The Power of Crying Out (What are words anyway?) part 10
That's about all I have to say about the book, but before I finish, I want to say a little more about the idea that words have power in and of themselves. I just want to bring up some issues that it raises that I think are worth thinking about. What is a word, anyway? It seems to me that a word is a token used to represent something else. For example, when I write the word "car" the word itself is not a car, but it signifies a car. The car is actually out in the parking lot. The fact that we call the thing in the parking lot a "car" is just a convention. In another language we might call it something else. Even in our own language, we have different words for it. We might call the same thing an "automobile." So both words represent the same reality.
How is it that the word "car" comes to actually correspond to the thing in the parking lot? Is there something about the word itself? When spoken, the word "car" is just a sound. It is only by convention that we have come to agree to associate the sound "car" with the thing in the parking lot. You can imagine a person who is just learning English and who intends to refer to a motorcycle, but can't think of the word "motorcycle" using the word "car" instead. If everybody began to refer to motorcycles as cars, it would be okay, but by convention, we have come to associate "car" with somethign else.
In different languages, several different sounds may be used to refer to the same thing. Through time, words take on different meanings because they are used in different ways. Words have no meaning in and of themselves. They only carry the meaning we intend when we use them.
When we make a statement, we string a bunch of words together in such a way that the statement has a meaning. Take this statement for example: The car is in the parking lot. What does that statement mean? Well it has a subject. It's about "the car." And the statement says something about "the car." It says that the car is "in" the parking lot. So what would it take for the statement to be true? For the statement to be true, it must correspond to reality. In other words, when I say, "The car is in the parking lot" the statement is true if and only if in reality the car actually is in the parking lot. So just like words, statements have meaning inasmuch as the statement corresponds to reality.
to be cotinued...