Language is meaningful. So what?

Meaning is to have purpose, intention, or significance. To signify is to be a sign to express or represent ideas or knowledge. Language can have meaning. But is there actually meaning in the previous sentence?

What is Language?

Language is transmission of thoughts and ideas through arbitrary symbols of speech, writing, and behavior. Is it comforting to know that exchange between the smartest living organisms is based on pointless movements, utterances, and scribbles? Different regions assign values to these symbols and each individual contributes a permutation in value. The symbols then are used to represent a form. The forms are then combined to reflect a motive or relay information. The information then is directly assigned to a unique situation. So language is faulty for arguing a particular instance (composed of many values) with generic rules (through assignment of consistent global traits).

Communication Methodology. I break it down like this, although they probably aren’t rigidly divided:
Idea > Formulation > Delivery > Capture

Idea. This is a mental sensation. Some may call it an activated neural network. Some may see it as a product of thinking. It is difficult to not have ideas. People will say “I can’t think,” but the implied meaning is “my thinking is on a primitive level- at colors or texture, that don’t advance our conversation” or “my ideas are nonfunctional- I am consumed by irrelevant data” or “I fail to remember the complete account.”

Formulation. This is a process of converting ideas into an expression. It seems possible that at times, we might not know what we mean. Or we do intend a meaning but will say something that has deeper meaning than it had to begin with. A third alternative is having a meaning but the language used explains less than it had in mental conception, which is a legitimate problem of language.

Delivery. This is the transportation of language. In speech, there are numerous dynamics that will alter its delivery. I’m writing more about this in another post.

Capture. This is how the delivery is taken. Perception is dependent on how it is presented and the awareness and capacity of the recipient. The main study of this topic is psychology and how the mind receives said stimuli.

Is meaning contained in its components? Can a unit of anything describe a complete notion?

Does a conversation deliver a meaning? Understanding could be something we touch the surface of but never have a concrete hold on. And tack on a deterioration of memory recall and understanding distances itself.

Does a sentence carry any meaning? It may come closest to reflecting an idea, whether it is grasped accurately or not. The more that is said (or wanted to be said) will more than likely not carry a vivid meaning.

Does a word carry any meaning? No, but may come close to defining pieces of an idea.

Does a letter carry any meaning? In it’s alphabetical form, probably not. But letters are words (I and a in English)

And what about grammar symbols? Question marks suggest a new twist on intention. Commas command a quick pause to form barriers and group words.

Words, sentences, letters. These are what cut-ups are made of. Cut-ups make words play with meaning. You can shuffle phrases or words and still be coherent. Implication here is that words and sentences are more important for a potential meaning. Letter-based cutups are less likely to be decipherable words when jumbled.

Possessive syntax divergence. Philly’s cheesesteak. Cheesesteak of Philly. Without much convincing, the variations carry a different effect on meaning. This is what Spanish forces as a lack of direct grammatical possession without an article.

A thought not my own, but relevant:

I now feel that the differences between the two are analogous to the differences between Metaphors and Similes.

The Twilight Zone is more direct like a metaphor,
and The Zone of Twilight is less direct; thus carrying a weakened emotional effect, seeming to focus more on the concept “zone” than the concept “twilight”.

More chimes from others…

I’d forever talk to you, but soon my words, they would turn into a meaningless ring.

-Bob Dylan on the problem of infinite lexical self-reference. There is only tautological meaning.

Explaining things by the past is a refusal to explain them at all. All you are doing is postponing the explanation.

-Alan Watts on history not creating a meaning.

Do words have definitions? Commonality implies effectiveness. Words evolve. Some words die and others get reworked or definition shifts, even constantly. Have you seen Old English? Try reading it. That is what we once knew as English. I struggle to make out the original meaning without having a decent grasp of the former usage of them. Even the authentic Early Modern English of Shakespeare can be a challenge, although it is more recent.

A seemingly more important question is Does meaning have language? Language is the communication that wishes to store meaning. Meaning doesn’t require language. The mental processes that create thoughts don’t rely on articulating concepts outside the mind to have the perfect meaning within it. But by all means, all this doesn’t stop me from attempting to convey my own meta-meaning-of-meaning of language.