Evolution or Corruption of Language - Regardless, it's inevitable

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by humblethinker, Aug 15, 2012.

  1. humblethinker

    humblethinker
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    This was a fascinating read. I'm currently reading CS Lewis' The Abolition of Man (ha! is it Lewis' or Lewis's ;-) ) I don't really have an agenda for this thread, other than that we should introspectively reflect on how oneself uses these mediums of meaning.

    My tenative hypothesis is that the corruption of language is inevitable. Worthy goals include preserving our language (reasonably) but more importantly preserving the meaning conveyed in the language. Since the evolution of language is inevitable, in order to convey the same meaning to the next generation, it is reasonable to re-word, re-phrase and re-elaborate the ideas we want to pass on to the next generation. Preservation of meaning is what is important.

    I propose that to resist the evolution of language is to eventually make oneself into a relic whose communication of meaning is, to the next generation, meaningless or confusing.

    Brainstorming thoughts came up with these possible discussion topics:

    texting and IM: the use of abbreviations and substitutions and even emoticons (artifacts used to communicate meaning) :wavey:​
    KJVO controversy: some insist on resisting the evolution of language due to certain theological/philosophical reasons. As language continues to change the KJVo's will continue to be marginalized.​
    I'm sure there are more but I've gotta get to work!
     
  2. 12strings

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    Sometimes, the Texting lingo is very helpful for speed, but sometimes meaning is lost...much as it was in the book Brave New World, in which no deep, complicated thought was possible because there were no words to describe abstract things.

    I just saw this example in Readers Digest:

    Text from cousin: ABD.
    Reciever did not know what that mean until her father called to tell her that "Aunt Betty Died."

    There have always been abbreviations, but the longer form has alwasy been retained as well for more formal communication when clarity is valued.
     
  3. HeirofSalvation

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    I have read "Abolition of Man" twice...It is a collection of essays no? I think his basic premise is actually escaping you...He is debating the objective reality of aesthetics...

    I haven't looked it up yet....but if I remember correctly...he objects to the "Green-book" because the "Green-book" (as a peda-gogical tool) suggests that the word..."Sublime"....is "relative" and "subjective" to the "feelings" of a certain (subjective) individual...Lewis is here trying to claim that certain things...(including aesthetics) are NOT relative to individuals....but "Objectively" true.... Lewis will eventually build upon these ideas to support (in his very in-direct way) the objectivity of truth and morality as well.....One has to study the sum-total of his works sometimes in order to appreciate where he is coming from.

    His essay: "Men Without Chests" clears this up some, I think.
     
  4. humblethinker

    humblethinker
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    I agree that your summary accurately represents Lewis' writings. I think my main point was that language changes. It was Lewis' point that "Gaius and Titius", in the Green Book, were actually changing the meaning of the word 'sublime' as used in the sentence in the grammar book. More accurately that the meaning that they injected into the use of the word 'sublime' changed the actual meaning of the sentence, so, in effect and in extenuation they were denying the "Tao".

    What I'm objecting to, I think, is the idea that any evolution of language necessarily attacks the "Tao". It is, imo, the evolution of meaning that attacks the "Tao". For example, to change our usage of the title, "trash man" to the more preferred, "waste engineer" does not change the meaning, we all know what is meant and what is meant is identical in the meaning of both titles. However, to change the usage of the term "brainwash" to something new, like, "re-education" carries an air of deceitfulness in the new usage. So, this is what I mean... language will inevitably evolve but it is the artificial and deceitful manipulation of meaning that is morally wrong.
     
  5. HeirofSalvation

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    I agree...languages do evolve, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, there seems to be a necessary balance that we should try to strike. What we do NOT want, is for language to "de-volve". I have always felt that generally, it is best to maintain or keep language as stable as possible, and only admitting defeat when this "evolution" naturally occurs. Some words are not merely "words" but are "terms" with distinct meaning. You and I were on another thread protesting what we saw as a blurring of the meaning of the word: "Faith" (for instance). Why? because "Faith" is a term of Theological precision. A term with a Universal and Eternal meaning...That word...should never be permitted to be re-defined, or loosely used. On another thread...someone was throwing around the term "blasphemy" and dolling out that particular accusation as though it were candy....That would also be an example of a term of specific meaning which should not be permitted to be mis-handled. You mentioned the KJV for instance, an example of the Natural Evolution of language might be to recognize that the KJV uses the word "let"---which then meant literally to "prevent"!! I have no problem with words like that being permitted to change meaning over time....but I never personally like to contribute to it. I resist the Evolution of words until I have no choice to accept and admit defeat. Some words though...I suppose we should never allow to be forgotten or altered.
     
  6. Cypress

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    A very interesting article it is. I have read volumes of Lewis and little of Orwell. Words have meaning based more on the sum total of ones apprehension of the language and the culture and context of the user or hearer/reader. The actual definition can and does get amended through time. I would wager that very few could read a book like The Great Divorce through one time and capture all of what was intended to be conveyed. This being due to "corruption of language",falling away of contemporary relevance, and just plain old ignorance. I hardly think Greek or Hebrew texts would have much meaning to any of us if we simply had a dictionary. Much is lost over time. It is surely a testament to the power of God's word that the KJV still reaches many today. With that I bid thee farewell. lol!(couldnt resist)
     
  7. humblethinker

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    You are absolutely right about the word 'let' in the KJV... there are other words like that that now have a meaning that is distinctly other than what it was when it was translated and there are even some words that have the opposite meaning now than what they did then. Some words were archaic old ecclesiastical words even for 1611 standards but had to be used due to the directive of King James himself to the translators. (So, would he have something to add to this thread! ;-) )

    I was reading Mere Christianity, by CS Lewis, and coming to the point where he was explaining how the term 'gentleman' had changed in meaning I stopped to investigate. I did not realize the original term was used for a different purpose than the one now. Researching I came across this article. In part it states:

    "The word "gentleman" originally meant something recognizable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone 'a gentleman' you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not 'a gentleman' you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman..."

    The term 'christian' has or is close to undergoing this same sense of change.
    North Point Community Church has a great series on "What is Christian". Check out the first 1.5 minutes of their intro into the sermon series.

    If someone unknown to me were to ask "Are you a christian?", I am more prone now to ask them, "Well, it depends what you mean." There's no use in me representing myself in a way that means something 'other than' or even 'opposite of' what I actually am. The word "christian", I fear, has already changed for many outsiders and even insiders. We could spend much time arguing with them about the semantics but we're likely to be misunderstood!
     
  8. Aaron

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    Can it be? A thread in which I find no fault?:thumbs:
     
  9. Aaron

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    From A Lewisonian Reflection (Anonymous)
     
  10. North Carolina Tentmaker

    North Carolina Tentmaker
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    HT I agree with your tentative hypothesis that corruption of language is inevitable, with one major condition. The corruption of living languages, those languages spoken and in use by large populations is inevitable, but “Dead” languages, or languages used only by scholars and students can be preserved.

    To skip right by your KJVO comment, that is why it is so cool that God has preserved his word for us in languages that very soon after the Bible was complete became dead languages. Hebrew and Greek and even Latin today are dead languages. Of course by Greek we mean ancient Greek, the Greek of the bible and not the modern Greek language spoken in Greece. For the most part these ancient languages have not changed in 2000 years. Latin for the most part has not changed in 1000. So even though our English language changes and evolves every year, with just a little time invested in study we can read the true meaning conveyed by the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures that preserve the Word of God.

    God is Cool! Now that statement of course would certainly have been misunderstood in 1611, lol (that too of course).
     
  11. humblethinker

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    :thumbsup::thumbsup:
    Excellent consideration for this thread! I agree! The fact that living languages do evolve helps us appreciate even more the amazing fortune that Christianity just happened to experience in that its 'mother language' died after it birthed its scriptures. (that, of course, is a tongue-in-cheek way of making my point...).
    Cool indeed!
     

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