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Essay on Language

This is an example essay on Language:
It could be argued that human beings are a species of animal. However, the unique characteristic, which makes mankind different from all other species, is our ability to use sophisticated language.

Language is considered multi-sensory, consisting of not only the verbal and writing, but also touch, smell, sound, body, and gestural elements (Class notes). As human beings are social animals, people have the instinct to communicate with others, to share our feelings and thoughts, and as a result, language development in each individual becomes an instinct (Pinker, 1994). Since language is the tool used for communication, Wittgenstein says, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world”.

He implies that people speak just one language and thus live in only one world, and if you are not capable of using the language, your world is narrowed. However, Einstein has an opposite opinion, he devalues the importance of language and says, “The words of a language as they are written and spoken do not seem to play any role in the mechanism of my thought.” His statement indicates that a scientist’s mind might work in numbers or equations, other than the language which most people use. Personally, I lean more towards Wittgenstein’s statement. I believe that language is the bridge connecting individuals and the outside world; thus, it is a crucial element of human life.In Einstein’s quote, he says that the language of speech and writing doesn’t influence his thought, because the mechanism of his thought is extraordinary. As a widely recognized great scientist, his point might be that people should think something beyond what is already written, and also, “the sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is CAPABLE of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension.” (Ezra Pound, The ABC of Reading) Einstein successfully came up with a totally new formula and theory of relativism, under the way of thinking that does not involve people’s language, as he claims. Nevertheless, Einstein’s statement has something to do with the definition of “language” itself. Maybe he thinks in terms of numbers and equations, but still, he uses “symbols”, and all language is symbolic. A good example that illustrates it is the Chinese language. Chinese characters could be seen as individual pictures or symbols with meaning. Moreover, religions, such as Christianity, also use the cross as a symbol and it has its significance. If language is the bridge between individuals and society, or the means of communication, then, Einstein might not be able to tell anyone about his great formula and theory if what he says is true. “Language is the dress of thought” (Samuel Johnson, class handouts), and people need language to convert thoughts into a form that’s understandable by others. Einstein’s world would be limited if he didn’t write his formula down in the form of language; this reflects Wittgenstein’s statement “The limits of my language are the limits of my world”. I believe in Wittgenstein’s statement more because of my personal experience. I realized how important language was when I first came to study in an English speaking International school. I knew absolutely nothing about English, thus I had no idea what my teachers were talking about in the class. Sometimes when the teacher asked me only to do the odd questions in our textbook, I did them all. I could not understand a single word in my textbook and I had a great difficulty making friends and having conversations with them because I could not understand the language. It really limited my world.

Another example is the movie we saw about Helen. She is a girl who lost her abilities of sight, hearing, and speaking, and was treated by the others as a person of lower intelligence. But in fact, she is intelligent. The bridge of communication was broken and Helen was trapped. These two examples evoke the relationship between language and the world of an individual; they support Wittgenstein’s statement. However, one might think that without language, you can still live a happy life and have a wonderful world. For example, you can live in a mountain, alone, in the beautiful nature, thus you can ignore the cruel news and the negative sides of the society. You will be happy as you are in touch with your soul and your true feelings; it is spiritual and you don’t need to use people’s language. Yet, it is not always the case. Study shows that if you isolate a person, he or she will start to talk to animals around, to objects, or even to themselves, as said in Pinker’s essay. They do it because they are not satisfied to be alone. It shows that a world without communication, without language, is too narrow. It goes against the human nature; people still need to communicate and thus language must be used. Therefore, Wittgenstein’s point that language is important is proven.

However, his statement is not totally true as it implies that people speak just one language and thus live in only one world. Language is closely related to culture (Class notes), you can only get to understand a person very well if you can speak his language. It implies that different languages, such as Chinese, English, or even net language, would create different worlds. Due to the development of technology, our world today is a world of information with a fast speed of globalization. Thus, understanding each other through language becomes an even more important issue.

With language as your tool, you are capable of exploring other worlds. Wittgenstein’s statement failed to include the fact that there are worlds formed based on different languages.After discussing these two quotes by Einstein and Wittgenstein, we can see how important language is in both the purpose of communication and widening the world of an individual; it is a way of knowing. Wittgenstein thinks that if an individual is not capable of using a language, his world is limited, while Einstein believes that the language used by most people is not always significant in mechanism of everybody’s thoughts, because somebody’s mind might work differently. However, as we are living in a world of advanced technology, language can be transferred easily through media, such as T.V, Internet, radio, and newspaper.

Our world is widening in a great scale, and we should be aware of the power of language. We should keep a clear mind, not to be persuaded by wicked words, which tell us to commit sins. A real example of language’s negative power is Bin Laden’s use of persuasive words, which leads to a terrorist attack on September 11th 2001 and the death of thousands of people.

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Essay on Language
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May 6, 2010

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