Multiple Meaningfulnesses

January 6, 2015 § Leave a comment


Interesting – the three most basic classes of discourse:

Locutionary describes the literal words you say

Illocutionary describes the effect you intended those words to have

Perlocutionary describes the actual effect they had

Anything you say has multiple meaningfulnesses. Not meanings, although it has multiples of those too. MEANINGFULNESSES. Which is why it is possible to discover with some upset that a throw-away comment you once made has been resounding in another’s head for years.

I write poems for me. They are a record of one meaningfulness, or feeling, or importance in my mind – so is it even illocution if the intended effect is meant only for me? In this case, the illocutionary act may not be the transfer of an intended inference, but hope of provoking praise – or is that a more secondary, perlocutionary effect? Do I not even want you to grasp exactly what I mean, despite putting words on a page on the internet?

Whether I want it or not, what someone else infers is something entirely apart; an individual’s own private meaningfulness, or lack of. We all know words have huge power, but we rarely stop to consider the worlds that spin apart every time a sentence is uttered.

Linguistics gets so complicated when it crosses into psychology and philosophy, as of course it must as the most involuntarily human of human constructs. It is MIRACULOUS that children are born with the pre-programmed ability to learn a communication system that we made up. We invented this. We designated meaning to these sounds our mouths can make. I want to say it’s like being born with the ability to master calculus, but of course we ARE – it’s just that language is the biggest (although largely subconscious) focus of any pursuit in anyone’s life. We give it the utmost importance without even thinking about it, and in result we are distinct from animal and machine.

Mind boggling.

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