Sounds Have Universal Meanings, Surprised Linguists Keep Reminding Themselves

In “Spoken language could tap into ‘universal code'”, Science Magazine says mainstream linguists are figuring out how wrong they’ve been all these years. The notion that the sign is arbitrary and its related fallacies have increasingly come in for criticism by a steady flow of research. I’ve been watching these studies trickle in over the years (e.g., MIT might have discovered a universal language just last week), and I’ve never seen a study saying, “Guess what, here’s proof we’ve been right all these years! The sign really is just as arbitrary as we’ve dogmatically insisted it simply had to be all along!”

Here’s a taste of the article:

For years, mainstream linguists have said that most of the sounds we use have no meaning. A few words—think “splash” and “bow-wow” in English—clearly have their origins in the noises of the natural world, and the universal “mama” might be the result of an infant puckering up for a kiss of milk. These kinds of words have what linguists refer to as iconicity—the ability to evoke an image in the mind’s eye. But the vast majority of words, from “fish” to “sushi,” are arbitrary. Or at least that’s what linguists thought.

To explore the idea, researchers asked pairs of students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to invent new words for 18 contrasting ideas: up, down, big, small, good, bad, fast, slow, far, near, few, many, long, short, rough, smooth, attractive, and ugly. Their partners then had 10 seconds to guess which one of the ideas the “word inventors” were describing. The students weren’t allowed to use body language or facial expressions though they were sitting face to face, and they weren’t allowed to use sounds related to similar English words.

Surprisingly enough, the partners scored better than chance on the first round. And during subsequent rounds of the game, students got faster and more accurate at guessing which word was being created. Analyzing the data, author Marcus Perlman—a cognitive scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison—says the guessers were successful because the inventors consistently used certain types of vocalizations with certain words. For example, made-up words for “up” had a rising pitch, whereas made-up words for “down” had a falling pitch. “Slow” had a long duration and a low pitch, whereas “fast” had a short duration and high pitch. And “smooth” had a high degree of harmonicity, whereas “rough” had a high degree of the opposite quality—noise. Overall, each of the new words varied reliably from its opposite in at least one feature, and 57% of the words had unique prosodic “calling cards.”

The article makes clear that the study results with English speakers still need to be confirmed cross-linguistically. The first effort to do so shows that sound-meaning works pretty much the same way in Chinese. Mainstream linguists were once again surprised.

Wisdom of Giant Panda, The Gentle Warrior


Note: This following post is the first in a year-long series on this blog under the title, “Zodiac Wednesdays”. It introduces each of the 54 new Totems of the Bear-Yak Zodiac which is described in The Kalendar books.

No.: § 35
Totem: Giant Panda
House: O
Sign: J
Enneagram: No. 6, The Open-Minded Loyalist
Tai Hsuan Ching: ╎┆┆│, ╎┆┆╎
Old Zodiac: Leo 17° – Leo 23°
Dates: Aug. 8 PM – Aug. 15 AM

Mythos of Totem 35, Giant Panda

It is recorded that at the Concord of Nagoya in 953 CE, when the immortal Animwaa gathered to designate the roles in the Bear-Yak Zodiac, that Dà Xióng Māo stepped forward at the appointed time to claim the 35th Station of the sky-calendar. Giant Panda did not stand alone; he pleaded for his selection for the spot against the oratory of Gerbil and Germ.

Owing to the presence of the Shaman-Wizard Emmeris as Presider, participants of the Concord had access to knowledge of the Enneagram and Zodiacal insights which would not become more widely known in the human non-magical world for centuries. Emmeris demanded that the Animwaa to hold this seat be a powerful warrior capable of defending the entire Zodiac from threats of the encroaching Ro.

Emmeris said, “This is the spot for a giant, not a germ. Which creature among us can stand tall enough to defend the realm of Yang-Gender and Yin-Gender in the Map of the Heavens? We must have a Guardian who knows the Yin/Yang duality of Black and White, and is capable of keeping the two principles separate ere they await unification in the further reaches of the Kosmology!”

After Gerbil and Germ spoke, Dà Xióng Māo returned to the podium at the front of the Buddhist temple which was the central meeting place. A German Shepherd yipped at him as he climbed.

He said, “As so many of my esteemed Animwaa have done, I too will quote the Master Yang Hsiung:

How does the Sun rest?
It is a fierce one,
Giving proper measure.

I will be fierce as the Sun at noontime, and yet compassionate as a Warrior who knows the Way of Eternity which is neither sorrowful nor vivacious, but contemplative. I will keep the Yin and Yang separate as they must be at many times, dividing the dark from the light explicitly. Entrust me with the Gateway to the Sign of J, and I will be loyal to the collective Animwaa. I will not lord myself over you, but humble myself as your servant and protector.

Seers looked into the old Zodiac and saw intoxicated chickens dizzily flap their wings trying to fly. I promise you that I will not be like intoxicated chickens fluttering about! Those were the old days of Leo, filled with inconstancy and poor judgment which addled him. I will not model myself after the befuddled Lion, may he find pleasure in his retirement, but I will be a Compassionate Warrior.”

Giant Panda won the election to the post unanimously, save for a few abstentions. [Read more…]

Ramblings of the Conscientious Detailer

Hey fellow artists,

Couldn’t fall asleep, so I logged on. Saw a gorgeous work of art shared by my friend Heather who writes: “instead of pointillism, this is like visionarilism, painting with discrete visionary wholes. Love it!”

The artist is Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado, and while I haven’t seen his art before, it is truly a life-giving vision to behold. Originally from Torreon, Mexico, Calzado says, “I am an artist obsessed with detail. Expresing emotions and imagery through broken down elements of form and color, infusing a great light into each of my paintings.”

As it happens, I couldn’t have found this detail-obsessed art at a more appropriate and helpful time. This is the week that I have begun to re-launch my Web presence with more than one series of new posts that will elucidate my vision of a world philosophy, via a holy/unholy combination of art, philosophy, literature, poetry, and drivel.

(This is an example of the drivel.)

Every detail is so ALIVE in Calzado’s oil paintings. What’s the corollary in my philosophy?

It is a philosophy where every WORD is re-engineered from the ground up so that it is comprised of phonemes (sound-meaning units) which are strung together to tell stories about the Nature of Things in the Way Things Are and Could Be. I’m calling it Lingua-U … and only a few days ago kicked up the #linguau on Twitter and Facebook.

Yuck!, a hypothetical critic might say. Who wants a philosophy grounded in WORDS!!! (Especially when there are gurus sellling silence for free, sign up today!!!)

Ah, but I reply, you have misunderstood the role of WORDS in my philosophy. It is not logocentric. It is grounded in a series of nine major trans-metaphysical Integral practices which will simply be more DETAILED in important ways than we have previously seen if their stories are more fully told.

You can look at my first posts on a new Integral martial art — Taɪčivi — to see that it will bring 39 new primary forms of integrated body/mind practice, all of which are essential and integrated, and harmonized completely with the Lingua-U. Learn Lingua-U, you know the essence of the martial art. Learn the martial art, and you know the essence of Lingua-U.

It is the same with the New Zodiac which I have begun to write out for you. 54 new animal totems in 27 new signs in 9 new houses … all indispensible, all interwoven into a aesthetically pleasing whole with Lingua-U and beyohd.

And I haven’t even gotten to the really cool stuff, the hyper-detailed epic poem which constitutes Part Two of my forthcoming book The Black Stone, The Kalendar: Book One. Look for it this fall from Tangent Publishers.

Sometimes I feel my detail-obsession can get too onerous for me and tedious for others. Do we really need all that detail? The self-doubt creeps in.

Some spiritual teachers say there’s a simplicity on the other side of complexity. That’s true, sometimes, but then I look at what they offer up as simplicity and I know they haven’t quite seen the thorny problems in the complexity which they bypassed rather than solved in their own version of simplicity.

I’m an Enneagram 1 (The Perfectionist) with a 9 Wing (The Peacemaker). Does this help to explain it? It’s fascinating to me on multiple levels, but that’s a topic for another day. I’m rambling now.

What I want to say because it’s therapeutic to me is that I’m scared. I’m only at the beginning of a multi-year process of unfolding this PHILOSOPHICAL SPIRITUAL ART and sometimes I really feel that no one is paying attention, no one cares, that it’s all for nothing. I get caught up in my egoic feelings and wounds and wonder if I’m ever going to be good enough.

I’m not one of those spiritual thinkers who can crystallize their message into simple slogans like Happiness and Love and Peace and Nothingness is Wonderful or God Loves You, and then watch the adoration and money flow in to their ministries. I envy them because I imagine their work is easier than mine. But it probably isn’t. They’ve probably encountered just as difficult challenges on their path in their own unique ways. My path is more solitary. The Enneagram suggests that a good label for me is Conscientious Detailer (one of the sub-types of the Perfectionist).

Maybe the sooner I get around to accepting my unique gifts in this respect, the sooner I can get over my limiting beliefs stopping me from ROCKIING THIS WORLD.

I frequently feel like a sculptor chipping away at granite slowly in full public view. People walk by, see the incomplete sculpture, and hit the Unsubscribe or Un-Like or Un-friend buttons. That hurts. Moving on, celebrating the infinite joyous possibilities I could be attending to instead…

Love & Light,


Taɪčivi Oviju Nub. 30: The Explosive Power of Jumping

Taɪčivi (pronounced Tai Chi Vee) is the primary martial arts component of Lingua-U, the new language introduced as part of the Integral Renewal philosophy. As I stated previously, it literally means the “Activity of a Chunk of Time”.

Today we’re going to learn a little bit about one of the moves in the introductory/basic level of the art. At this point in Taɪčivi’s development, there isn’t much of a higher level. This is a new art form, requiring the cultivation of basic skills before advanced techniques can be offered or received. I just want to put that out there so you don’t imagine that I am holding myself out as a Bruce Lee-like guru with lethal skills beyond your wildest imagination. Ha ha.

What I have said is that we are studying one of the Ovijusi: that’s the meta-word in Lingua-U meaning “moves (in the martial arts sense)”. It literally means “Transcendent Motions of Activity”, when it is reduced to its phonentic components. All Lingua-U meta-words can be traced like this to a story which describes/enacts their own meaning. The stories can be very simple, such as Eɪgu, the word for Sky which literally means “Space Greater Than (me)”, or more complex.

I have not chosen today’s lesson randomly, but according to the schema in which all of the 39 major moves cohere into an ordered set. In Taɪčivi, there is a technical term for it, but basically what I’m talking about is the Kalendar which organizes Time in the Integral Renewal philosophy. Today is August 10, and so it is Green Bowl 30, which as you can guess is the 30th day of a month called Green Bowl. The last two weeks of the six total weeks in this month are linked to J, which is many things. J is a letter in Lingua-U; it is a Sign of the New Zodiac; and it is the Otaɪči (pronounced Oh Tai Chi), which basically means what we are going to do today.

Otaɪči only takes a few minutes for beginners. It begins, as we saw last week, with making the same sound-shape with your vocal organs as with your body. Last week we introduced the Č, which governs “crunching” and “crouching”. This week we are going to work with J, which governs “jumping”. It also is linked to “injury”, so be careful not to hurt yourself. If you have any medical conditions which prevent your safe activity, then do not jump.

Before we can begin properly, it is useful to examine some information about the physics of jumping. Wikipedia is wonderful when it’s genuinely useful. Here is some of what it has to say about jumping:

Jumping or leaping is a form of locomotion or movement in which an organism or non-living (e.g., robotic) mechanical system propels itself through the air along a ballistic trajectory. Jumping can be distinguished from running, galloping, and other gaits where the entire body is temporarily airborne by the relatively long duration of the aerial phase and high angle of initial launch….

All jumping involves the application of force against a substrate, which in turn generates a reactive force that propels the jumper away from the substrate…. Following the moment of launch (i.e., initial loss of contact with the substrate), a jumper will traverse a parabolic path. The launch angle and initial launch velocity determine the travel distance, duration, and height of the jump. The maximum possible horizontal travel distance occurs at a launch angle of 45 degrees, but any launch angle between 35 and 55 degrees will result in ninety percent of the maximum possible distance.

Muscles (or other actuators in non-living systems) do physical work, adding kinetic energy to the jumper’s body over the course of a jump’s propulsive phase. This results in a kinetic energy at launch that is proportional to the square of the jumper’s velocity. The more work the muscles do, the greater the launch velocity and thus the greater the acceleration and the shorter the time interval of the jump’s propulsive phase.

What I think this establishes is the general idea that jumping is a form of movement in which you can propel yourself through the air along a trajectory by becoming airborne over a significant duration and at a high angle.

So of all the 39 letters of Lingua-U, which have been established to include just about the widest number of sound phonemes used in popular languages today, which one do you suppose is pronounced in a way that is most alike to jumping?

This isn’t a hard question, but really puzzle yourself over it until you know it for sure. If you need to, review all of the 39 sounds of the vowels and consonants of Lingua-U until you are sure that you have found exactly the one sound that is most like jumping.

Do you have it? Good.

It is J, pronounced as in jumping, edge, adjust, or Geromino!. Feel within the J’s feeling within yourself until you realize that each sounding instantiates a jump of energy as your tongue leaps off the alveolar ridge. If you need to, study this Wikipedia article about the voiced palato-alveolar affricative, until you understand what your mouth is doing, until you are no longer a stranger to your own ways.

Now make the motion with your body that you are making with your tongue and mouth’s top ridge. Do this without my coaching.

Fly in the air. Writhe on the floor. Do what you need to do to mirror the sound of J with the activity of jumping.

This is Taɪčivi as beginners do it. It brings together the body and mind, repairing the false split of dualistic consciousness. Your mind knows what J feels like now. When you J, you do this.

All the rest of Taɪčivi builds on this simple apprehension: that the pronunciation of a word in Lingua-U is the word’s sound-meaning, which gets at the essence or spiritual significance of the sound, the letter, and the word itself.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Q&A Upon the Launch of the New Zodiac

the-bear-yak-zodiacAnnouncing a peek at the New Zodiac, one of the core transformational technologies of Integral Renewal. Click the link, check it out, and when you’re done scanning it, come back here for a brief Q&A.

Q: Why come out with a new Zodiac?

A: You’ll have to read the book! It’s called The Kalendar: Book One. Read it when it comes out. You’ll love it (I hope so).

Seriously, I had to say that. There’s a whole world history you’ve never heard before, the story of how things came to be as they are has been hidden from our eyes on account of the unfortunate outcome of the War of the Timelines.

Kalen’s last battle (from our standpoint) was one of his darkest hours. Everything that had been won for two Millennia: the battle for the star-maps, the rise of the New Order, the completion of the Atlas of Uvoha, and so much more, was simply wiped away from memory. Where it has gone, and whether it can be recovered, I cannot say.

Only now, in the past 15 years, as the first forces of Yuŋ rise dimly in a new Season, the Kalendar is becoming self-aware. It is becoming knowledgeable of our place in the Scheme of Things: 2015 CE, a Day of Myth and a Day of Mystery.

The Bear-Yak Zodiac is a very old spiritual technology, one which many immortal Animwaa have shed their blood to protect. It only seems new to us because the entire sacred history of the O’Tolans has been overwritten by the forces of Ro.

Now, at last, it has been delivered in our time through the assistance of the Poet. Its significance is explored in his aforementioned book.

Q: That wasn’t the answer I was expecting. Couldn’t you just say you’re a poet and you made it up?

A: You can say that if you want to. I have a story to uphold and deliver, one which puts every one of us squarely in the midst of a galactic conflict with more at stake than you could possibly imagine without having first had your imagination expanded appropriately through the proper mental technologies. The answers are in the books and in this website, newly relaunched just a few days ago. The New Zodiac is the first of nine innovations which comprise practices in the nascent tradition of Integral Renewal, a new philosophical movement.

Q: Okay, fine, so you’re not going to tell me more about the new animals. Can you at least tell me why there are so many of them?

A: For the record, there are 27 signs with two totems each, comprising 54 Animwaa. These are the parameters which were set at the Concord of Nagoya in 953 CE, the details of which will be published in the next few years as The Kalendar book series unfolds. It is a great good fortune that the veil over the true history is now being lifted as the work of Kalen O’Tolan’s young family is now taking root.

Q: Who is this Kalen? Or should I bother asking?

A: He is the Hanimwaa, an immortal man who has walked among us for over two thousand years little noticed. The New Zodiac is his to give, for he fought to his peril at the War of the Zodiac to save it from extinction. He gives it to us now because he believes that it may serve the cause of the Great Overturning which is happening in our day even as you read these words.

Kalen also bequeaths the Lingua-U in its essential features (though the Poet has had something to do with it). Lingua-U is the seventh of nine trans-metaphysical technologies which comprise the heart of the practice of Integral Renewal. You can read about him…

Q: I can read about him in the book. Got it. When’s it coming out?

A: It is planned to release in the Fall of 2015 from Tangent Publishers. Meanwhile, I will be blogging here on Integral Renewal with educational material helpful for beginning students of the Bear-Yak Zodiac, on a weekly basis. Come back to this spot on “Zodiac Wednesdays” to explore these matters further.