RE: Do we really live in language?

Alessandra Iantaffi (
Mon, 20 May 1996 11:29:13 +0100 (BST)


I agree with what you say. With my previous message about language, I
really wanted to point out that when we talk about language we usally
mean 'our' language, whatever the 'our' stands for (verbal english
language, italian, german, etc...). Sign languages are legitimate
languages, and as such have been studied by people like Bellugi, Kyle,
Volterra, and others, but hearing people don't usually include them in
their 'definition' of language (at least at an unconscious level). If we
expand our definition of what is language, than I can only agree on the
statement that 'we live in language'.


P.S. I like the example of Salieri and Mozart as portrayed in 'Amadeus' !

On Tue, 14 May 1996 wrote:

> It seems to me that sign language is a legitimate language -- it is
> composed of a system of signs (more or less arbitrary symbols used to
> refer to socially shared meanings) and allows for the exchange of meaning
> with the efficiency that is virtually identical with spoken language. The
> case of Hellen Keller, of course, comes to mind. Her psychological
> development -- her capacity to relate to others, develop cognitively and
> emotionally, etc.. -- only began to take off when she begain to gain
> an understanding of sign use, that there could be a sign that refers to
> water. In this way, one might suggest that one's development, and thus
> one's psychological life, would be significantly retarded if one were
> prohibited from developing or using sign activity.
> Having said this, language (speech -- whether verbal or through sign
> language) is but one of the tools that we use to think with, communicate,
> or live in. There are other types of signs systems that we can live in
> (for example musical notation -- do you remember Salieri's experience of
> music upon reading Mozart's music in _Amadeus_), imagery, etc. I think
> that the point about language is that once language facility emerges
> in development, it transforms thinking and action. Although language
> is important, it is not autonomous. It is best to say that language
> interacts with other modes of activity (e.g. thought, feeling, action,
> etc.) I can have a thought that I cannot put into words; once I use a
> word to express that thought, the thought may become transformed, and
> vice-versa.
> Mike Mascolo