Language as the Ultimate System

Dan Moonhawk Alford (CIIS, JFKU,CSUH)


Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Except language is not just words. Language isnt even the same as speech. Speaking is but one way of using language: we write, the Deaf culture signs--all manifestations of something deeper and more general that organizes knowing and enforms all living beings.

Having lived in Native America, I diverge from most of my colleagues in linguistics by defining language in a way that is evolutionary and inclusive of non-humans--explaining for the first time how we communicate with them through sharing evolutionary brains, brainwave rhythms, and developmental levels of thinking, as well as how we humans go beyond them because of a mysterious magic trick as our brains develop.

Language always balances meaning and form in a systemic way--a system of meaning dynamically paired with one or more systems of physical expression. Using time (or timing) as a central organizing principle, I show how the major brainwave rhythms (delta, theta, alpha, beta) correspond to our four functional evolutionary brains, four established levels of thinking, and four functionally distinct levels of languaging: body language, emotional tunes, social idioms, and formal expression, only the last of which is formally recognized in linguistics as true language.

Major advantages for such a more general notion of language: 1) by recognizing it as the organizing essence that enforms all systems, we can understand the living communicating which characterizes all systems; and 2) by recognizing our own evolutionary, coherent, multi-modal languaging supporting the mere words, we will be better prepared to figure out which levels of languaging we share with extraterrestrials when we have first contact.