The Function of Language and Why Technology May Be Killing Your Cognitive Capacities

Language is veritably a thing that is taken for granted. Even now as you read these lines not much conscious effort is necessary to comprehend what concepts I am attempting to convey. We think in language and, blatantly (needless to say but say I will), we communicate with language.

“Communicate: to convey knowledge of or information about”

Just what we communicate though is limited not by our cognitive capabilities of concept formation, but by our relation of certain sounds (words) with experiences of things and phenomena as well as intellectual abstractions. You see, right now I can be rather sure that you know what I am trying to communicate, for the vocabulary I am using to express my thoughts is probably in parity with your own gray-matter repository of words. But notice the moment I alter the reciprocated nomenclature in communicating with you (i.e. I am the arbiter of a garrulous malediction against garbled, nuncupative sentences concerning one’s oneiromancy respecting visions of my hypothalamo-hypophysial portal system as described by texts on human anatomy and the general disuse of greater vocabularies) your comprehension or reception of the message is lost. Not because I am speaking utter gibberish, but because you cannot decrypt the concept present within the message – you simply have not consciously cataloged these words with their respective concepts.

“Oneiromancy: divination by means of dreams”

I raise this point to expand your awareness of the essential function of language and how crucial language is for the expression of complex concepts. If you have not the words, how can you explain anything? The less words you have, the less combinations you can string together to communicate whatever striking thoughts you have. In understanding this to be so, that one’s vocabulary is directly proportional to his/her capability of communicating anything (especially the complex), then it follows that the more one leaves his/her repository of words to gather dust or decay into commonalities (less variety) the sooner one will lose an aspect of the saliency that makes us human.

Put another way, because the most salient part of our evolution is our capacity to derive and utilize complex concepts about how our world works, it is most critical to culture and social communion that we maintain among each other the vocabulary necessary for conveying these complex concepts. Without it, we are indirectly demolishing our sapience.

To illustrate further, imagine if you will that a certain physicist has deduced accurate formulas which describe gravitation and light, but his colleagues could not understand him. Let it also be said that he could not be understood because his concepts required vocabulary beyond that possessed by his colleagues or he spoke an alien language. What is this physicist to do? It is obvious that until he, or his colleagues, erases the language barrier, the world will not receive the benefits of his equations.

Language is the mediator of human thought, and for this reason it must be safe-guarded, developed, and appreciated by the masses.

So what implications does this diatribe hold for observed trends with our youth in the technotronic era? Simple really. If language continues to lose its vigor and vivacious users, it is most natural that cognitive saliencies will decline as well.

“Technology: the totality of means employed to provide objects necessary for human sustenance and comfort”

Look at the above definition of technology and think of the benefit it gives to the man who has replaced a shovel ( a piece of technology) with higher technology ( a mechanical drill) for extraction of ore. What does the technology do for him? It saves him work (i.e. energy). The energy the man would have been expending with his own body is now expended by a machine which his sapience has manifested. It is an obvious benefit. But once the technologies move from providing material comfort by saving physical exertion to providing comfort by saving man mental exertion, problems with our evolution will proliferate immediately. Need change? I can’t do that without a calculator anymore. Need directions? I don’t know how to supply them to you without looking at a GPS. Need food? I don’t know what is edible without consulting the producers.

This is the danger of allowing the mind to be replaced with technological implements. This is the danger of not using the mind or educating oneself or expanding one’s vocabulary.

In summary, our salience is the mind, and we are slowly replacing our salience with technology and entertainment.

Digressions aside, the term “Orwellian” is apt enough to describe our modern situation. If you cannot apprehend complex concepts because of a language deficit, then 1984 has dropped away from the fictional domain and into reality.

(P.S. go read a book, knowledge is power)


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