This is not a complex exploration of the subject, as I am not a linguist, or a scientist of any kind. This is a short account of recent observations and my initial reactions to them, as I find this subject to be baffling and even ominous. The idea of language has been cropping up in my sphere of late, and the difficulties being reported in the area speak to the future of humankind in general.
Some brief examples. A senior lecturer in college laments that the young adults in his classes ”cannot string two words together”, that they seem incapable of complex language. He is not the only one, several have spoken to me about it. They find it more and more difficult to cover the basic curriculum. This morning my friend, who is a special needs teacher in a primary school for 35 years, says that the loss of language among young children is suddenly frightening. She works in several schools, so this is not an isolated anecdotal observation – she says it is across the board. She also says it is a new phenomenon. Children’s vocabularies are decreasing, and even if they learn to read (usually via phonetics) they often fail utterly to grasp the deeper meaning of individual words. This week, the meaning of simple words like ‘‘sensible’‘ and ”moody” did not register with an unusually high number of her school-children. The construction of sentences is becoming more difficult for greater numbers of children; many fail to distinguish differences between prepositions such as ”to” and ”from”. Quite a number of friends who are having children in the past few years are reporting delayed speech, poor speech, and difficulties with proper co-ordination of jaw and tongue in their 3 and 4 year old children. My reaction to this is to feel concerned.
Looking at the issue from various levels of being, there are different implications and these are only my initial thoughts. At the physical level, language is what separates us from animals, it defines us as a higher creature. At the mental level, language facilitates complex thought and stimulates the creation of neurons; it enables us to respond creatively to external stimuli, to think critically, to cast out tyrants. At the spiritual level language, among other factors, is the means by which we manifest our higher will.
Note – People who cannot speak or who speak little do not necessarily have a language deficit at all. The language capacity within the brain is the thing. The capacity to understand symbols.
To be reduced at the level of language leaves a tribe open to the possibility of gross manipulation. Perhaps this is the underlying purpose? Or perhaps that is me being paranoid.
Language underpins creativity. Language facilitates ‘newness’, playing with words and thus thoughts allows for novel responses rather than automatic reflexes.
Abracadabra – I Create As I Speak – ”It Comes to Pass as it is Spoken” – ”What was Said, Occurred.”
Knowing words that approach more exactly the meaning of an inner sensation liberates the energy of that inner sensation, and that energy can then be used by our being to expand, and so on infinitely. This does not mean we should be using complex or difficult words necessarily, but the ability to understand meaning in more words facilitates the ability to grasp more meaning in general. Learning different languages stimulates the brain. Learning new words and their meanings does the same. Language shapes philosophy, anthropology, psychology. The thought of children becoming ever more hamstrung in this area is tragic.
Why could it be?
I don’t know, right now.
Some of my friends have suggested it could be a lack of communication in childhood. Parents not having the time or interest to sit and read books with their children – repeatedly. The act of tracing a finger along slowly under a line of words with a child, on paper, again and again, in the physical tactile world (as opposed to the digital), serves to imprint language and more importantly – meaning – in the developing mind. This is an essential practice, one as old as time. The elders have always repeatedly traced hieroglyphs for the young in the sand. It is a magical practice. It is how we have evolved as a species.
This lack of time nowadays is not an accident, however. It is a purposeful societal construct. There are policy decisions and greater invisible waves of anthropological manipulation behind how we live each day now. We are all to some degree or other ensnared by the artificial construct of what functions for a society now. Is loss of language in children a new symptom of that societies deeper malaise?
I am going to leave this here for now before I ramble further. Just to mention an interesting movie I recently watched which is perhaps related to the area. Arrival. Jay Dyer did an analysis of it from the language perspective, which I link also, even though I don’t always agree with him. But complex thought via complex language enables one to consider conflicting ideas without short-circuiting!
I found the film very good, it is slow and requires some patience.
”We rely on words to help us detail how we feel, what we once felt, what we can feel. When the blood drains out of language, one’s experience of life weakens and grows pale. It’s not simply a dumbing down, but a numbing.”
~ Diane Ackerman – An Alchemy of Mind