Sunday, October 09, 2016

Sounds, Words, Meaning, Poetry

How many positive words can you make that begin with the letter N?

Nice
Neighbor

How many negative words can you make that begin with the letter N?

No
Never
Negative
Nought
Ne'er-do-well
Nihilism

It seems there are many more negative words beginning with the word N than positive ones. More, notice how your mouth and nose move to shape the words.

"Neighbor" makes your mouth spread out into a smile.

"Nice" opens your mouth.

"No" first opens, then closes your mouth.

Never, negative, nought, ne'er-do-well, nihilism -- all cause you to crinkle your nose in the same way you would crinkle your nose in disgust.

It's been fashionable for over 100 years to say with Saussure that language is arbitrary. However, linguists are discovering that our words are less arbitrary than they seem.

Great poets build poems from sounds, and from the sounds build ever-increasing complexity of meaning. Those who fail to do this have never been, cannot be, and never will be the great poets. The sounds are meaningful in a pre-linguistic way on which our language was built. 
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