View Full Version : This could be fun!

01-09-2007, 06:56 PM
So we’ve got us a new forum! The notion here is that writers use language to write, so how that actually plays out on the page or screen is more than interesting, it is fundamental to what writing is. Thus as writers we should be interested in how language works in the brain.

Various AWers are scholars of language theory. I'm not one of them, but I'm fascinated by what they have to say. So I'm more of a hobbiest, a Lit/Crit groupie, I suppose. Last month we had a long, tangled, and occasionally contentious thread about whether language is necessary for thought. This seems to me to hold true for abstract, complicated thinking.

But what about how language can produce in us immediate emotions that seem to bypass any sort of analytic thinking? How did the words do that to us? Is it a kind of pattern-recognition, in the sense that through the words we experience emotions again that once moved us? How does that work, anyway?

Any notions about it? Any enlightening links to teach us about it? Thanks to Mac for asking me to do this; it could be fun!

01-09-2007, 07:05 PM
Ohhhh good question. Yes, I'm probably going to hop on every lit crit thread on here. LOL.

I think it's possible that words can have an emotional memory that imprints with us. In a way, that word can become a symbol of that emotion to us (don't remember which theorist discussed signs and symbols...sorry, it's been a few years since my classes!).

Association is a powerful thing. It can apply to situations, to smells, to memories, to places, so I don't see why it can't apply to words, too. :D

01-09-2007, 07:42 PM
The best thing about language in writing (er. apart from it being the bit you need to HAVE writing) is that if you're willing to occasionally break it, you can really grab the reader's attention.

One of my favorite short stories is Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktock Man" for the sheer emotional power of the story.

The story has a series of scenes that show how time slips away from us. It goes something like this (and I am paraphrasing.)

You are seven minutes later for the beginning of your shift and immediate action will be taken and so it goes.
I'm just running a little bit behind but I swear I'll be there in just five more minutes and so it goes and so it goes and so it goes goes goes goes tick tick tick tick tock tock tock tock.

His scene works much better. I just love how language and punctuation falls apart in the sheer force of narrative and emotion. I think that's worth quite a lot.

I think that emotion is more important than grammar, and storytelling more important than mechanical correctness. I think grammar and the hard rules of writing are important, but I've known some writers who absolutely will not deviate from ANY of them, resulting in perfectly readable stories that are nevertheless a bit stiff. I think that if it's necessary to break them, they should be broken.

01-09-2007, 08:06 PM
I do know that I see patterns in text without meaning to, that I'm not looking for them, they sort of leap out and shout "Look at me!"

I did this with words long before I learned to read. With practice, and study, I can put a name to those patterns, but I knew them and loved them long before I could name them.

01-10-2007, 01:00 AM
(don't remember which theorist discussed signs and symbols...sorry, it's been a few years since my classes!).

Saussure! :)

01-17-2007, 10:51 PM
this sub-forum really scares me.

01-18-2007, 01:10 AM
Hey, we don't bite. At least not too hard. And Thrilly hasn't found us yet.