Saturday, February 02, 2013

The accountability of language

“Any coherent account of the capacity of human speech to communicate meaning and feeling is, in the final analysis, underwritten by the assumption of God’s presence.”

George SteinerReal Presences

"The author of the utterance, with greater or lesser awareness, presupposes a higher superaddressee ...whose absolutely just responsive understanding is presumed, either in some metaphysical distance or in distant historical time. In various ages and with various understandings of the world, this superaddressee and his ideally responsive understanding assume various ideological expressions (God, absolute truth, the court of dispassionate human conscience, the people, the court of history, science, and so forth)."

M.M. Bakhtin, Speech Genres

"My concern is for the accountability of language -- hence for the accountability of the users of language.  To deal with this matter I will use a pair of economic concepts: internal accounting, which considers costs and benefits in reference only to the interest of the money-making enterprise itself, and external accounting, which considers the costs and benefits to the 'larger community.' ...One of the primary obligations of language is to connect and balance the two kinds of accounting....A reliable account is personal at the beginning and religious at the end.

Wendell Berry, Standing By Words

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