We are on letter Q this week. One of the harder letters to do for a letter of the week eh? 🙂 I hit up Willard van Orman Quine who was a philosopher from the 1900’s. And man of linguists. He believed that language is all about knowing WHAT to say and WHEN to say it.
Basics of Quine’s Philosophy
Quine believed the language was a social art. Language didn’t mean the same thing to every person. For instance the word rabbit to some could mean “furry creature that hops”, to another “food”, to yet another “pest”. It could just be a word that someone uses when they see some animal.
Words are meaningful to us and we can become used to the ways that other people use them. This use does not mean that the word MEANS the object, it’s just a word that person uses when that object is seen. This means that the use of language socially is what makes it meaningful.
Overtime how people use words change as well. Take for instance in Old English pretty used to mean crafty and cunning, this later changed to clever, and now over time tends to refer to good looks.
Also words used in the past frequently are less so today. Words such as bestow, assay, baseborn etc.
All of this means that our language is never settled. We learn what words to use from the people around us. So ultimately, language is a social art form more than anything else. Just a way to express ourselves to others.
The Language Cycle
The formation of language works like this.
Words are meaningful to us.
WHY? Because we get used to the ways in which they are used by others.
Their use by others does not mean there is a link between words and actual things.
It’s just the way they are being used socially that makes the words meaningful.
Therefore Language is a social Art.
When I was teaching my logic/debate class last year one of the conversations we got into “bunny hug” or “hoodie” or “kangeroo jacket” or “hooded sweatshirt”. All mean the same thing but could leave a person completely confused depending on where you live. Which title is appropriate is socially relevant. A social artform if you would. 🙂
What do you think of Willard Van Orman Quine ‘s view of language?
If you would like to know more about Quine, you can read his page in the book I linked above, or visit the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Others in this Series
- Add in your life.
- Edmund Burke, philosopher.
- Clarity in Writing.
- Deep Runs the Well.
- Ease of Consistent Schedules.
- Fantastic Ways to learn History.
- Going Through Browswer Tabs.
- Hiding the Unknown.
- Invested in Health.
- William James, philosopher.
- Key books for Middle School.
- Looking for Picture Books.
- Making Facebook Easier.
- New Direction.
- Online Homeschool Conference.
- Studies in Philippians.