Interested in language …

I am interested in language because it wounds or seduces me. (Roland Barthes: The Pleasure of the Text)

A post on Antiphons Garden earlier today raised the question of a writer’s “ownership” of their writing. “Respecting texts of other is a must,” says Antiphons Garden – and this, if I read between the lines, seems intended to extend well beyond mere copyright.

My brief comment included the following: “I’m wondering if, in fact, claiming ownership of one’s own words is any more viable than claiming ownership of genetic codes.”

My fellow-blogster also asks if we might soon run out of original things to say, or at least of original ways of saying them. It is in the nature of language (and in its structure) that our speaking and writing are always open to new forms and formulations. But the writer/speaker is not the only person to be considered; equally crucial is the role of the reader/listener.

Roland Barthes thought of writing as one of the ways people touch (ie, make contact with) one another. “Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other,” he wrote. “It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.” 

Barthes goes on to explain that what he enjoys in a narrative is “not directly its content or even its structure, but rather the abrasions I impose upon the fine surface: I read on, I skip, I look up, I dip in again. Which has nothing to do with the deep laceration the text of bliss inflicts upon language itself, and not upon the simple temporality of its reading. (Roland Barthes: The Pleasure of the Text)

Is it appropriate for me, as a reader, to impose abrasions upon the fine surface of a text? And what’s this about “the text of bliss” and the inflicting of “deep laceration … upon language itself”?

There he goes again, that saucy Frenchman, playfully wounding and seducing us with his words.


7 thoughts on “Interested in language …

  1. It might be my French culture who is far more introspective when it comes to words and how we communicate with them, who makes me react to a inner intuition that language can not be only a matter of the market, in the moment humans write their thoughts down. I enjoy the co mutual respect when we ask each other in here, how to use our mutual texts, but I don’t enjoy that the written words expressing our thoughts and coming from a collective culture ends as toys of an absolutist market who defines the only possible rules as only possible form of respect.I just head yesterday at radio about the mutual tolerance of 2 publisher about 2 books with the same book tittle.But, what appeared to me the most amazing, is that this tittle was a simple daily word. Am I the only one, thinking that this needs a deeper reflection?.I don’t have the answers, but we might have as society the necessity to think a bit deeper than only in therm of economist solutions, how our life, our thoughts can find safe forms of collective public expression.

  2. Be in no doubt … language is a fountain of eternal youth: it renews itself endlessly.

    We may buy and sell logotypes, trademarks, and slogans; may formulate (and contravene) copyright laws; may lay claim to intellectual property … but we cannot drain language of its life.

    Certainly, individual languages (like particular species of living creatures) have become extinct; but language – old shapeshifter that it is – transforms and transforms, world without end, amen.

  3. The death of languages has increased as drastically as the death of species, worldwide. And it only takes a look around, let say in here or in TV programs, to see how languages ends up more and more reduced. Isn’t it nice?

    • There is only one way to keep a language alive … we must speak and listen and write and read. Protesting about the way ‘other people’ misuse and abuse language is one thing; using language powerfully and creatively is another.

      By the way: I do not agree with those who say Latin is a ‘dead’ language. True enough, it is nobody’s ‘vernacular’ these days; but it has contributed hugely to many languages, including French and English.

  4. I love the clarity of Latin.

    I think the languages we mostly use,are in a permanent creative change, I welcome.But I am far less optimistic about our freedom of using it the way we want, from politicly correctness, to spell and fashion mannerism, to media preferences, to ownership of words, to many other factors, I see clearly a reduction of the vitality of language.

    The extinction of languages happens unseen from the most, but it is a fact and not only dependant from our good will. It is connected with a dying of many cultures who appear far less visible as the “progressive” spreading of an economical connected form of English.

    • Freedom is a concept, a construct … Freedom of speech likewise. Reading between your lines, I glimpse a person with political views that range from liberal through left-wing to radical. Your predictions are, I suggest, an expression of your concern about freedom of speech.

      Human life on planet earth will, in time, end in disaster. (I’m not alone in predicting that.) But what are we doing until then?

  5. I did and still do, my part in trying my best to serve the idea of respect of the nature and humanity.
    I think the disaster vision is in favour of those who assume that changing their lifestyle is too much demanding. In a way, it serve the purpose of not caring, as it assumes anyway that it will not change the future who will be disastrous. A lot could be said about such projections of the own and collective unconscious.
    The problems are evident and visible, and since long.
    Some do something about them, some do the opposite.
    I know my part in it. I trust the human potential to be able to overcome neurotic structures, but I know also their active mechanisms. I analyse the situation as best as I can. I see different possibilities of changes.
    The future will be our result.

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