Lexemes & philosophy
 
 
    What people very often really mean by the “dictionary” is the Lexicon. It is the virtual space where the words (a.k.a. lexemes) of a language are stored in the grammar. Each word/lexeme is metaphorically equivalent to a circle around a semantic domain, or a circle within that domain, like a circle drawn somewhere within an area of a field - an infinite field that constitutes the indefinite possibilities of Meaning. For some words, like German “Geist,” the circle may be bigger; and for other words, the circles may be smaller - like English “mind” and “spirit” and “ghost,” which are three smaller circles encircled by the bigger circle of “Geist.” {Thus, depending on context, any three of those words could be an adequate translation of the one German word!}



    One must wonder if any of these circles represent a real distinction and are not totally arbitrary or functional. This question inevitably leads to the great debate in philosophy over Universals and Particulars. The Universalist school of thought would say our “circles” represent real universal entities - indeed, our “circles” would be the shadows in Plato’s cave metaphor, where, he said, in life we only see shadows of the Ideal. The Nominalist (who favors the “particulars”) says there are no universals, that the circles are not real.



    If one accepts the Nominalist approach, then one would be forced, logically, to accept the fundamental premise of the Buddhist poem The Prajna Paramiti Heart Sutra, which states, basically, that everything and everyone has no true self because what one thinks is the self is merely a grouping of other smaller constituents. One could go on from there, imagining one is looking through a microscope, seeing the constituents, then focusing on a constituent to see that it, in turn, is composed of constituents; and you can continue in this manner until, once you have unraveled the whole chain of constituents by getting to their end, find everything, ultimately, is based on nothing - except something verbal and moving (like a song but not like a sculpture). 










 



 
Or else, alternatively, one could imagine that the chain of constituents NEVER ENDS! This viewpoint is analogous to saying the universe has no beginning, that there was neither a First Cause (e.g, God[dess]) that poofed it into existence with the wave of his/her/its mighty hand; nor did the universe somehow “poof itself” hahaha into being out of nothing, like the “gaping nothing” (Ginnungagap) in the mythology of the Vikings.











  


         One must wonder if some semantic  domains/“circles” cannot be just plain erroneous, even slanderous - i.e, grouping entities together which simply do not go together, or putting a circle where there is nothing to put a circle around. Derogatory expressions like “slut” and “bitch” group “female” with “wanton promiscuity” or “furious, begrudging maliciousness” respectfully, as if those two negative(?) qualities were dependent on being a female - though a male is perfectly capable of them as well. Thus, those words are sexist.  Another interesting example of bigoted and erroneous semantic domains is in Old Norse - it is the word “ergi,” which all at once means “homosexual, sexual pervert, evil sorcerer, coward.” If a person fits into one of those four semantic domains (such as “homosexual”), then s/he is supposed to necessarily be in the other four! Indeed, these sorts of words are profoundly loaded, unrightfully mixing semantic domains together in much the same way of that infamous question, “Are you still beating your wife?” To say Yes would incriminate, and to say No would as well. (Perhaps the correct answer is Zen “Mu!”)

















    But sometimes with words we try to make them an experience in themselves that mimics reality - like art. This is what happens with onomatopoeia, i.e, words that are supposed to sound like what they mean. Note, though, that the famous linguist Saussure claimed all sounds of Language and of words were arbitrary. I do not imagine he would have disagreed that there are exceptions with such words as “bow-wow” and “boohoo.” But the case for onomatopoeia in Language goes much farther than that. Onomatopoeia can account for certain similarities between unrelated languages on opposite sides of the planet.



    For example, in the Germanic languages there is something traditionally called the “dental preterit” ...We will call it the “tongue-tip past.” (“Dental” does not make much sense because the teeth are not necessarily involved - it’s all about the tip of the tongue.) The Tongue-tip Past is, basically, a sound like “d” or “t” that is tacked on to the end of verbs to stand for the past tense (think of the English “-ed” ending). But mysteriously, there is a tongue-tip past in Japanese (“tt”), too! The “tongue-tip sounds” are often used in languages at the beginning of formatives that have to do with pointing - i.e, deictic markers and prepositions like “this, that, there, to” and Polish (not Germanic) “to, do, tam, tutaj” and so on. The “-ed” ending points to a period in time. Indeed, the very movement of the tongue with t, d, etc. is that of pointing, the tongue sticking out like a finger...



    Another example is the “eee” sound used to show what is small or what is present or what is cute (the middle of the tongue held tight and close to the palate); and the “ahhh” sound used to show what is big, not present and not cute (the mouth held open wide). Think of “sing” as opposed to “sang” (historically, the “i” was pronounced more like “eee” and the “a” more like “ahhh”). One says “this” for something close (present), and “that” for something not present. And the ending “-y”(eee) makes something sound cute: “laddy” or “lassy” as opposed to “lad” or “lass.” The diminutive in Polish is formed by palatalization - which is to say, adding the “eee” sound and tweaking the articulations of some consonants to be more in the area of the vocal tract where “eee” is articulated from (note the position where your tongue is when you say “eee,” and you will know the area I am talking about).



    Boddhidharma is recorded to have said, “Freedom from words is liberation [i.e, enlightenment].” Nietzsche (see his essay “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-moral Sense”) said when an individual makes a word, s/he takes an image of one entity observed or experienced and imposes it on other entities, i.e, forces them to coincide, like a cookie cutter from which the extra dough that doesn’t fit gets cast aside - thrown into the junk-bucket. Plato, on the other hand, would not say there is any imposition, but that the other entities remind the individual of the Ideal, which is known intuitively, never experienced. The latter is the Universalist approach, the former the Nominalist. Which one is more true? Consider how the Intellect itself is a “grasper”: to understand is to “grasp” and, revealingly, the German word for “concept” is “Begriff,” which is cognate to “grasp” or “grip.” A word, as we have seen, is almost the same thing as a concept. A word or concept is a graspable snippet of reality extrapolated from the living flow of experience: a dead thing used as a tool, like a caveman using a bone as a club. A word is a representation of a supposed aspect of the world - “representation” in the sense of Schopenhauer, who said one’s “perception” of the world is really a representation (Vorstellung). When we look at the world through Language, this is true; direct perception - i.e, true perception - only can come form a pre-verbal state of mind, like that of a baby or vegetable, or meditating Zen monk...



    As I understand it, there is a word that means the spoken word and concept at the same time in Sanskrit - it is “sphota.”  [For discussion and elaboration, see Sphoṭa Theory of Language by Harold G. Coward, 1986, Motilal Barnasidass, India.] It covers a semantic domain that encircles both “(spoken) word” and “concept.” This idea is analogous to the use of “word” in the Biblical “in the beginning was the word” - which seems to erroneously equate the linguistic illusion (Schopenhauer’s representation [Vorstellung]) with reality. Words are not holy - quite the opposite. They are tools of the Intellect, and they are its creations. The Ego is among these creations. Perhaps the hidden meaning of Christianity is that God is a metaphor for the intellect, creation for Language,  Jesus for the ego, and the Holy Ghost for the mind behind it all (^_^). Sometimes, however, having a word for something is empowering - it may help you distance yourself from a non-useful emotion, and thus bring you into a clearer reality - it may help you “get a handle on” (grasp) a situation or feeling. But, as seen, words can wrongfully condemn. Perhaps this is where the idea of “magic words” come from!



   Let us add one more word on the Lexicon (no pun intended). I would like you - for a moment - to think of the Lexicon as the Dictionary - just to make things more tangible* for the sake of comprehension**. You can imagine turning over a big heavy hardcover dictionary in your hands. Flip through the musty-dusty pages, note all the thousands of fine print definitions... Look up a word - any word - read its definition. Now, how can you know what the definition means unless you know the definitions of the word’s definition? (-Not necessarily the official dictionary definitions, but just for you yourself to have some inkling of the meaning.) Let’s imagine you don’t know those definitions; so, in turn, you must look up the definitions of those words. Let’s say you then need to look up the words of those definitions. And so on like this. Eventually, you’ll find, the dictionary goes in circles! A set of words is defined by a set of words that are defined by the first set: Word Group A = Word Group B = Word Group A... But what is Word Group A? You cannot know the Lexicon by means of the Lexicon. Sure, you can expand your lexicon (which already exists) by means of the dictionary/Lexicon - but that is not the point here. How does one learn words at all, in the first place? One possible answer: through context. A toddler learns new words through inferring their meaning through their use in the contexts s/he first hears them used in. How else? Later, s/he imposes those early contexts on later ones - but those later contexts are still just as meaningful, just like what a word specifically means depends not only on its stand-alone definition but the phrase or sentence it is used in. You may want to conclude that words often have less of a definition and more of a function defined by context (here we seem to get into Nominalism again). And you can go further, saying the context of a person’s present discourse is just as much part of his/her act of communication as the person’s words. In this way it can be said a person can lie without saying words which in themselves (or which together as phrases in themselves) can be considered lies, but through the person purposefully exploiting the inevitable implications of context. An example of this sort of lie is George W. Bush saying “mission accomplished [in the Iraq war]” without literally saying that,  by means of speaking in front of a huge banner that boasted those words. Context, context, context! [For discussions on this topic, see the works of Paul Grice, who wrote about what he called “conversational implicatures” .]














  




We have seen how Language breaks down into components. Of course, these components are extrapolations of the Intellect. I am using words, you are observing them, not perceiving directly. Always keep that in mind. Now let’s continue... (NOTE: Below is a new section - Part II to this section on Lexemes and Philosophy. It may be read now, or after the entire Lecture. Both are preferable, please. NOTE: It is a work under construction.)
Morphology.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0
 Linguistics
Experience
A

The character or grapheme for the sacred syllable of Hinduism and Yoga: ŌM, also spelt AUM.


The pronunciation of AUM is a process that leads you through the whole vocal tract. You begin in the throat with AHHH, then transition to the mouth with OHHH, then move towards the front of the mouth with OOO, where you start moving out of your mouth, to your lips, which you begin to pucker; and then you come to MMM, where your lips come together, and you use your nose - the vibrating air begun with AHHH, has been channeled though the mouth, out the lips, and now comes down through the nose. No wonder this sound is considered sacred! It is a physical Yogic exercise just to pronounce it.

 

If you are not your thoughts and feelings, then what are you?


Answer: Awareness...

We have evolved two different graspers: 1) The Hand, and 2) The Intellect.

  1. *tangible < Latin tangere “to touch”


** The PREH in comPREHension/comPREHend is the same as the PREH in PREHensile (think “prehensile tail” and how it GRASPS) and goes back to Latin PREHendere “to seize” .


Contents of this lecture:


  1. 1)Introduction


  1. 2)Phonology


3) Lexemes (where you are)


  1. 4)Morphology


  1. 5)Syntax


  1. 6)Conclusion


Click here for a glossary for an artfically constructed lexicon (^_^).

“RACE”

=

a semantic domain/circle around a set of independent genetic traits

  1. -i.e, there is no one single race gene that objectively/scientifically backs up, validates the word/lexeme/semantic domain/cirlce of “race”...

  2. -i.e, there is no such thing as “race”


view Scientific American article on race

LEXEMES AND PHILOSOPHY PART II




(1)



   Erst müssen wir diese Bedeutungskreise definieren - oder mindestens beschreiben. Denn der Bedeutungskreis ist das Definieren an sich, und also ist er grundsätzlich vorm Definieren gefeit. Jedenfalls kann man über das Undefinierbar sprechen - das passiert stets beim täglichen Leben - und dies Sprechen heißt das Beschreiben. Ich möchte diese Kreise als arbiträr beschreiben. Ihre tierartbegrenzte Funktionalität, die zum Greifen geeignete Hände sinngemäß ist, ist hier nicht wichtig: solche Tierartspezifischkeit zeigt nur, wie diese Bedeutungskreise nicht universal sind,  sind zusammenhangsabhängig und dabei also grundsätzlich leer. Sie sind nicht die Platonischen Ideen. (Wir werden bald aber sehen, wie es nur EINE solche Idee gibt - denn nur eine ist des Weltalles transzendent: das Bewußtsein.)

   Was könnten wir positiv über die Bedeutungskreise sagen? - Sie sind Audrücken von der Festhaltenstendenz des Menschentiers. Je mehr daß man die Festhaltenstendenz loslässt, desto weiter und höher werden die Bedeutungskreise, die die Erkenntnis definiert/begrenzt. Als das Geist im Zen-Meditation die Festhaltstendenz loslässt, steigt das Bewußtsein selbst in die immer erweiternden Bedeutungskreise hinauf - denn die Wirkungen von der Konditionierung der verpassenden Erfahrungen - d.h, “Karma” - ist wie ein ins ruhige Teichswasser geworfener Stein; und hier beim Meditation werden die daraus ergebenden Riffeln immer weiter, bis endlich der letze Kreis das Ufer reicht. Das Ufer ist das Bewußstsein an sich. Indem das kreisliche Webben hat das Ende erreicht, hat man das “ES” erreicht! - das Unaussprechbare; das Heilige der Heiligen, dessen Namen zum Ausprechen Blasphemie wäre, wie das Altes Testiment bezüglich Gottes sprachen. Hier ist Gott. Hier ist Tao. Kein Name reicht. (Hier ist das Wittgenstein’sches Schweigen richtig benötigt.)

     Auf solche Art bin ich Nominalister bis hinauf, wann wir ans Bewußtsein ankommen. Ich behaupte, das Bewußtsein sei das einzige Universal. Denn es ist der einzige nichtarbiträre Kreis, weil er grundsätzlich alle umkreis. Dies ist eine Wahrheit, weil dies Umkreisen nicht an uns abhängt: es existiert außerhalb uns. Alle sind im Bewußtsein enthält; es ist das letzte und äußerste Enthälter. Alle Unterenthälteren - d.h,  alle Begriffen - sind darin enthält. Im Gegensatz kann das Bewußtsein wegen seiner eigenen Nature nie umgekreist werden - das ist dictum absolutum. Anything that can be conceived of containing the ultimate container is NOT that ultimate container, but yet more of the contained. And if you conceive of the ultimate container, then you are lying to yourself in thought. “The Tao that can be talked about is not the real Tao,” states the Tao Te Ching - where, incidentally, the Tao is also referred to as a container. “Ground of being,” a Buddhist idea, is another good metaphor here. But all ideas are just that - ideas a.k.a. sub-containers... That is why to call it, for example, God, would be “in vane.”


(2)


    Ob es eine Bedeutung hinter dem Es in ,,es gibt’’ gibt, ist eine nicht ausschließend sprachwissenschaftliche Frage, sondern auch eine so sehr philosophische, daß - nicht charakteristisch dem zeitgenössischen Sprachwissenschaftler  - man sogar ins dunkle Bereich Mystizimus tief hereinwandern mußt, um mit der wissenschafts-charakterisierenden Gänzlichkeit die Untersuchung durchzuführen, davon die Frage in Angriff genommen würde, und dabei gezwungen, die Antwort endlich zu ergeben. Andererseits kann man nicht anders, wenn man diesen radikal verblüffenden Gedanke von einem völlig leeren Subjekt überlegt, als daß man an die Schopenhauer’schen Gedanken bezüglich des Subjekts im Gegensatz zum Objekt erinnert wird, d.h., der Subjekt im Buddhistischen Sinn vom Bewußtsein als der Wesensgrund; oder mit anderen Wörtern für gerade dieselbe Sache, auf die mythologische Fachsprache des Hinduismus, der Subjekt als die allwissende aber nie erfassbare ,,Gottheit’’; - was wir hierbei die Weltallsauge selbst nennen könnten!


(3)


    There are two conceptions of enlightenment, and you can think of them as the dark and light sides of the force, if the Star Wars mythology happens to be a language you understand...  One way - and this is the dark side (which, also, you can associate with the left hemisphere of the brain), is enlightenment by fitting the world into the "realm of cognizance" - that is, the circle of your current state of consciousness, but not Consciousness in itself (capital C). This means, your finite mind - a.k.a. what I am hear meaning by "realm of cognizance" - has all the concepts within it, and one concentrates on making one's circle - a.k.a. finite mind - bigger, so that more concepts, and bigger concepts, can fit into it; and, likewise, one concentrates on developing a method of conceptualizing the world - i.e, of cognizance - which has as its end product concepts that are of lesser rather than greater sizes/circles/semantic domains. This is the ego positing itself over the universe. This is, ultimately, insanity itself. And yet, to a limited degree, the left brain is useful to us. But left-brainedness all along is to make a machine out of oneself. One is here reminded of the Industrial Revolution and all the dictators that came out of that mechanization, factory-ization of society...


    On the other hand, the sane version of enlightenment - the true version - is actually something the left side of the brain (the dark side, that is) would associate with not just death but perishing itself. This would be the realm of one's cognizance, i.e, the semantic domain inherent in one's ability to conceive, in one's very understanding of things - is the complete digestion of the fact that one's ego-domain (a.k.a. this realm of cognizance that I am speaking of, that is, this semantic domain one associates with oneself without even knowing one does this) is not the true/ultimate domain - that is, is a circle inside of another circle, the circle of consciousness in itself. This entails one's personal semantic circle, that is, ego or finite mind, fading away - or, being SEEN THROUGH in the literal and etymological sense of the Buddhist/Sanskrit term "prajna" - and disappearing into the background (or we could say, into the MERE FOREGROUND) and the true and only and ultimate and sole semantic domain is the universe itself...


"Foregoing the self, the universe grows "I"..."


I no longer remember who said that. I read it once when I was a kid. I only wish I knew. I do not remember it as having been come up with by me.


(4)


So now we come to the end, and ask, at the last, What is Language? With all said and all arguments/explanations done, we should be left with a taste in our mouths analogous to Schopenhauer’s proposition that all is will, on the one hand, and idea, that is, object, on the other. Subject vs. object... how grammatical! But we, with all of our semantic circles, would not posit Will as the subject (as Schopenhauer mistakenly did), but, rather, Consciousness. Like what Schopenhauer said of Will, Consciousness is the only thing-in-itself, the only thing knowable FROM THE INSIDE, such as in the forms of our nerves running up and down our limbs, and pulsing in our brains, sounding in our hearts as the very drumbeat of organic existING - not the nouny existANCE, but the ING to denote the verby process of it all!!!


...and so we imagine, as floating through the Void, a timeless Consciousness - call it Brahma, if you will; - it is the Atman, the Oversoul, Consciousness-In-Itelf, the Ground of Being, TAO, “thou the Name of whom shalt not be used in VANE” (whathaveyou...)... And this Consciousness is, indeed, a part of a trinity; for inherent to consciousness is Existence and Volition. Implicitly, it exists. And even in the background of this consciousness - call it the subconscious, if you will - is a welling up of force (a will, after all?) - a graspiness, a causer of Dukkha... This is the creative aspect of Brahma, that which causes it in its nothingness to grasp in on itself so severely that it can only undergo a schizophrenic shattering - an outward exploding - the BIG BANG...


Shards of Grasping spin off and outwards every which way... And each Grasping, in turn, grasped in on itself - indeed, it observes with the splinter of the Brahma-mind’s eye the whole spectrum around it, though merely from its particular and particularistic/nominalist viewpoint, its sickly yet creatively fragmented perspective, and, with the subconscious drive of will behind its consciousness, grasps its impression of its world into yet further Graspings... (Wodan - later head of the Germanic pantheon - was a god of strangulations)...


One’s mind, thus, is a grasper. And this grasper, through evolution, perfected its graspiness. The human being was the outcome/goal of this universal tendency towards Grasping! Indeed, the frontal cortex of the actual gooey pulsating electrical-pulse ridden, mini-lightening-swarming physical brain was the SMALLEST of creations - the true singularity/Black Hole of Timespace - concentrated Brahma. Each of our minds is a concept/grasping of the Universal Consciousness, of Brahma; but we each are a Brahma/Creator/Artist in his/her own right; for the frontal cortex analogously developed with out prehensile hands - hands with opposable thumbs, GRASPING hands wielded with our heavy-breathing graspy attitude in life, as we in the fashion of Schopenhauer “the world is one’s representation” first cut to shreds the broad swath of our initial impression of “the world and things” as a baby, grasped everything into words-concepts - like holding a water balloon in your fist till a ball forms on the top and bottom of the fist... and thus, Language came into existence - - -


- Which means: these representations, to use Schopenhauer’s word (Vorstellung in the original German) became able to be transported from mind-to-mind (from mini-Brahma to mini-Brahma); were able to float in the air, as it were...


Then writing came.


The radio.


Telemedia in general!


The Internet.


And what next?


Is Consciousness going to find a new home?


Is the return to Oneness the awaiting reaction???


(((But I have digressed into speculation. Pardon moi!)))





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