Language Cannot be Limited: Responding to Ludwig Wittgenstein
Published on: October 20, 2016 | Written by LeQuita C. Harrison
“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British philosopher, said “The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” which identifies how language contributes to human’s abilities to socialize. Without language or limiting language can be crucial to a human’s will to imagine, to learn, and to comprehend. In my Archaeology of Language Course, we discussed how babies and toddlers form and adapt to a spoken language by ways of listening and repeating sounds. If a mom repeats the word “ma-ma” to her toddler, she would eventually repeat the sound and interpret it to be a good thing. This awakening of sounds with words, which has its own study called Phonology, gives wake to imagination.
Children tend to have a broader perspective about life and people. They see the positive side of situations and are the cutest when they are right or wrong. But imagination is a great step towards learning and comprehension. For example, if a mom told her four-year-old son that someone lost their mom, he would take the word ‘lost’ literally. He would imagine that the person had disappeared and comprehend that they can’t be found. This does not mean the child is unintelligent, it means we as humans have evolved our language to the point of words having multiple meanings. This study is known as Morphology or the meaning of small units of words.
This study has an unlimited number of pathways, which breaks down the many ways words can have multiple meanings. Comprehension of these formal or informal meanings depends on the person’s level of knowledge within a specific region of the world, community, social acquaintances, professions, and many more. One type is called Idioms whereas a word’s denotation or dictionary definition is transitioned into a connotation or a given definition. Words such as coyote, gator, and drinking Kool-Aid are a fine example of how language cannot be unlimited due to the constant change in culture, generation social groups, and technology.
Coyote still holds on to his original meaning of a wild dog in the hottest parts of the USA, but it’s idiom meaning relates to a person smuggling people across the southern border or a sneaky person.
Gator too still clings onto its original alligator, but to many truck drivers this word can also mean the blown tires they must look out for along the side of the highway.
Kool-Aid is known throughout the USA as the sugary colorful drink many children grow addicted too, but its darker meaning concerns cults or a person who have fell prey to believing in something humanly insane.
This pathway shows how language can go in many directions, expanding the world to discovering or inventing other means of learning and interpreting words.
From my few examples, I have proven that Wittgenstein’s statement, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” is true. It is impossible for a person to grow up with no type of communication skills. Whether it’s sign language or drawing or speaking, we humans depend on these skills in hopes of seeking greater things. People can travel the world, learn another language, be in that career they desire, or even start a family with language being free and unstoppable.
His quote can also inspire writers like myself to continue writing creatively or professionally because it proves that the world is not small and within it holds a trillion possibilities for happiness. This I will conclude with a responding thought to Wittgenstein that without language humans would go extinct.
-Just a simple essay I wrote for my Archaeology of Language Course.
-Copyright by LeQuita C. Harrison – October 20, 2016
Thank you Professor Yarrison for being broadening my perspective about the aspect of language.