Monday, August 31, 2009

Definitions and Experience

Intuition tells us that culturally we develop new words when there is a need for expression. But linguistics and ethnography shows us that we "express" ideas in more ways than just using nouns. As human beings, we communicate feelings and ideas in a number of ways, using an infinitely complex system of grammar, syntax, inflection, body language, context etc. Put another way, a culture doesn't need a specific word to express an idea or feeling, it can express it in other ways. Conversely, just because someone else uses the same actual word, such as "house" it doesn't mean it represents the same idea or feeling for everyone. In fact despite what Aristotle thought about the solidity of writing, words rarely mean the same thing to different individuals even within a culture.