T. Collins Logan: Kindred Sounds Evoke Similar Meanings, Contexts, or Experiences

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A friend pointed me to the blog of T. Collins Logan today, so I’ve added it to my blogroll and am really looking forward to diving into it some more. Turns out that Logan has an interest in language mysticism and has written a bit on the subject quite recently.

Here’s “Let’s say we form a word for an object given by our perception. The object can be animate or inanimate. Do you think the word refers to the actual thing or our idea/concept of the thing?” at Blurts & Spasms:

Great question — thanks Danijel.

So here’s my take….

1) Some words are purely representational and symbolic.

2) Some words — or bodies of words — may actually embody the essence-of-a-thing, or “the thing as-it-is.”

3) And some words or bodies of words may actually create a thing.

In my view these three different operations of language are usually unconscious — humans don’t, in general, actively navigate the world around them via consciously ‘code-switching’ between these operations. Some may try to do this…usually those who have spent their lives intending to either a) understand and appreciate their own consciousness and agency in the world in an intuitive and introspective way, or b) have been educated about a particular approach to consciousness and agency in a systematic way. Still, extensive mastery of language in this context is IMO extremely rare.

Poetic and mystical examples follow along similar lines, with kindred or identical sounds, words and phrases in many different languages (which do not share common linguistic roots) evoking similar meanings, contexts or experiences. Atman, alma, anda, pneuma, arima, anima, anam, jan (жан), neshama (נֶפֶשׁ) all relate to spirit or soul, for example. Likewise, metaphors that relate to happiness as a “rising up” experience are cross-cultural, near universals, as are idioms expressing anger or frustration that relate to being enclosed andtrying to get out. Some linguistic theorists surmise that such universals reflect our common neurophysiology, or parallel developments in culture, and these are certainly viable explanations. Some behavioral scientists have even suggested that “moral grammar” — and the culture that arises around it — is itself a feature of our biology. Another explanation is that there are universal patterns, structures, energies and processes that occur on a quantum level across all of biology and consciousness — again, just a theory. And, adding to the mix, there are also intuitions of a unitive principle behind all consciousness and spirit. These theories are themselves representations from one perspective. From another perspective they are sussing out a shared ground — of being, becoming, evolving, a common cascade of interdependencies, and so on; that is, they are embodying essence. Personally, I’m willing to bet that all of these theories offer a piece of the puzzle (that is, that all of them have some degree of descriptive accuracy).

Read the whole post.

Regarding mystical language, that sounds about right. It’s interesting to me that Logan makes a clear distinction between mystical and non-mystical language, taking for granted that much of language is “purely representational” and not embodying or creating that which they are symbolizing.

I probably would have thought so too, about eight years ago, before setting out to work on Lingua-U. But now it’s clear that the mystical and poetic nature of language is inherent in the properties of sound-symbols (phonemes), phonetic features of sounds, and letter-shapes. So how can much of language be exempted from participating in this ability of language to represent mystical realities? Can the “aa” sound that starts Aatman or forms the center of God suddenly lose all its ability to convey meaning when it forms the start of “Honesty” or “Omni” or even a preposition like “on”? How does this vanishing of a sound’s essential sound-meaning happen simply because the word isn’t based in Sanskrit or some holy text?

I think the obvious answer is that Logan’s category (1) is false, but I don’t blame anyone for thinking otherwise. The answer probably isn’t obvious to anyone who hasn’t spent years studying it, though it is logical and undeniable once you’ve grasped it. I’m still hard at work on getting Lingua-U ready for reviewers.

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