Monday, 6 January 2014

What's in a word? (Part 1)

by Kolyn Amor

“For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning."
T.S. Eliot

What’s the word?
Word up.
Give me your word.
I’ll take you at your word.
Actions speak louder than words.

Let me make it simple...

Semiotics classifies signs or sign systems in relation to the way they are transmitted. This process of carrying meaning depends on the use of codes that may be the individual sounds or letters that humans use to form words, the body movements they make to show attitude or emotion, or even something as general as the clothes they wear. To coin a word to refer to a thing, the community must agree on a simple meaning within their ‘language’. But that word can transmit that meaning only within the language's grammatical structures and codes. Codes also represent the values of the culture, and are able to add new shades of connotation to every aspect of life.

In other words...

The word you say only has meaning if the person receiving it understands what it refers to. The word ‘balloon’ is not actually a ‘balloon’ - it’s a series of sounds emanating from a mouth or something visually represented in some form. It only has meaning if the receiver understands that sounds or visual representations. If I saw a piece of plastic filled with air or helium, I could call it a 'kdshvb’ if the person I was communicating to would understand what 'kdshvb' referred to.

In the beginning was ‘The Word’. Maybe that particular ‘Word’ transcends all of that and actually is both signifier (word) and signified (actuality) - one that can be universally understood by all.

Next week I provide an example of how this can work itself out in a practical way.

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