View Full Version : Syntactical Catastrophes

03-22-2007, 12:07 AM
You can say what you want about "language" (and its associated collection of language-like tools and protocols) and its failure to navigate the indescribable waters of indescribable things, events and thoughts, but
the day-to-day success of language and its visual-aid-like allies and information machinery seems to me to be a more interesting topic.
This is, of course, an aesthetic choice and possibly also a moral one.
In defense of my aesthetic choice, it is worth noting that there is by definition nothing much to say about indescribable stuff that can't be approached adequately by language and its auxiliaries and in defense of the preference for the adequate functionality of language as a moral choice, it is worth noting that if you cannot determine what is of relative epistemological importance (here identifying what comes adequately to thought as also having an adequate linguistic modality available eventually), then you cannot, for example, assign relative values to human needs or desires or aspirations since the logic for avoiding the indescribable is equally indescribable and in dealing socially with people one needs a common, logical, linguistic ground, simple and barely adequate though it may be.

PS: the Syntactic Catastrophes would occur (as I was hoping to show) in the plots of comedies.

More later.

Okay so...where can a certain degree of "language failure" be shown? After all its not like every teller of
Folktales since the dawn of the telling of Folktales hasn't always known that language only works within a certain narrow range of common expectations. For example, Puss-in-Boots proves to be the more valuable part of an inheritance by using language deceptively ans systematically and many a folktale victim falls prey to not checking on the implications of their linguistically-phased wishes...but where things really seem to let go, and where whole plots are built on nothing more than the circumstances of linguistic failure is in comedy. It happens all the time in contemporary romantic comedy: people don't say what they should when they should say it...is this a failure of language? Not to describe the indescribable, but just to come out at the right time? It might be a perfectly simple thing to say in linguistic terms (the non-McGuffin of simple utterances that people happen not to have said at the right time), but if no agency compells an utterance to happen when it should then no amount of linguistic power or vocabulary is going to suffice.

Or, if you believe what cats say, you may be doomed. Or the failures of language may be more compelling than its successes. Or the success of language goes totally unnoticed most of the time...so much so that one omission or deception may be enough to propell a whole comic plot.

But why do momentary lapses in the successful flow of language seem to work better to propell comedy than other genres?

PPS: You might even find a way to show langauge "failing" in a series of different ways for different characters in a Comedy, as in Twelfth Night...a tale of differential linguistic failure from Malvolio's misunderstandings to the fool rounding off the play with a lyric that postulates some unhelpful or at least useless chronological language: "A long time ago, the world began..."
but that's all one at the end of a story. Or is it?