TOK essay #3
Do words have meaning or do we give them meaning?
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet he wrote: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” What Shakespeare is saying in this quote is that everything in the world is only an inanimate presence until we bring it to life with our thoughts, which lead to perception, which then leads to actions. This can be applied also to language and the meaning of words. Do words really have a fixed meaning or is meaning based upon idiosyncratic interpretations attributable to previous experiences and opinions, and how can these meaning become known and shared amongst an entire society or world? In order to answer this question three things must be considered; the biologically innate factors of language, the origin of language and meanings, and the variances of meanings in different cultures.
Although it cannot be proven that language is as old as humans it is an inevitable observation that where human society exists so does language, they are inseparable. It is known that many ancient tribes had languages similar to Latin and English, but it is impossible to prove that the first anatomically modern humans used creative language; it is also impossible to disprove the hypothesis that language did exist in those times. Man was not born with one language that was set over all of time; our language was created by man and can be changed by man. So what does this tell you about the pawns in our language that we call words? If an entire language can change overtime we know that the meaning or even the spelling of a word can be changed by generations of humans. So this brings us back to the main topic mentioned earlier, do words have meanings or do we give them meaning? Due to the way that words change over time it becomes apparent that their meanings change to adapt to the environment and time period just as people adapt to their surroundings. Words can also be given... [continues]
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