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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

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    Friday, May 10, 2013

    Initial Reflections on Grammatical Anarchy

    Language has no atoms - not the syllable, not the word, not the phrase, not the sentence, not the consonant, not the vowel ... which of these is really fundamentally prior, that which upon language is actually built? 

    The structure of language, therefore, shows no implicit hierarchy, though we can construct hierarchies depending on what the prism is through which we see language?  Is it through the prism of sound, through terms, through action, through coherence?  The prism we choose will select the property of language we deem to be the actual building block upon which all others depend.

    Language, however, does not have a prism through which all other prisms matter.  However, since we forget that truth about language, we often favor one way of teaching language over another.  Do we think that vocabulary is most important, or grammar, or learning letters?  Is it learning to speak well?  Is it being thoughtful?  When we then preference one way of teaching and therefore learning over another, we tend to enforce a control over not only the teaching of language but the usage of language.

    One thing I've learned in my recent studies is that written languages have developed mostly in cultures that have valued commerce and therefore needed a rigid language to protect contracts related to commerce.  A standard spelling, a rigid syntax and semantics, best serves cultures who wish to control the flow of trade.  Language, then, preferenced a certain way begins to exhibit the values of such a society.  Those values in turn affect the language.  English, which has very rich vocabulary but fairly rigid syntactical rules, has become the language of commerce across nations and languages. 

    These considerations have suggested to me that we have been conditioned to preference aspects of language that are not actually preferenced in nature and that this actually plays out in our social interactions.  The flow is restrictive and prejudiced - much as we move in society mostly by walking (not by running, jumping, hopping, skipping, or dancing).  We have reserved the flow of our language to specific forms of communication (not poetry or singing except in special occasions to special audiences).  We have forced an education system on our children that continues to serve the prejudice of larger societal values (values which are not in my mind healthy).

    I don't know how to get out of it; these are just some intitial thoughts on what I call grammatical anarchy - which isn't a grammar without rules; it's a grammar without rulers.  I'd argue that by missing that there are no atoms to language, we have prejudiced certain aspects of language and used those aspects to reflect the values of our rulers.  Figuring out how to have a healthy appreciation of all the prisms with which we may approach language actually can be radically transformative.