Re: language as not transparent

Gary Blanchard (
Mon, 13 May 1996 22:02:50 -0700

Dear Wendy,

Thanks for your message per the above.

Please understand that I am not writing to debate, but rather to
show, share and speak from the paradigm of constructivism which I have
found useful, and which I am prepared to submit to test at your request.
It is my attempt at professional collaboration with you and the rest of
our maillist colleagues.

Let me give you an example. I wrote of the 'transparency of language.'
You replied:
> Dear Gary
> In reply to your question there are several levels of meaning
> associated with the statement that language is not transparent....

But, Wendy, I must ask: exactly where are these levels? Of what are they
composed? How is it that you are so readily aware of them and I am not?

Could it be that, in fact, there are no 'levels.' That, instead,you are
using a figure of speech. That, moreover, you do this often (like most of
us). So often,in fact,that you don't even realize that you do it. Which
means that the practice of doing so, of speaking this way, or being in
language in this fashion, has become transparent to you?

Furthermore, could it be that you had a conversation with yourself
('private conversation') before you actually typed your message to me?
And that you, like the rest of us, have such conversations constantly?
But that you are unaware of the phenomenon, since you (like us) are so
accustomed to it. And so it is transparent, in the sense that you do it
but don't see it.

I believe some reflection and observation will reveal that these claims
are phenomenologically demonstrable. That being the case, the question
is: what if any consequence arises from this phenomenon of transparency?
Aha, I say. Now we get to paydirt!

But then, all of this may strike you as only idle rambling. I await your
response, and that of any others of our fellow maillist friends.

Best wishes, sincerely, gary

which is an example of lack of transparency itself.
> A. I mean that words rarely have just one meaning. An example of this
> from my PhD, which was an examination of quality teaching in higher
> education, is the term quality teaching. My research showed many
> different meanings of those words depending upon people's positions
> in the national and/or institutional heirarchy, their views of
> knowledge and their assumptions about human relationships (amongst
> other things). None of which are obvious within their stated words.
> B. From a postmodern critical feminist perspective all discourses -
> that is language and practices - are constantly being interpreted and
> contested by different individuals and groups with different access to
> power. Further to that, because of this contestation and because
> meaning is not absolute but constructed in reference to other words
> and meanings, the language and meanings we have today carry the
> potential for alternative interpretations. Again - using my example
> quality teaching only makes sense in relation to other words like
> good or bad; learning and knowledge. Whilst whose definition gets to
> be the one which predominates is very highly contested and
> significant for future practices.
> Which means that any consent over meaning(s) is only partial - in
> both senses of the word.
> A text you migh enjoy in relation to this is Anna Yeatman, 1994,
> Postmodern revisionings of the political, Routledge; New York.
> C. The third level of non-transparency of language is the area I am
> investigating at the moment, and that is the difficulty of finding
> words which mean exactly what we mean. In this regard I have
> appreciated the contributions of those who are bi-lingual,
> bi-cultural (and in this Alessandra, I include deaf people) who have
> already shown how, within their differnt language/cultural
> environments they are different and can construct differnt meanings.