Subjectivity in Linguistics
Roger Jeffery Scott Hord - February 9, 2011
Ultimately, it is a society that forms a language; given room to this subjectivity inevitably leads to the bastardization of any spoken language.
In each language there exists a seemingly unimportant concept, that of the abstract. As all language is the product of a human mind, the link between absurdity and the marking or labeling of certain words as offensive is thus absurd.
In the process of forming a spoken or written language the social stigmas or neuroses of whichever society forms the language perpetuate these condemned thoughts, acts, or notions of self. It is from human nature that the conceptualized languages of our modern day pull their relevance, stating almost constant private states; that is a covering term for any general opinionated statement.
While the impact of society’s shaping of language is without relevance to the general audience that is not the point of this article. Rather, the purpose is to examine the ridiculous nature of damning a word based upon a subjective and often biased ideal.
Be it a four-letter acronym commanding fornication or a popular bit of jargon entered into the popular lexicon, all lexicographical examinations of a word are but the cumulative sum of a human’s accepted and unaccepted notions of “good” versus “bad” words. While it may be more convenient for a word to be restricted in usage or perhaps unrestricted it is not the right nor task of an academy or society to control what is considered proper speech.
Perhaps most compelling a reason to protect any and all speech is that all speech is the product of dogmas, ignorance, and the ability to systematically make new words at random. If, as language is, the supposed objectivity is based upon subjective patterns or trends, it is also subjective. In simpler terms, words are made and given whatever meaning fits the individual who had spoken them. By this logic, any invented languages are brimming with randomly made words, that when made into a combination of letters, assumes the role of a curse or offensive slur.
“Ergnatitory”, for example, is the supposed level of comfort that an object has. While Senior Kyle Moore of Grandview Heights may argue his fictional adjective is indeed a positive quality I may argue differently. Given the alleged background as a hater of all things soft or pleasant my definition of ergnatitory is implied as negative. Having come from an entire society of rock-sleeping luddites my view of the word ergnatitory is more varied than that of the cloud-surfing peoples that created a word to describe their heavenly pillows.
Perhaps most enigmatic is the idea of a superman, an individual that simply does to do, or in this instance speaks to speak. The most glaring example of such an individual is the self-proclaimed “Man with a skin of rock”. Senior Riley Wolfington, if not accurately enough described as polarizing, seems unbounded by the popularly conceived restraints of language. While not pervasively vile or vulgar, it is in the ability to receive and make comments of offense without being offended that makes Mr. Wolfington unique.
When Mr. Wolfington was asked his favorite of any possible word his response was “yolk”. When asked what his least favorite the response was “food”. When asked why he appreciated “yolk” the response was that the sound was confusing, yet childish and produced an almost amorphous sound. Meanwhile, food was seen as unkempt or dirtied by the doubled ‘o’ sound it produced. In Mr. Wolfington’s mind, it was the percussive or tonal words that mocked an instrumental sound that were somehow sensual and aided in his amiable or disdainful feelings of a word.
Despite the level of interpretation language allows the individual, it is not only the sounds or pronunciations of words that can label language as positive or negative. Language, as aforementioned, is as much the product of tonal quality as it is the cumulative sum of contemporary religious, political, and cultural icons. Jesus Christ, for example, is an expletive if used as such, but is also the father of the Christian mythos.
While biblical commandment forbids the usage of divine names in vain or negatively expressive manners, the idea that proper nouns are held as holy or respected by others is a flawed one. Judeo-Christian views, for example, may hold that Christ’s name is holy, yet refuse to recognize the validity of any other prophets, nor the supposed sanctity of their namesakes. As neither divinity nor societal anecdotes can be empirically studied they are left with one fate, remove all connotations of figures or icons to remove any offense an individual can take.
Language is beautiful, irreducibly complex, and incredibly corrupted by its usage. From the creation of non-sensical words to the offensive quality of words, the realization that humans bastardize their own conceptual creations is the result of an individual mind working against a collective hive-mind that is an evolving and adaptive artform. While its impossible to have an open disdain for what allows one to express disdain, it is so, the abstract is, when allowed to be, an oppressive example of what is perhaps the most negative thing of all. Words.
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