Sunday, April 19, 2009

Colorless green dreams sleep furiously

The title of my post is one of my favorites. Altho' I am not a huge fan of Chomsky, it is a prime example of a verbal construct that is grammatically correct, but meaningless.

Colorless things cannot have a color. Dreams to not sleep.

Yes, if you wanted to argue this as a symbolic combination of ideas or even a metonymy, you could make that argument. However, it is nonsensical from a linguistic perspective and not an interpretive one.

I am amazed when I think about the ability of the human body. A well constructed machine that breathes and circulates and self-repairs without one nanosecond of input from us consciously.

Equally amazing to me is language.

We push breath across our vocal chords, muscles automatically move to position the tongue and lips and recognizable words come out.

We use our fingers to key in letters on a keyboard. Letters that aren't our mind, but what is *in* them.

How you reassemble these characters on the screen is how you understand what I am trying to communicate.

I tell my students: Look at a sign, for example, with words on it and try *not* to read it.

What is missing from some people's language is the ability to understand the intention of someone else's words. Even if they can read them. Comprehend the definitions of the words. But they are unable to process or think critically about someone else's words.

What is the speaker's purpose? What kinds of evidence to support that purpose can you draw from their text?

Who is the audience?

What kinds of arguments does the writer/speaker use? Deliberative? Definition? Contrast?

Aristotle should be required reading for students. He writes about how a speaker creates her/his authority *in words* and what tools of language and what constructs she/he uses to create that communication.

In other words: the critical utility of language and the construction of meaning for the self.

It's a disappearing art.

Words perch flying stationary.

Happy Sunday all.

11 comments:

ZIRGAR April 19, 2009 at 7:19 PM  

Ahhhhh, yes. Brings back my days of studying Heidegger, Nietzsche, Derrida and Wittgenstein in college. I think Bertrand Russell would say that your title is logically flawed, yet meaningful in an everyday sense, but no less flawed for that and possibly because of it. Derrida said that the book is the death of the author, meaning there is not just one exclusive interpretation, that whatever the author intended is in there, but the play of differences and deferrals within language itself shape it into a multi-textual entity, not reducible to a single exegetical locus; it's now the readers' work since the author is not present as some transcendental signified to fix the play of meaning within the text to guarantee his or her intent. Shit, I better stop. I don't even know if anything I wrote is related to what you posted--I just went off on a tangent. lol. Let me just say that I'm not a huge fan of Chompsky either. lol

skyewriter April 19, 2009 at 7:33 PM  

My PoMo class was one of the most intimidating (and terrifying) courses I have ever taken. Also read some good stuff in my Lit.Crit. class for my Master's.

I love, love, love Derrida... so playful... the center is not the center.

GAH! I didn't sleep well for days after reading that one.

catherinemacivor.com April 19, 2009 at 7:37 PM  

I wonder if the pace of the world and our corresponding attention deficit disorder teaches us anticipate rather than read and listen.

skyewriter April 19, 2009 at 7:47 PM  

That's and interesting idea, Cathy.

I can only speak from observing 18 year olds as I taught them over the last 6 years.

It seems to me they have a strong consumerist attitude toward everything-- especially information. They make snap judgments without taking time, as you suggest, to slow down and "think" rather than react.

It might also be a product of how some kids are brought up without being able to make decisions for themselves. Some of my freshman are completely lost without Mom being in charge of their time.

Some are convinced that they are always right (we see a lot of that, right?) and that there is not another perspective.

One of the most fun assignments (for me anyway) is asking them about a hot-button issue, making them take a stand on it (as they normally would) and then argue against their own position.

It's tough for them, but they usually end up figuring out the point of the assignment.

catherinemacivor.com April 19, 2009 at 9:47 PM  

Oh, could you please make them do argue the other side on a blog?

Then i could take the easy road and just call them stupid,dishonest and whatever other nasty fill in the blank that i have seen lately.

I closed comments by the way. I had my quote of insults.

skyewriter April 19, 2009 at 10:05 PM  

Those folks are just not interested in having any kind of dialogue. So angry, so powerless, so sad.

I am sorry that they mobbed you again, Cathy.

I hope I didn't make things worse and I apologize if I did.

catherinemacivor.com April 19, 2009 at 10:51 PM  

Oh Skye, no worries. I thought it was fun when we were tag teaming them. :)

catherinemacivor.com April 19, 2009 at 11:04 PM  

Loved the Taiibi Teabag post!!! Thanks.

James April 20, 2009 at 11:05 AM  

Lovely, skye. Just lovely.

Thank you.

pottersfield April 20, 2009 at 5:51 PM  

Not a rant but a real beaut!

itdawnedonme April 20, 2009 at 11:43 PM  

Love it! I have sat (in the past) in many business meetings where people string words together and if you listen closely, there is no content at all. I see that now with many right-wingers who want to appear to be intelligent, but again, the content is non-existent or nonsensical.

It behooves us all to actually be present to what is being said...to pay attention. Words are just words. What is actually being said?

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