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The Future of Ideal Language
by Rev. Richard C. Kirby, PhD, Sep 24, 1998
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This statement was first made by Rev. Richard S. Kirby, PhD., International Chairperson of the World Network of Religious Futurists on September 24, 1998, in view of the impeachment efforts of President Bill Clinton.

I write these words on behalf of my colleagues, scholars in the future of religion and society.

We are living in an era where many people are concerned about the corrosive effect on public life of the use of language to conceal and mislead.

There is good news here: this is a time of opportunity! Language has a future, a great one. No surprises there. The language of goodness, truth and beauty has a great future, too: in politics! (Gasp!)

The opportunity is the shared development of a new theory of political and social language -- the way we communicate with each other about how to live together. And more important than a new theory -- a new community of pioneers in excellence in social language.

It's breakthrough time in social language theory. It's innovation time, and then some, in inventiveness - reinventing not just government, but the language of government.

What is the ground of our hope? It is the divine Ground, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Creativity, the Spirit of Communication.

This work has already begun. There have been many attempts to develop language consciously. Esperanto, the international language is one. Others include semantic theories such as 'General Systems Theories', some of which make their way into literature such as the science fiction of A.E.Van Vogt (The World of Null-A).

But behind such attempts lies the ancient legacy of theory of language. There have since ancient times been two theories of language as a social power. One is rhetoric - the science of persuasion. Aristotle, the 'Master Mind of Antiquity' extolled it in his book on Rhetoric. Persuasion was considered an honorable part of public life.

The other theory is that of scientific discourse. The theory is that language must become an instrument to convey truth as exactly as possible. Persuasion, even exaggeration, does not fit here.

Artists with words perennially try to bridge this gap. Many philosophers, too, have tried to describe the relationship between language and truth. A notable attempt in the 20th century was that of Ludwig Wittgenstein in such books as the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and The Philosophical Investigations (1953).

Social Philosophers such as George Steiner in such books as Language and Silence ponder the value and place of speech and its absence. Similarly, educationalists, centers of civic reform, institutes for civic society and such centers of language-excellence studies share in recent and contemporary attempts to reform language in the direction of that truth which is also compassion and insight.

Ancient philosophers can also help today. In the ancient writings of Plato, the ideal and the real are inextricably linked. This legacy of ancient times helps us see a possible reconciliation of the two competing ideals of language use in society:

  • the ideal of 'political' and 'legal' language' (rhetoric); and
  • the ambitions of scientific and philosophical discourse to describe truth simply.
Is there a generalized 'ideal' for language in society? Plato suggests it is that language (words, grammar, intention, sounds, setting, and so on) which lead the user and the hearer towards the Ideal, which is the Absolute, God, the Ultimate Reality and Final Authority. God is the final Reality, and is perfect Truth: the attributes of God also include Beauty, Bliss, Peace and Joy.

So here's a discovery: Ideal social language is speech which leads us to God, Who is Happiness! It is fundamentally and necessarily honest, but also not 'merely descriptive': it is also celebratory, bubbling under the surface with hope and love, a message which is also a direction.

Computer programmers, poets, singers, orators, preachers and the purveyors of many kinds of 'literature' concur in the search for an 'ideal language'.

What might the 'ideal language' be for the healing of society, and the growth of politics towards a world of love?

This is question towards which world religions also have had their contributions. Judaism, Christianity and Islam agree with the need for words to express truth, and the importance of true witness. The Semitic religions understand that words can calm and heal or inflame and wound.

The Eastern religions such as Hinduism affirm the role of absolute truth in finding the Absolute: God. The far-Eastern religions such as Taoism offer an approach to speech based on intuitive harmony with cosmic love and simplicity.

The West also offers an approach to an 'ideal language' based on its special contribution to world culture: empirical science. Linguistic science, with its ancestors philology, ethnography and so on, shows us the generative power of grammar, the remarkable creativity of language, the mutability and flux of living languages.

A little kid can invent a complete language! Just by inserting 'rules of sentence generation' such as 'No adjectives', a small child can invent a whole new language.

Language is generative, say such authorities as Noam Chomsky of MIT (born 1928) in books such as the celebrated Syntactic Structures of 1967 and Eric H. Lenneberg Biological Foundations of Language, 1967. Youngsters know this: teens invent their own codes and language games, and entire languages, to express their individuality and 'differentness'. Advertising agencies invent new words all the time.

Business leaders, too, have a viewpoint on an 'ideal language'. Their idea is to interpret 'ideal' as profitable: a not unprofitable viewpoint!

Meanwhile, contemporary social commentators, editorial page editors, sages and pundits from many walks of life are crying out for a rebirth of the language of politics and social living.

That rebirth is happening.

Our hope is in God. Therefore our hope is in God's presence among us: that means in new community. God's being is love. Therefore we know the divine presence in loving community. New communities of loving language are heralds of a beautiful dawn in political discourse.

Love overflows into creation, creativity, invention. The language of the future is the language of love. The social language of the future is the language of loving truth. Honest, gracious, inspiring speech is like a burst of cherry blossom, breaking out all over the land in words of hope and encouragement.

The religious futurists invite you to join us in a commitment to speak only the language of loving-kindness, to be speakers of true hope, for this Fall season. As speakers of truth we become speakers of beauty and radiant inspiration.

This is the calling of religionists, the calling of speech-users: human beings everywhere, politicians (= builders of the moral fiber of the State) especially. Every word can bring us nearer to God. The language which does only that is being born as we speak, while we speak. We are speaking of a great hope.

We invite all religious communities to join us this season in a great (meaning: profound, uplifting and fun) examination of the words we use to each other.

Please register with us how you plan to develop the ideal language of society in your community of faith, in your worship and in your homes and in your workplaces and political forums.

The celebration of our power to develop together the ideal language of social being is a part of our preparation for the Winter sacred holidays. Our sacred words are forming a sacred, happy, profitable society. The ideal language which is birthing now is the grammar of happiness, peace and profit. In every word spoken this new Autumn season we are forming our future -- let us support one another in speaking wise, helpful and intelligent words. We will reward, and publish at our web site, the best essays on intelligent political discourse - the language of the future, on earth as it is in heaven.

For, we praise the LORD, singing unto God a new song (Psalm 149). We are laying a spiritual foundation for the emerging language of social success. Our words and our prayers are coinciding. A new spirit of new language is abroad.

Dr. Richard Kirby, International Chairperson of the World Network of Religious Futurists, welcomes your collaboration in the development of social language theory and improved civic speech. Your counsel and comments are invited.

URL: http://www.wnrf.org/cms/language.shtml

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