Chauncey C. Riddle
Education Week, 1991
The title of these series of discussions is Language and Philosophy of Language, and their connection with religion. Yesterday we talked about communication, pointing out that everything we do is a communication. And our communication, or what we do, is the sum of our existence. We are what we do. In other words, we are how we communicate.
Today I would like to talk about languages. Each of us is adept at many languages, and it is important to understand these languages. This changed from the schedule, I hope you don’t mind. I had to put this one first to make sense of the one that comes up tomorrow, which is the one that is scheduled for today. I hope you will forgive me if this upsets your plans. But anyway, we are talking about languages of heart, might, mind and strength.
We assume this paradigm, which is fundamental in the scriptures. That human beings are composed of four aspects, that is to say that there are four parts of us that we control. And we are accountable for each of these four. Our heart and our mind are the spirit, that is to say they belong to our spirit body. We are talking about the heart of the spirit body.
Apparently the heart is the thing that makes decisions. It is that thing in us that is the real us. That’s the personality we bring from eternity.
The mind is what thinks, what understands, what plans, what executes the desires of the heart. Executes in the sense of giving signals to the body. The mind is the thinker, the place where ideas and representations are made.
The strength is the body, the physical tabernacle. Into which we are placed at birth, and which we are relieved of at death, and which we again have at the resurrection.
Our might is the trail of effects we leave in the world and the universe. Our might is the wake of our ship. It’s the swath we leave as we go through life, in other words, it’s the effects we have on the world. Now there are two aspects to might. One is our potential, which is sometimes spoken of as might. But the more real might is the actual thing we have accomplished.
So we will talk about language in each of these four aspects. Because there are languages of heart, languages of mind, strength and might. So, what is a language? A language is a patterned and socially normed set of assertions by which one being communicates with another. Now, let’s take that apart a little bit. It’s patterned, that’s to say there are repeated sequences. There is a discernable pattern.
If you were to record my voice you would find that I go through a repetition; certain phonemes, certain words, certain phrases, and these come up again and again as I speak. Every language has these patterns. We pick up on the patterns, the human brain is so constructed to pick patterns very readily. And things don’t have to be exactly the same. Our mind functions by analog, or by metaphor, which means it doesn’t have to be exactly alike to see a similarity. We are good at seeing similarities, at seeing patterns, Even though the details may not be exactly the same. Otherwise we couldn’t recognize each other from day to day.
We all look a little different; wear different clothes, wear our hair a little different, appear in different circumstances. And if we couldn’t see the patterns apart from some particulars, of course we wouldn’t do very well.
So languages are patterned, they are socially normed, in the sense that in a community (a community needs to be no larger than two people) the pattern begins to take a significant meaning which both the sender of the pattern and the receiver of the pattern understand to be associated with some idea or intention. And so to learn a language is to learn the social norms of a community. It is to acquire the culture of that community. There are no private languages in the technical sense. All languages are public, they are socially normed.
Now a set of assertion codes is simply a way of manifesting ourselves. The assertion codes that we use as human beings are almost all of our body. Some our not, some are our might. But they come through our body. The body reveals the things that go on in the heart and in the mind. And if you become very good at it, you can read a person’s body and detect things that are going on in their heart and mind. There is also a spiritual power of discernment. Whereby one may read a person’s heart. Or read a person’s ideas and mind. And if a person is gifted spiritually and has that power then there is a direct, (you don’t have to guess that way.) You can look at a person’s body, or the results of their efforts and infer what is going on in their heart and mind. That is guess work, but if you have the gift of discernment, you simply read directly what is in the heart and the mind.
Well, these assertion codes then, are the signals. Assertion codes for instance I am sending you a series of assertion codes which are noises I make with my vocal chords. And these are socially normed. You know approximately what I mean. By uttering each noise, and the sequence makes a difference to you and out of that you fabricate a meaning from these noises and attach some kind of set of ideas to this whole series of nonsense.
Well, now let’s talk about the different languages:
Heart language is patterned expression of the human heart. There are many dimensions, I am not sure how many dimensions there are of the heart language. Let me mention a few to you that you will recognize. Some people (these come in pairs) and we recognize different personality types, as different people have different heart language. For instance, some people are strong personalities, and some people are weak personalities. That is a function of the heart. That is to say the strength of the person. The heart is what determines that.
Some people are very sure of themselves, and move ahead. Other people are deterred by every wind that blows in their purposes. One is strong, the other is weak. To have courage (the word courage of course, cour is the french word for heart) courage is simply heart. Courage is being strong in heart, and to be afraid is to be weak in heart. And part of the gospel is to help us to have courage. And we are told that if the language we express is the language of fear that means we do not yet have faith, and if we do not have faith we cannot be saved. So those who fear are not saved. To be saved for one thing means to acquire something in which we can put our trust so that we don’t need to be afraid. So the heart speaks a language dependent on what it’s capabilities are internally and externally. If a person doesn’t know anything that is stable or good in the world, he can trust nothing, then the heart is automatically weak. If the heart can trust something, and as it trust in that, and it finds that trust vindicated, then the person grows strong.
Some people are steady, other people are pragmatic, or variable, Some people are constant in the sense that you can always depend that when you see them they will always have a certain attitude and stance. Other people you will never know if they will be up or down. Now that again is part of the language of the heart. This I think is closely related to the strength and weakness part of the language.
Now the person who is steady is the person again has something in which they can trust, they have an anchor for their soul. The gospel provides such an anchor in the Savior. Those who have come to know the Savior, know his work, and know his spirit, and find that he is eminently trustworthy, they are simply different people. They speak a different language. They speak differently because of the knowledge that they have.
Some people are sober, that is to say they are serious about serious things. That doesn’t mean they are always long-faced. But the opposite of being sober is to be light-minded. To be light-minded is to be flippant about sacred things. And some people find that the only way they can pursue life is to treat everything as if it were a joke, nothing is sacred to them. Again, you see, that is closely related to faith. And the heart expresses itself, and shows it’s faith or lack of faith in whether a person is sober or light- minded.
When Mormon was about ten years of age, Ammoron came to him and said “I perceive thou art a sober child” I presume what he meant by that was, `You take spiritual things seriously’. Therefore, I can trust you. That is the thing, of course, that we need to engender in ourselves, in our children. We can’t engender it directly, but we can encourage faith in the Savior. And faith in the Savior makes possible every good thing. Another attitude of the heart, is some person’s are proud or self-sufficient. That is to say, they are a law unto themselves, they have no trouble passing judgement on anything, anytime, anywhere. On setting the standard saying whether something is true or false, or right or wrong. They simply know of themselves, it is so because they say so. That is to say they are very self- sufficient.
Other people are humble. These people who are humble do not pretend to know all things. Sometimes you can be humble and strong for instance some people are humble and they don’t know very much, but what they do know they feel very strong about. They don’t know very much. But some people (there are all kinds of variations) You see, as talk all these kinds of characteristics, and get them in different kinds of combinations, you begin to weave personality. You find a personality pattern. And interestingly enough, it is easier to read the heart of a person than it is the mind. Because the heart really comes through. You can see it in a person’s demeanor. In what they do, in how they speak, how they act, what they do, and so forth. You can read that.
The final dimension of heart language is the person’s attitude toward good and evil. I say final dimension, I suppose there are many other dimensions of heart language. These are the ones that I have been able to identify surely to my own satisfaction. But I suppose there are others. But perhaps the most fundamental of all is simple the orientation toward good of evil. So a person either love’s righteousness, and seeks for equity and truth and justice and kindness and love, or they don’t. If they are casual about such things, and they don’t mind being good, if it suits their purpose, and they don’t mind being evil, if it suits their purpose; that is a special expression of the heart.
And so the heart expresses itself in everything we do, in everything we say. We can’t do anything without the heart, because the heart is the basic aspect of the human personality; the most fundamental thing of any person.
Let’s move on to mind language then. Mind language is the patterned expressions of the human mind. We say these are harder to read. Father has given us the ability to hide our minds better than the ability to hide our hearts. The ability to hide is in a sense our agency. If everything were absolutely public and there were no place to hide, there would be no space for repentance.
It is my understanding that in the celestial kingdom, every inhabitant of the celestial kingdom reads hearts and minds directly. That is to say the discernment is so great everybody knows exactly what everybody else is thinking and feeling inside. They don’t have to say a word. I presume there is no verbal communication in the celestial kingdom. Simply people read each other, read each other’s intentions and thoughts and feelings directly. Well now, if you’ve had a chance to repent and get yourself in shape that’s wonderful. But here in this world we get to hide that a little bit. We don’t hide it from Heavenly Father, or from spiritually gifted persons, but most people aren’t awfully spiritual, and most people have to guess what is going on in our minds. It is easier as I say to guess what’s going on in the heart, because there is so many evidences of that.
But mind language is simply our ideas; what we think. And so we express our mind language in our concepts. We take concepts and put them together, for instance, if you’ve successfully navigated the various locations of these Education Week lectures the last few days that means you have some sense of a map in your mind about the BYU campus. And if it were not for that map in your mind, you couldn’t navigate the system. And so if you have a certain belief about the BYU campus, that belief doesn’t have to be exactly accurate. It can be skewed in various ways and you can still get to your destination on time as long as certain essential relationships are right. You might have the distances all wrong but the directions might be right etc. And so you eventually get there. But nevertheless, you’re mind language is simply the ideas in which you think about the universe.
Now mind language has several dimensions. We have in our mind what we call the truth, but we also have in our minds other variations of that which for the past would be “what might have been” and for the future it is “What could be”. So, we have in our minds what was, what is, and what will be. That’s one set of beliefs, but we have another set of beliefs: what might have been, in the past, what might have been right now, and what could be in the future. And so we do a great deal of thinking about what could be.
Now if we’re the recriminating type, we really like to lay it on people, and we go back and harbor in our minds all these “what might have beens”. When somebody challenges us and finds fault we lay on them “what might have been” had they done something different. That’s a way of counterattacking; defending ourselves. It isn’t especially effective, but it seems to be a rather popular way of acting.
But we spend a great deal of time thinking about what might be. We had this sense of what will be if nothing changes. But then if we do something maybe something else will happen. And so we have to have this in mind and this and this is our ability to plan and to project the future and shape the future according to our own desires. So if we don’t want to be hungry tonight, we make some kind of thought as to what to do to prepare for that contingency. There are fifty different ways to solve the problem. So we find some solution that happens to be attractive to us. And begin to set in motion those thoughts and feelings that will lead us to do the things that will produce the satisfaction we want. So our mind language is connected both with truth “what is” and with possibilities of things.
And so we express ourselves constantly. A little child, as soon as they come into the world, they begin to build an image of the universe. They are very good at it. Little children are extremely bright and quickly begin to construct a world to figure out what is going on, who’s good, who’s bad, what you can to depend on, can’t depend on, and so forth. Very soon, they have world all built in their mind. Now the interesting thing is when we actually think and act we don’t think and act in the real world, we think and act in our minds. That’s all our consciousness can get around.
Our consciousness is limited to our brains, apparently to a small portion of the brain. And so in our brains we live and move and have our being. Now this body is and extension of that brain, but we know we don’t touch with our hands when I reach out and touch this podium. I’m feeling it back here, I’m really sensing it back here. In my mind I’m projecting it out to here. But where I’m actually feeling it is right here as if it were out here. And similarly with everything we experience. It is actually taking back here in the back of our heads. And so in this we represent the world in our heads, it is where we live and think and move and judge.
Now it is true that our body is in the real world, but our body sends us sensations, some of which we can interpret, some of which we can’t. We make the best of these sensations, some noises we can’t interpret, some noises we can. Some sights we see we can get a significance for them and fit them into our pattern. Some we can’t. For different persons there is a different percentage of things they look at around them that they can understand. Some understand a lot some don’t understand very much. But everybody has to understand something to be able to survive as a human being.
So, we need to be able to have a mind that is adequate to our environment. There are then, languages of mind. And these languages are the ideas that we build in our minds to represent the universe so that we can live and make what we think are wise decisions. Consisting basically of beliefs, of strategies for achieving our desires, and for readings of other people and their intentions.
Now we build an image of each person we meet, and we interpret them in terms of that image. That image is our mind language expression or our caricature of that person somewhat like a cartoonist. Instead of drawing on paper we draw on our minds. We draw an image of the face, we draw an image of personality, we construct a heart with some of its variables that we talked about. We type the person as being smart or not so smart, linguistic or not very linguistic, and so forth. All kinds of things we characterize them as. Not that we are putting them down, we just have to know those things to know who it is we are talking to. Those are things we have to do to have a picture of one another. I say it is a caricature, because it is never exactly right. We are not given the ability to get the real absolute truth of things, we only approximate things. The more experience we have with people, the more our image of them comes in relationship to the truth. Each day it gets closer and closer. But we can be badly fooled. So we always have to be careful that’s why it pays to be humble. When we begin to suppose we know everything, that we’ve go everything figured out, that is when the roof is about to fall in.
So we have these different mind languages in which we express ourselves. All mind language is simply an expression of the desires of the heart. We build the kind of world which we think exists, which we want to believe in. We build the kind of possible world that includes the things we would like to achieve. We build the kind of people the caricatures of people around us into the kinds of persons we’d like them to be.
Again, we have to have a dose of reality with that and recognize we may be wrong. Well, anyway, that’s mind language. We use mind language constantly when we think. Some people have a rather narrowly developed mind language, others have widely developed. Vocabulary is a pretty good measure of mind language. It’s not the sole measure, because sometimes people are very good at thinking about things about which they have no words.
Now reading is a form of mind language. When you pick up a book, you normally see black marks on a white piece of paper. The marks have to be. But what you do is you sit there and study the marks, and see patterns in the marks. And you take the normal meanings of those patterns and begin to build an imaginative world out of them. And your ability to read is usually just a function of the development of your mind language.
The best way to teach somebody to read books is to talk to them a great deal. To expose them to a lot of verbal language so that they get used to building images in their mind. And then when they pick up a book and start looking at the black marks on the white page they use that same facility they’ve used with heard words to do it with the black marks and away they go.
Children that are read to, normally have a very good vocabulary, and have a very well developed imagination by the time they go to school. The ones that are not read to do not have as well-developed imagination because they have not been exposed to as wide a vocabulary nor as varied a scenery as people who have been read to have.
And so people who do a lot of traveling have a bigger mind vocabulary because they have all kinds of ideas in their mind about things and places other people just don’t have. To be parochial is to have a narrow mind language. To be broad means to have many experiences and to be able to interpret in many ways and variations.
Now we come to strength language. Strength language is what we do with our body. Expressions of the human physical body. The strength language of itself does not have meaning. It is only a signal, and the signal is always indeterminate. The meaning of the signal is what is going on in the heart and mind of the sender. Since most people can’t read the heart and mind of the sender they simply “invent” or “guess” the meaning of the signal. And they build a projection on the basis of that guess. So we hear each other’s noises, see each other’s faces, see each other’s hand gestures and we create and imaginative scenario as to what they might be saying in that process.
It’s amazing that we do well with language as we do. I’m convinced that in college classes the communication seldom rises above seventy-five percent. And the first day of class it is always about ten to twenty percent. As time goes on, things get better. But sometimes you read a book, or hear a talk in church, and the person is just talking way over your head and almost nothing gets through. We just don’t have the ability to imagine anything that fits with those words. So part of speaking, projecting language, is to size up what language your audience understands and speak in that language. It’s typical at times for people who don’t care about others for people not to do that. People who care, watch their audience, and try to read their attitudes by their reactions. As you sit there, you are reacting, every one of you to me as I speak. If I’m good at reading you, I can tell your positive input or negative input, and so forth. And if I’m wise I will use that to adjust what I say when I say it.
So there are different physical languages. There is first of all body language. Body language is simply how we control our body to indicate certain things. All of our verbal language exists in the context of body language. Verbal language cannot be understood except you put it in the matrix or context of a physical surrounding and a body language. It is the only way we can make verbal language mean anything is by ostensive definition, that is to say, some fundamental definitions you have to point, show, and then the person begins to figure out what the norms are. And the meanings for those symbols. Now, with that we build up our entire repertoire of language. But strength language is the basic fulcrum of our communication with each other through which we build up our understanding. Now spiritual language is there also, and that’s very important. In speaking after the human — our strength is the fulcrum on which everything turns when we communicate with each other.
So, there are different kinds of body languages. Dancing is a body language. Playing soccer is a body language. Carpentry is a body language. In each of these enterprises what we are doing is we are going through patterned expressions or motions of the human body by which to accomplish something in the physical world. And so, just about everything we do, we do by the way of the languages we have learned. It’s all patterns and norms and we express ourselves to achieve our desires. Not in a random haphazard way, that would not be a language. But in a specialized patterned way are our languages.
So there are all kinds of these languages, anything we do regularly, all forms of acting, are simply languages. Then there are colloquial human languages. These are the mother tongues of the human race. Strictly speaking, there is a mother tongue for each individual family. No mother teaches her children exactly the same language as any other mother. Because no two mothers speak exactly the same language. There is no such thing as `the’ English language. There are several hundred english languages that have something in common. But the one on this end is totally incomprehensible to the one on this end. Even though they’re both english. Bill Meyers has demonstrated this very well if you’ve seen his series on the english language.
So there is a family of languages. Languages are always familial. The same mother tongue is no accident. Mothers are the purveyors of language. It is the mothers that teach children language. The first language children learn from their mother is heart language. They learn whether the mother is afraid or confident, steady or not steady, and so forth. And the child picks up on that emotional pattern and begins to be like that from the moment of birth. The child picks up on body language, very quickly the child picks up on spoken language and begins to form ideas. And begins to build a mind world. A world where he can speak his own mind language. And by the time the child is two or three, it is well adapted into the human languages, doing very well with expressing itself in heart, mind and strength.
Then there is another kind of language, there are artificial human languages. Most artificial human languages are `technical’ languages, or `specialized’ languages which people use to communicate with each other for particular purposes. Colloquial language, or the mother tongue language are always deliberately vague, ambiguous. That’s one of the glories of language. That is both deliberate and not deliberate. That is to say, we do it sometimes deliberately so that we can’t be pinned down as to what we are saying. Sometimes we would like to express ourselves more particularly, but don’t have the vocabulary.
When human beings find themselves wanting to speak very precisely and do not want to be misunderstood, so that there can be absolute communication they always go to a technical language. And a technical language, there is only one meaning. And if the technical language allows two or more you haven’t got a good technical language. So you refine and refine and refine until the signals are all unambiguous. You can communicate exactly and know what your wants and needs of the situation are. So if you are a carpenter, and you go on the job, you have to speak the carpenters language. English will not do. If you are a basketball player, you go on the court, (Say you are a pro basketball player) you don’t speak english. The language of pro basketball is black english, and if you are white, you have to speak black english or you don’t play basketball. That’s all there is to it. And so forth.
There are specialized languages, the language of science over the whole world is the same…bad english. Broken english is the standard scientific language anywhere you go in the world. Anyone who pretends to be a scientist will speak to you about scientific things in broken english. Now your english might be better than that, but that is the standard scientific language. And it works, that is the beautiful part of it. That there is sufficient communication plus it is a technical language because the person is expressing himself very carefully in specialized terms. And the communication succeeds. The grammar doesn’t have to right. It’s the meaning that you get that you formulate in connection with what you say that has to be right. The grammar can be terrible.
Grammar is all artificial and invented anyway. There is no such thing as `correct grammar’. Grammar is always a matter of norms. Now that doesn’t mean to say I am against grammar. I am very much for good grammar. Because when you use a standard grammar you tend to stabilize a language. When you break the grammar patterns. You cause a change in the language. And change puts you out of touch with certain groups. Now some people do this deliberately. When you wish to have a clique of people that you control, what you do is you form a private language for that group. You invent new words for some common meanings, common terms, and speak in that language with the people in that group who know what you mean. And pretty soon you find that there are `insiders’ and `outsiders’ and that gives you a group identity. Because you have a language now.
Now, language is the vehicle for group identification. If you wish to join a group, the only way you can usually do it is first of all to master language. You may have to do some other things to but if you don’t master the language, you’re never in. So, if you are in a group of college graduates, if you don’t speak college language, they will not count you as one of their number. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have. If you can’t handle the language, you don’t count. If you can handle the language, (there are people who have never been to medical school who fake being MD’s.) they’ve been around enough that they can handle the language. They get by with other doctors and do beautifully. Because they know the language. That is the main thing you learn when you go to medical school is the language. In any profession, that is what you learn.
I am a philosopher, what do we teach students in philosophy? The language of philosophy. And to become philosophical is simply to be able to express yourself in the normal historic philosophic patterns. Simply to learn the specialized jargon of philosophy. That is what constitutes being a philosopher. And so it is with almost every discipline in the world. These are artificial languages that people learn to accomplish specific tasks. The more languages a person knows, usually the more powerful they are. You can take any colloquial language and render it a technical language simply by being careful how you use it. So, if the need demands, you become careful. There are different ways of being careful. If you’re trying to meet somebody on campus that you’ve missed the last few times, you pretty soon get pretty good at doing it so that you don’t miss them. You have them say where they’re going to be and you say where you’re going to be and you repeat it about three times, you have a backup for where you’ll be if that fails, and so forth. Eventually you get to the point, if succeeding is important to you, you figure out a way to succeed. And the way to succeed is to be so technical about language that you cannot be misunderstood. So there are these strength languages.
Lets go to might languages. Might language then, is the result of all that we do from the heart, mind, and strength languages. So if you were to go to my home and look at it you would see my trail, and my wife’s trail, and our children’s trail. It is a collective trail, but nevertheless, certain features of it are mine, certain features of it are my wife’s, certain features of it are my children’s. But you can read us in the trail that we have left in our home. The way the furniture is arranged, the kind of art-work that what we have on the walls, the kind of dishes that we collect, the kind of layout of the house, the way the grounds are kept, the way the automobiles look. (Just don’t look in the garage, that’s my territory).
But anyway, like it or not, all those things beray us, that is to say, they are our linguistic expression. And a person can look at those things and read us by looking at what we have left. So, to can read a person you see what is interesting to them, what is valuable to them, what isn’t interesting to them. Some people don’t care about clothing at all. They wear the craziest getup that don’t match at all. Other people are very conscious of clothing, and they leave a very different impression on us. The result on other people is the might language. Some people are orderly, and wish to be precise and careful about all things. Others are orderly about some things and not about others. And again, that is an expression of the self.
So, our might is the trail that we leave. Again, like it or not, the happiness of our spouse is one way you can read your own might language. If your spouse is happy, that means you are expressing yourself well to your spouse. If you’re happy, they’re expressing themselves well. Our children are might language. Children have their own individual identities, we cannot control them. Nevertheless, a great can be read about parents simply by looking at the children. You can’t read everything, but you can read a lot. Some people use priesthood as their might, they perform lots of ordinances and do lots of things in the power of God. And the trail that they leave is a language trail which can be read and linked back to the nature of the person that left the trail.
Now, the Savior tells us that we must assess people. He tells us to be careful about judging them. We must judge righteous judgement. If we have to judge the goodness or the badness we better do it by his power and his authority. We nevertheless have to assess what they are. And he tells us, “By their fruits shall ye know them.” Now the words people speak are not their fruits. The words people speak are their strength language. But the results of their deeds are their fruits. That’s their might language. The real way for us to read each other is the might language. And the Savior commends that to us.
Now again, he doesn’t read us that way alone, he reads that, he judges according to our deeds, but he also judges us according to the thoughts and intents of our heart. Which means our heart and our mind. They are visible to him, he reads them directly. And thus knows us completely, and makes no mistakes in judging us. He knows exactly what we are and therefore can succor us in our need exactly as we need it.
Well, these are the languages in which human beings express themselves. Repentance, to speak linguistically, is to change the way we express ourselves. Is to change our language so that our fruits are meet. That is to say so that they are more like those that Christ would produce.
Repentance is changing our expression so that achieve different might results in the world. To do that we normally have to change our heart language. That is to say, to assess our own hearts. To size ourselves up and to find where we are weak and where we are strong. And to be very candid about that. And then pray for those aspect of heart that will enable us to do better. If we are vacillating, we need to pray for steadiness. If we are weak, we need to pray for strength. Those are all spiritual gifts we can have if we will pray for them in the right way. When we get the heart language correct then we pray for the correct mind language.
The correct mind language means to really understand what is going on, to know the truth about things. And to see the real possibilities of things. Some of the possibilities are not real, that is to say we think that might happen but it really can’t. It isn’t in the cards we might say. But some things are possible that we don’t even dream of. More things can be done through the priesthood I think than most people ever suppose. Usually we have a rather limited view of what you can and can’t do with the priesthood. The possibilities, I think, are almost endless. And the time will come, when virtually all that we do, if not all, will be done through priesthood. As an expression of the language of God. It may turn out that the Adamic language is simply the priesthood language. I don’t know. Maybe just the language of God expressed in the pattern of God. To control things and accomplish results that are good using the principles of righteousness.
So, as we correct our heart language and our mind language then we make more precise our strength language. What we actually do. And that makes better fruit. That is to say, our might language will then improve. We can’t say we have repented until the fruits change. But when the fruits are good then we know that we have repented.
So, this is the message about languages. How many languages do you speak? Well, you speak many. And my understanding is it pays for us to be very good at language. We ought to study the expressions we make. We ought to study our own hearts, and correct our expression. We ought to study our own minds, and correct our minds as much as possible. We ought to study our own bodies, how we express ourselves, how well we communicate to others.
Study our might, take a candid assessment. What am I? looking at my achievements, my accomplishments, what am I really? Where do I need to repent, what’s the next thing I need to do. What’s the thing that hurts most in my kingdom that needs to be fixed. And since it depends on me, it has to be fixed in here in my heart and mind first. And I will fix me, and then it can be fixed. Well, that’s what repentance is.
Now we have a minute or two for questions:
Q: The question is, what was the Adamic language like?
A: I don’t know, I suppose with you that with the Adamic language, expression is quite precise. We know that when we go back to the old languages, the further back we get, the more complicated the grammar is. That is to say, the more precise the expression is. As we come forward, the vocabularies increase, the number of words we have increases, but the grammar collapses. And so we aren’t quite sure what’s being said. Even though we know what we’re talking about. So, there are these variables in language that I don’t know.
Q: I a have heard that English has something like seven hundred thousand words, French has like two hundred thousand. I always assumed that English was there for (I can’t think of a better word right now) but a superior language. That there is more variation and that you can get more precise in your definitions.
A: The comment is that English has many more words than French and therefore English is a better language. That doesn’t necessarily follow. The reason English has so many words in it, (the number I had in mind was 450,000 but the difference is not important) the reason English has so many words is because it is a smash of so many languages. It has all of French essentially, all of Anglo-Saxon, which is the Germanic background. Plus a lot of other things tucked in there. And therefore it has a big vocabulary. That doesn’t mean you can say more things with it. The French pride themselves on expressing themselves rather exactly. They believe that is something important to them. They want to be very clear and precise when they speak. That’s why the language of diplomacy for a long time was French. Because that was cultivated in that language. The French are very careful not to let their language shift. They are very conservative about language. They have their national board that tries to hold things down, and not let all these foreign words creep in and adulterate the language and so forth. So they specifically hold it.
Now, the acting vocabulary of a normal American is about ten thousand words. That isn’t very many compared with the 250,000 say in French. The passive vocabulary of the normal American is about fifteen thousand words. Somebody who is really educated might have a passive vocabulary of about 30,000 words. But you see, none of us tap the language. We don’t use the power of the language. To be quite blunt about it, most of us don’t need to. The kinds of endeavors that we are engaged in from day to day don’t require a great vocabulary. Because you can make millions of combinations out of five hundred characters and that suffices for most things.
So, the power of language is not in the extent of it’s vocabulary. Usually in the extent in which you can be precise in expressing yourself. That is to say, to be understood very exactly. And that’s something again, that’s hard to come by.
Q: Sister Nello points out that in a dealing with people of foreign nationalities, when you are trying to teach them English, you have to begin with going on feelings and on emotions using body language.
A: I think that’s very common. When two cultures meet there is always this inability to communicate. The people want to communicate, so when two cultures meet there is always an adaptation. That’s what is called pidgin. Pidgin language is where part of one language and part of another starts to be used by both of them so that they can begin to communicate. Pidgin is almost always all physically oriented. It is full of nouns, very few verbs, almost no adjectives at all, no adverbs and only one tense. People find that that doesn’t do very well. And so they develop it further. And you get the next stage of language which is creole. Creole language is the next stage. It is a language that has adjectives and adverbs and tenses. And then the full- blown language has all the cases.
So, we find that it takes a good many parameters to trust what we wish to express. But, sometimes we don’t wish to express. English, for instance, is losing the subjunctive. It’s virtually gone for all intents and purposes as a grammatical form. Now the function is maintained and people still can understand when we mean a subjunctive. But we have lost the ability to express it clearly. And so the language has degenerated in that sense, though the function we were still able to save.
Q: What is the relation of ordination in the priesthood to the expression of the priesthood as a language.
A: What is the explanation of ordination to the expression of the priesthood as a language. Well, my understanding is that ordination is simply an expression, one of the expressions of priesthood language. And that blessing is another. Sometimes they happen in the same speech, by the same laying on of hands. But that ordination is a specific transfer of some kind of power or authority.
A: The language, the occasion of the ordination as I understand it is the occasion by which the power is transmitted to the person by God. But the language itself does not transmit the power. It is simply the signal by which the power is being transmitted. If that makes sense.
One more and we have to quit. Brother.
Q: Here on this earth, can we be perfected in any of the languages.
A: Can we be perfected in any of the languages on this earth. Well, I think, yes, the important language to become perfected in is heart language. If we will study what the heart of the Savior is, and then work and work until we get that down. There are just a few parameters there. It is not a complex language. And if we go out of this life with that language learned everything else good will follow. But apparently if we fail on that, we have kind of missed the boat as a human being.
Q: In your opinion, would God’s language have a very limited vocabulary?
A: Does God’s language have a limited vocabulary. My answer is no. I take it that his language is different from ours. Our language is all generalizations. I use the word `chair’ and it covers fifty kinds of pieces of furniture. When he uses a word it always means a precise thing. Now he probably has the ability to use general words to. But he expresses himself, I take it the language is actually mind language, ideas. He shapes an idea in his mind and communicates it as an idea. It does not need to go through a symbolic vehicle. And therefore his communication is always precise and sure. When he gives a message he speaks to us in our heart and mind in our language. So that we cannot misunderstand. We don’t have to interpret, we know what he says. Does that make sense?
Q: That makes sense, but what that is saying to be is that he always speaks in generalities.
Q: Because what you are saying is that if he has one word for `chair’ and we have one word for `chair’ we need to create a specific brown chair.
A: He tells us to build a chair, he will show us a specific chair to build, I think. Like he did Nephi with the boat. He showed him the boat he was to build. And it wasn’t a generic boat, it was a specific boat. And he built it and it worked beautifully. For whatever that’s worth.
Q: Well, he showed the brother of Jared to build a barge. And that barge was different from a boat, he used a different word there.
A: I agree, what’s your point?
Q: So you’re saying there is only one kind of boat.
A: No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m sorry, we’re over time, thank you very much.