means nothing. It stands nearly empty of content, except to somehow hint at how Frank might make his living.

I literally had someone once tell me, “hey, but you can’t deny: you ‘are’ you. You can’t deny that.”

Ummm…what? That has no content, except for the word ‘you’.

So the goal remains: to put real content back into our language, to stay true to describing processes, rather than presuming identity. To make observations that matter, rather than loop back in upon themselves.

Written by Willem