Margo's Magical Letter Page
Why Do I Practice Phonosemantics?
When I was about 7 years old,
I'd envision myself in a room full of books
Sitting behind a sort of dictionary
Not a conventional dictionary, but like some dictionary I'd never seen
And plumbing from it the mysteries of the universe.
There was a very deep and for me warm feeling about this room.
A great light that filled it.
A peace and a great silence.
It is out of this image that the work at this site is born.
I grew up in two countries - Norway and the US
And I remember feeling as though I entered through some mysterious gate
And each time I encountered a new language
It was as though a vast and very particular universe
opened before my mind's eye.
Each universe had a completely unique quality
And yet it was not limited in its uniqueness
One day I was sitting in an Indian restaurant in Boston
And I heard other conversations at other tables
Many of them in languages I couldn't understand
And suddenly I felt a very clear sense for a few seconds
That I understood what human language IS
There's a perspective on phenomena which is different
A perspective in which that which is clouded by the mind
Is made obvious
In which phenomena are not means to any end
As language is not a means of communication
But are simply what they are
Their peculiar nature can be known
Just by looking straight at them
And not by thinking about them.
Language is an environment in which we live
A peculiar scent we breathe
Which hangs in the air all around us
Our ambient light
It has no more to do with communication in its essence.
Than water is about communication to a fish.
Who else is there to communicate with?
Somebody besides you, perhaps?
The work on sound symbolism began back then
I felt compelled to simply classify words
I had no idea what I was looking for
I classified words like a musician plays scales
Except that I had no reason for doing it
And gradually out of this immersion
Certain things became clearer.
Suddenly I would see something specific about the nature of the fricatives.
Then I would perhaps see that there are indeed universal linguistic primitives
But that some of them naturally must lie within language itself
That they are, in fact, the sounds
Or more accurately Sound
Sound is the water
And we pour it into various containers
To produce various languages
Speaking is essentially an aesthetic enterprise
Even when we try to pin language down
And exploit it most mercilessly.
We think such crimes against language are less heinous
Than crimes against our fellow man.
I'm certain that they are the same crime.
And have the same source.
Anyhow, it seems like I see language
more clearly than I see other things
And it's curious to me
That what motivates me is not anything rational
But just a sense
That in the workaday world isn't even held to be real
And yet it is that which drives the dynamo
Other random thoughts on life and the nature of things
Margo's Magical Letter Page