Language is everything

As a linguistics student, a new member of LSAS, an editor, and a wannabe writer, I’ve come to appreciate just how pervasive, how everywhere it is. We at The Medium deal primarily in it. We sit through lectures delivered exclusively in it. We read books, watch movies, listen to song lyrics, and talk to our friends in language. We even think in it, most of the time. Hell, I’m using it right now!

So shouldn’t we know more about it?

True, most of us know everything there is to know about our mother tongue—whatever the rules of grammar are, however complicated, however random and irregular, get this: we know ’em all by heart. And we use them reliably, instantly, and automatically (as long as we get enough sleep, which, okay, is not likely at UTM). In fact, if you speak a language, which you do, think about this: many grown, intelligent people spend years and thousands of dollars taking courses and seeing professionals and poring over textbooks just to know something that you are one of the world’s experts in. You can be proud, brutha. You got it.

But it’s time to bring it to light. There are some really cool things going on there, just beneath the surface. Things you never thought about, consciously. But which you’ll find cool. I promise.

“But it’s all so technical and science-y. There’s so many rules I could (not?) care less about.”

“Why would I want to know if my glottis is vibrating? That’s perverted.”

“I’ll say stuff the want I way!”

Actually, no you won’t. Everything hinges on whether what you say rings true or not, or else your friends just give you a funny look. And the glottis, velum, and uvula are all perfectly normal and healthy organs, especially considering that (surprisingly) none of them is sexual. It’s true that it can get a bit technical. And we all know that’s not fun, that’s class. But like I said, the key is… you’ve already got a PhD in speaking your first language. And like any geek, you’re gonna find it fun to talk about.

I dunno, maybe you’re a bit sceptical after all my talking. But just give it a try. (Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “This language guy just used the word ‘dunno’. What a poser.” Actually, the word is older than this country—it’s been around since 1842.) Listen to what you say and wonder why you say it. Wonder where you learned an expression, or why it perfectly fits what you mean, or what it’ll mean tomorrow. Better still, wonder what words people use on you because they see that it works—advertisers, public speakers, lovers, they all know how to push your buttons. How?

Language is something you and your clever little brain do most of the time, every day. Take a moment to consider how miraculously strange any little snippet of it is. You have my recommendation, for what it’s worth.

– Luke Sawczak