"What You Say Is Who You Are" : Language And How It Is Used.

1578 words - 6 pages

Language is generally seen as a means for an individual to directly express him or herself in a way that will be universally understood by everyone. After all, language is merely a set of symbols understood to be representative of specific actions, objects and descriptions. The truth of the matter is, however, that language is not simply an objective means of description used by a society; it is a complex representation of the person speaking as well as his relationship with the person to whom his speech is directed, both of which are determined by the surrounding sociological conditions. Mikhail Bakhtin explains this phenomenon explicitly in Marxism and the Philosophy of Language.Though language is intended to be a group of symbols with meanings to which everyone speaking the language has agreed, the comprehension of language use is different depending on the persons engaged in it. What is said by one person is bound to be interpreted differently when spoken by someone else. Additionally, when one speaks, the understanding taken from that utterance by one person would be different from the understanding taken from another. As Bakhtin says, "word is a two-sided act" (Bakhtin 933). The meaning taken out of a remark is directly related to the relationship between the speaker and the addressee. Bakhtin compares a spoken word to "a bridge thrown between [one] and another... territory shared by both addresser and addressee" (Bakhtin 933). A word without both a speaker and an addressee is like a bridge without groundings on both sides. Foundations are needed on both sides of a bridge to keep it up and functional just as a speaker and a listener are needed to support a spoken word and to give it meaning.The notion of a word's meaning being dependant on the addresser/addressee relationship implies that one's language is not an individual expression at all, since the meaning of what is said by the speaker relies upon the interpretation of the listener. However, "[e]ven if a word is not entirely [the speaker's]... it does in part belong to him" (Bakhtin 933). A spoken word still belongs in part to the speaker because the formulation of an utterance, before it is spoken, comes from within the speaker as a result of his own personal beliefs and thoughts, which originate before the presence of the current audience. "Outward expression in most cases only continues and makes more distinct the direction already taken by inner speech" (Bakhtin 934). The meaning a spoken word takes may depend on the listener, but the actual source of the word and the views expressed within it are products solely of the speaker.Aside from the impact made by a listener's interpretation on the meaning of a spoken word there exists the impact of society as a whole. Bakhtin argues that another factor deciding the meaning of language is the speaker's sociological circumstances. "Which way the intoning of the inner sensation... will go... depends upon... the person's general social...

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