Some First Thoughts on God, Speech, and Revelation.

Main thought: delve into the concept of God speaking.

Speech is communication by means of words and verbal expression. The nature of language, as I have argued before, is fuzzy and prone to subjectivism.

Written word vs. verbal word. Written lacks tone, appears more ‘objective’. It’s there, in black and white. Verbal has tone, which often changes the meaning of words. Consider:

‘Good job!’ (normal tone)

‘Good job!’ (sarcastic tone)

The exact same words, only slightly different tones of voice, change the meaning entirely – the meaning is reversed. Written words seem to bring context with them in a different, more static way – to use them in a context which they were not originally used in would be to rob them of their original meaning. Written word is frozen in its context, and can only have its original meaning if used in that context. Distortions of text, out-of-context readings, etc. Written text is not dialogic – one cannot ask the book questions it does not answer.

 

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2 thoughts on “Some First Thoughts on God, Speech, and Revelation.

  1. Ryan June 9, 2012 / 5:56 pm

    That’s not to say that the reader doesn’t reconstruct meaning when decoding written words. It’s not as if the act of writing, or of reading, are a static process. For example, if you see the phrase “As soon as I read the newspaper…” you might oscillate between thinking that word is pronounced like “reed” or “red.” It’s only later in the sentence, if you see something else like “yesterday” or “I’ll go for a walk” that we can disambiguate. We engage in a very non-linear activity when we read, which is, I suppose, also different from speech in most ways, but clearly not static or “objective,” either, and in that sense, I’d hesitate to say that written words are “frozen.” The way they are interpreted changes over time as a function of the reader. Two equally literate people at different times or of different dispositions might interpret the very same written words in the exact same printed context quite differently, just as two people who are present for the same conversation sometimes leave with different interpretations of what was said.

    Given that, I’m not sure that it’s appropriate to present written and spoken as two completely different phenomena, but rather as ends of a continuum. As for writing, we can edit, we can respond in real time through text messages and other media, we can use fonts and italics and capitalization and punctuation to convey subtle connotations, and we can, to a limited extent, interact with the writer, just as I am now with you. Spoken word is also not so ephemeral as it once was thanks to recording. It’s an interesting notion, but I think there’s more nuance there.

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  2. whitefrozen June 9, 2012 / 6:16 pm

    I would agree with your first paragraph. However, I do see written/spoken word as two very different phenomena – perhaps within the continuum of language, but, IMO, they are pretty different. When I say ‘objective’ I mean that not to say that the meanings are objective and frozen, but that the words are there on the page in an objective way – there really is ink on the page. You can flip back a page and see what the author said.

    Your remark about text messages, however, is interesting. I wonder how that would fit into different theories of semiotics. Perhaps a theory of text messaging should be developed…

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