Language as Immortality

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Ciarán12
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Language as Immortality

Postby Ciarán12 » 2012-05-15, 11:11

Hi everyone,

I thought I'd post some thoughts I've had. For starters, I should say that I am VERY atheist. I strongly believe that when you die you simply cease existing (in the 'subjective viewing of reality' sense), that there is absolutely no reason to believe in a God or Gods, that there is no such thing as a 'spirit' in the ethereal soul sense, and I think that the answer to the question 'What is the meaning of life?' is 'Why do you need for there to be a meaning for life?'.

That said, here are some philosophical thoughts I've been having (whilst pondering my mortality with some trepidation). My thoughts relate to language and culture as a kind of afterlife, as well as a 'forelife'. My train of thought departed from its station with a video of Ricky Gervais being interviewed by Piers Morgan on his beliefs, where Piers asked him 'What do you believe happens to you after you die?' and Ricky responded 'People who liked me remember me'. True, I thought, and I had come to this simple conclusion myself but after giving it a little more consideration, and drawing upon some of my most deeply held beliefs I came to a theory whereby through language, we are immortal. Each generation changes their language slightly, bends it to their own devices, uses it for their own innovations (cultural, artistic and scientific). This is, of course, how linguistic drift occurs between populations, and in a way, the differences between languages (and the cultures of the people who speak those languages) maps out a unique society through the ages, a society of people, of generations, each of which changed the language as they used it, created intellectual property in it, which became the intellectual property of the society. It is in this manner that all those past generations of people of my society have alter the way my society is now, and ultimately who I am. As such, I would be a torch-bearer of their immortality, and future generations would be torch-bearers of mine. I suppose I'm seeing my immortality in the continuous flow of a culture through time, and language to me is the most important element of that because it imbues everything: I think in language, write in language, speak to everyone I know in language, do everything I do in language. It is necessary not only to convey my personality to others, but also it invent that personality inside my own head. And in the end, as Ricky said, you survive in memories of those who survive you, by what effect you have on those people, by what part of your personality and beliefs you pass on to them.

After this self-analysis of my beliefs, why I believe a lot of what I believe became readily apparent. Why I am so interested in language, why I am particularly emotionally attached to dying languages (if they die, the torch-bearers of their past speakers' immortalities have doomed them to oblivion).

So, what do you guys think? Anyone in for setting up a crazy language based cult? :P

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Set
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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby Set » 2012-05-15, 14:45

ciaran1212 wrote:For starters, I should say that I am VERY atheist. I strongly believe that when you die you simply cease existing

ciaran1212 wrote:As such, I would be a torch-bearer of their immortality, and future generations would be torch-bearers of mine. I suppose I'm seeing my immortality in the continuous flow of a culture through time

ciaran1212 wrote: (if they die, the torch-bearers of their past speakers' immortalities have doomed them to oblivion)

If you believe there is nothing after death, why do you care about 'immortality'? To be honest, it just sounds like you're trying to legitimise your desire to force other people to learn the languages which you like again, only this time using an ancestral guilt complex.

Of course you can do whatever you want; if it makes you feel 'immortal' great, but I don't see the difference between that and believing in an after-life to make yourself feel better.
Native:[flag=]en[/flag] Good:[flag=]de[/flag][flag=]ca[/flag] Focusing on:[flag=]fa[/flag][flag=]ku[/flag][flag=]ps[/flag] Interested in:[flag=]zza[/flag][flag=]tr[/flag][flag=]sw[/flag]

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby Ciarán12 » 2012-05-15, 15:25

Set wrote:If you believe there is nothing after death, why do you care about 'immortality'?

Because to me my conscious, perceiving self is not the only part of my that makes me 'me'.
It's the only part that gives me self-awareness, yes, but I acknowledge that, much as I might want it to, that will not survive. I suppose I care about what will happen to my society after I die just as a care what happend to it before I was born. I somehow think that if there's somebody a thousand years from now who is affected by and thinks about me (or the general era in time/space in which I played a role) the way people from a thousand years ago affect me, then that's a kind of afterlife.
Set wrote:To be honest, it just sounds like you're trying to legitimise your desire to force other people to learn the languages which you like again, only this time using an ancestral guilt complex.

Be honest, that's not even what you think, you're just projecting your entrenched opinion of me onto what I've said. There's no way what I just said there could be analysed that way. It does explain why I think the way I do (as per your opinion of me), but I don't think there was anything preachy about the way I said it. I was honestly just explaining how I feel. I really don't see it as a 'guilt complex', more of an ancestral inspiration.
Set wrote:Of course you can do whatever you want; if it makes you feel 'immortal' great

It does and I will. And maybe 'not temporally bound' is better than 'immortal' in hindsight.
Set wrote: but I don't see the difference between that and believing in an after-life to make yourself feel better.

Well, my ideology doesn't require a diversion from logic or science. It's a philosophy, not a religion.

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby BezierCurve » 2012-05-15, 15:26

and language to me is the most important element of that because it imbues everything: I think in language, write in language, speak to everyone I know in language, do everything I do in language. It is necessary not only to convey my personality to others, but also it invent that personality inside my own head.


I have a bit different thoughts on that. The impact an average person can make on that never ending cultural flow is next to none. Even if each person thought up a neologism that would be taught to the next generation, most of those would vanish with time; there's hardly any room for individuality to survive or become immortal in that flow. Unless you're a popular writer you won't change much about it.

It's just the infinite-like sum of zeros (= us, individuals in a culture) that eventually make a small difference, which in turn will be eventually covered with subsequent layers of grass, moss and dirt with time, so that nothing odd would stick out for too long.

... I might be just in a bad mood today as well.
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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby Ciarán12 » 2012-05-15, 15:50

BezierCurve wrote:
I have a bit different thoughts on that. The impact an average person can make on that never ending cultural flow is next to none. Even if each person thought up a neologism that would be taught to the next generation, most of those would vanish with time; there's hardly any room for individuality to survive or become immortal in that flow. Unless you're a popular writer you won't change much about it.

It's just the infinite-like sum of zeros (= us, individuals in a culture) that eventually make a small difference, which in turn will be eventually covered with subsequent layers of grass, moss and dirt with time, so that nothing odd would stick out for too long.

... I might be just in a bad mood today as well.


Well, I accept that there is a pessimistic take on this I suppose, but I have a few thoughts on that. Firstly, maybe, I say 'maybe' because you made a good point and I'm venturing into uncharted waters here, maybe it's about thinking of it as being part of something great, something bigger and more important. But to me, even if I only effect the people I know, and they go on to lead different lives as a result, and that change in events multiplies down the line, that's an echo of me. It doesn't have to be a big change, just be yourself and say what you think, stand up for what you really believe in and that will cause change. Maybe you could be part of a movement, one that achieves aims that are important to you. Just because it doesn't happen in your lifetime doesn't mean it wasn't worthwhile. The fact that we celebrate the effects of things that were accomplished long after the people who started them died is the very sentiment I'm trying to express. We are not just ourselves, but members of a society, one that will determine the shape of the future society, and what we do and who we are matters because of it.

And as for the amount of linguistic effect we have individually, while we may not each coin a neologism, we are all part of the network of people who choose to USE those neologisms, so your choice matters. Your subconscious choices of phrasing and sentence patterns are idiosyncratic, and will influence and be influenced by people you know.

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby BezierCurve » 2012-05-15, 17:07

So, the chaos theory and the buttefly effect :) I guess you're right there. But while we can unconsciously affect future events even by small changes today, the language itself will be affected very rarely - I just guess.

What you're saying about being part of something bigger instantly brings to my mind collective unconscious and archetypes common to all cultures, something that is rooted deeper than a particular culture/language environment. But again, this seems to be going too far in terms of what you said in the beginning, I suppose you meant just that: a particular language and the culture that evolved around it.

Then yes, I think it is like making your own tiny but everlasting impression. It's like walking on cobblestones, slowly changing their shape with every person that goes by.
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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby Ciarán12 » 2012-05-15, 17:21

BezierCurve wrote:So, the chaos theory and the buttefly effect :) I guess you're right there.


BezierCurve wrote:Then yes, I think it is like making your own tiny but everlasting impression. It's like walking on cobblestones, slowly changing their shape with every person that goes by.


Exactly.

BezierCurve wrote:What you're saying about being part of something bigger instantly brings to my mind collective unconscious and archetypes common to all cultures, something that is rooted deeper than a particular culture/language environment. But again, this seems to be going too far in terms of what you said in the beginning, I suppose you meant just that: a particular language and the culture that evolved around it.


Yes, as soon as I said it I though it did sound a little collectivist, but hey..
And you're right, it is common to all cultures. I wasn't trying to say that this was specific to mine, just that this is a relationship you can have with your culture that in my opinion kind of gives you immortality, in a small way. I think it's just that my cultural identity is important to me, and an important part of me, and the more I invest in that culture, the larger that part becomes. And that part is some thing that I share with many others in my society, and with people who have made up that society for generations, and people who will make up the society of the future. So it's everlasting. There before I was born, there after I die. (Not 'everlasting', but hopefully very long lived!)

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby linguoboy » 2012-05-15, 17:23

I was more intrigued with this topic when I misread it as "Language as Immorality".

I have to agree with BezierCurve on this: to the extant that you live on after your death, it's not really through language unless you were a particularly distinguished wielder of it during your life.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby Ciarán12 » 2012-05-15, 17:33

linguoboy wrote:I was more intrigued with this topic when I misread it as "Language as Immorality".

I have to agree with BezierCurve on this: to the extant that you live on after your death, it's not really through language unless you were a particularly distinguished wielder of it during your life.


I'm really not talking about huge language change, I was considering more the idea that we are the smallest units of linguistic drift and ethno-cultural evolution. It seems to me that these happen gradually on a generation by generation basis. As part of a generation of my culture I am a part of that.

Sorry if my topic bores you.

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby linguoboy » 2012-05-15, 17:52

ciaran1212 wrote:I'm really not talking about huge language change, I was considering more the idea that we are the smallest units of linguistic drift and ethno-cultural evolution. It seems to me that these happen gradually on a generation by generation basis. As part of a generation of my culture I am a part of that.

We may be the smallest agents but the smallest units are surely individual instances of behaviour--particular utterances, gestures, and the like.

ciaran1212 wrote:Sorry if my topic bores you.

Were you aiming for broad appeal? If not, there's nothing to be sorry about.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby Ciarán12 » 2012-05-15, 18:05

linguoboy wrote:
ciaran1212 wrote:I'm really not talking about huge language change, I was considering more the idea that we are the smallest units of linguistic drift and ethno-cultural evolution. It seems to me that these happen gradually on a generation by generation basis. As part of a generation of my culture I am a part of that.

We may be the smallest agents but the smallest units are surely individual instances of behaviour--particular utterances, gestures, and the like.


Quite. 'Agents' it is.
linguoboy wrote:
ciaran1212 wrote:Sorry if my topic bores you.

Were you aiming for broad appeal? If not, there's nothing to be sorry about.


I was aiming for a rambling monologue that would attract interested parties. I didn't bank on uninterested parties.

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby linguoboy » 2012-05-15, 18:14

ciaran1212 wrote:I was aiming for a rambling monologue that would attract interested parties. I didn't bank on uninterested parties.

I don't know if you've ever had this experience, but it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether or not you're interested in something without having read it.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby Ciarán12 » 2012-05-15, 18:28

linguoboy wrote:I don't know if you've ever had this experience, but it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether or not you're interested in something without having read it.


Indeed. Still, you were interested enough to post a comment (the back-handed comment about the thread being boring just seemed a little needlessly malicious).

Anyway, now I'm intrigued as to what a thread titled 'Language as Immorality' might postulate...

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Re: Language as Immortality

Postby linguoboy » 2012-05-15, 19:57

ciaran1212 wrote:(the back-handed comment about the thread being boring just seemed a little needlessly malicious).

"Bores"/"boring" is your word, not mine. I never once used it.

ciaran1212 wrote:Anyway, now I'm intrigued as to what a thread titled 'Language as Immorality' might postulate...

See, it is intriguing to contemplate, isn't it?
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons


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