The Impact of the “Six Languages” in Today’s Society

Topics: Language, Greenhouse gas, Linguistics Pages: 5 (1885 words) Published: September 29, 2012
The Impact of the “Six Languages” in Today’s Society

What is language? Is it speaking in different ways or is it doing math equations? Is it both? How many languages are there and where did they come from? What exactly does “language” mean in the twenty-first century? Robert K. Logan, a renowned physicist and media ecologist as well as the author of “The Sixth Language”, claims he has the answers. In his work, Logan claims that six languages form an evolutionary chain of languages: speech, writing, math, science, computing and the internet (Logan 2000). Over the years there has been much debate as to what language really is. The American Heritage dictionary defines language as being the “Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols” whereas the Random House Dictionary defines language as “a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition”. The “six languages” as discussed in Robert K. Logan’s, “The Sixth Language: Learning a Living in the Internet Age”, are unrealistic, irrelevant in today`s society, and simply a way of explaining how the world works.

Who decides what language is? Once claims are made, how do we know which ones are right? Is language solely something that is spoken? In order to understand these questions more fully, twenty people were surveyed. The survey, “SCI199 Language Survey 2009”, was distributed to both males and females from ages ranging from thirteen to seventy-five who were from a variety of different cultures and locations including India, China, Pakistan, Canada, and the United States (for survey results see Appendix). Research shows that the answers to these questions are very subjective. Results showed a wide variety in answers which proved the concept of there only being six languages unrealistic. Robert Logan describes languages as being “generative” meaning you can “create others from them” (Logan 2009). He states that, from a language, there are an “infinite number of possible messages or meanings that we are capable of composing and communicating” (Logan 2000). If languages are generative, then how, in this world today, is it possible to only have six? Consider sports for example. Sports are defined by the Random House Dictionary as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.”. From the category of sports, we have many sub categories including football, soccer, tennis, hockey, etc just like from the category of speech we can create sub categories of English, French, Italian, Chinese, etc. Logan has stated that he “doesn’t think football is generative” (Logan 2009). Football is generative because from that one sport we can create multiple versions: flag football, touch football, and tackle football. From each of these “types” of football we can create numerous strategies, styles, formations and game plays. Art is another example of an activity that is generative. Although people differ in what they consider to be art, there is agreement that painting, sketching, sculpting, and building fall under that designation. Under the category of painting, for example, there can be oil painting, water colours, and more. From the survey “SCI199 Language Survey 2009”, there were two answers that most people agreed upon. The majority of the people surveyed considered speech and/or writing to be the only languages. whereas the others considered language to be a mix of things including speech, writing, math and art. Notice how art is not considered one of the “six languages” but considered a language by random people. More formally, Logan defines language as “a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions, and desires as well as of processing,...
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