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By M. C. Hall

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Extra info for Christmas (Little World Holidays and Celebrations)

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One must disregard more those factors which cause language to be thought of as the designation of objects and as the vehicle of the understanding [L, VII, 44] . . Language viewed in its true essence is something perpetually, and in every moment, tran­ sitory. Even its preservation in writing is but an imperfect mummified storing away, which still requires one to sensualize the living speech. Language itself is not a work (ergon), but rather an activity (energeia). Its true definition can, therefore, only be Ii.

According to Humboldt, the act of creative synthesis that takes place in thought and speech reveals its unity not in the word, but in the sentence. "Even in the sentence it [the essence of language) lies, as far as grammatical form goes, in perfect unity" (L, IV, 3). Although the synthetic process is found unified in the sen­ tence, it actually informs the whole of language, merely showing up most clearly in the sentence: It [synthesis] is most clearly recognized in sentence formation, then in words formed by inflection and affixes, finally in every nexus of con­ cept and sound.

The characteristic role of language with respect to thought is not to create a material phonic means for expressing ideas but to serve as a link between thought and sound, under conditions that of necessity bring about the reciprocal delimitation of units. Thought, chaotic by nature, has to become ordered in the process of its decomposition. Neither are thoughts given material form nor are sounds transformed into mental entities ; the somewhat mysterious fact is rather that "thought-sound" implies division, and that language works out its units while taking shape between two shapeless masses.

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