Situating Language

“ultimately all the meaning of all words is derived from bodily experience”

-Bronislaw Malinowski-

(from The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages)



9 thoughts on “Situating Language

  1. What meaning is NOT derived from bodily experiences? Aren’t all experiences that we experience, experienced with our bodies? And therefore any meaning to be had must be had thusly?

  2. Sounds logical, but is it? ‘Ultimately’, cannot be tested as what is prior can never be fully certainly known as the initial beginning. Likewise with ‘ all the meaning” which assumes we can be aware or conscious of all possible ramifications of meaning ( while, in fact, only those concepts that we personally accept as meaningful will be considered as ‘meaning’, the rest will be dismissed as background noise.) Meaning may be connected to the shared assumption of a shared experience of an objective thing or state. But then again it makes the assumption that ‘primitive’ peoples conceived of ‘mind’ or ‘self’ as individual and also as located within the boundaries of the body. If this was not the case, then the statement here may be invalid. What the author might be wiser in saying is that, in his view of things and his study of primitive languages, it appears that the connection between the tangible (physical feeling) and conceptual, transmissible idea, is that one uses the metaphor of the other as an assumed shared commonality that can be understood ( ‘felt’ to be true).
    In my playful observation of word collections and similar sounds ( often linked by common roots) the physical manipulation of the mouth etc. to produce different sound sequences (words) has a strong metaphorical echoing of the ‘feel’ of our understanding of the thing or state the sound represents. In this sense, therefore all meaning does derive from, at very least, the sensations of mouth and shaping of breath.

  3. petrujviljoen

    I don’t know: the few times that I do manage to concentrate completely on ideas and concepts, I tend to not be aware of the body. In fact, I often ‘come to’ to being surprised and sometimes in fact dismayed that this body has to be fed and watered.

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and an other - a territory shared by both" - M. Bakhtin

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