Power in Language

Through our interconnected world, we have learned to rely on different mediums to obtain different information. Whether it be Google, Youtube, the news, or library books, we are bound to find different resources to learn new information. But, we rarely stop to think about what would happen if the information that has been internalized, in both online and printed materials, was erased and there was no way of knowing past history. As Gleick introduced in Chapter 2, “The Persistence of the World”, “to subtract the technologies of information internalized over two millenia requires a leap of imagination backwards to a forgotten past” (pg 28).  Through my time at SUNY Geneseo, I have been a part of different conversations about the meaning of language and its importance. As an English Adolescent Education major with a linguistics background, I have realized that there is a deep correlation between the ways in which language has shaped our culture, identity, and history. Before understanding the interconnectedness between the impact of language and new information, it is important to understand the processes in which we go about learning new topics. 

Chapter two dives deep into the meaning of “looking up” something online or in printed texts. But, what does it mean when we are “looking up” something? Does it mean that we are researching something for the sake of finding an answer, or are we researching something to learn new information? I would say that there is a distinction between being able to identify an answer to something one “looks up” and being able to understand the new piece of information. Most of the time, we are told to complete an assignment that requires heavy research but in that process, we mostly find answers to the questions we are looking for. Through different research projects, I have neglected to think about where the information originated from, the impact the information had on those that were researched, and the future implications of other readers. It’s important that we sometimes take a step back and think about how what we read, what we research, and what we write plays a role in the ways we are connected through language. 

In one of my linguistics classes, I came across an article by Cambridge University Press titled, “American English: History, Structure, and Usage” that explains language, the importance of it, and how we have developed its power. Within the article, I learned about the term idiolect, which refers to a person’s use of language within a particular context. Most of the time, we think about us either engaging in formal or informal conversations, but it’s important to think about the contexts of different conversations and how we interact within each. The Information by James Gleick brings light to the power of language through the lens of personal knowledge. Essentially, before language became widespread, information was contained within our minds and shared only with those we spoke to. After the writing language was created, the knowledge that many had started to spread. Symbols, pictures, and writing languages were created to represent different concepts.

Today, our words are powerful and when we say something, it is more powerful. Through the sharing of knowledge, we become more powerful and also learn a lot more. It’s important to think that as we keep evolving technologically as a society, we will find new ways to convey different information. But, what’s more important is how we think about how information has evolved and the impact that sharing that information has on us. Language is more than the spread of knowledge, in some instances, it is the communication and unpacking of it. It’s weird to think that the information we have internalized, or rather our technological devices has internalized would require a lot of imagination if it were to be erased.

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