To begin with language can be defined as ‘use of words in agreed way as means of human communication, communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols. Thus, it follows that the structure of language restricts thought, which is part of the process of acquiring knowledge, and therefore knowledge. An inference can therefore be drawn that there would be no loss in the fidelity of information as it gets transmitted from one human to another. To understand better let me take an example of the data formats in computers. In computers, information is represented as data encoded in specific formats. Software must be able to understand the format in order to process it. Therefore there are standards that govern the format in which data is represented. Most of the documents on the web, for example, are encoded in HTML. Since it is standardized, web browsers merely have to conform to the standard in order to process the document as display it on your screen. The same is the case for language. A language is a standard in that it has certain words that mean certain things, and its grammatical structure that strings words together into more complex sentences. However, language is not a syntax that is purposefully created whole then agreed upon. It is something that forms a part of the culture. Language grows. People invent certain words and ways of stringing them together, and they use these languages with some people. The language spreads, undergoes changes, and encounters other languages. Therefore we have a problem in that the syntax of language is not certain to be definite An example would be old texts, where even though the same word might be used, the meaning of it as the writer intended, or people of their time interpreted may be different.
The essay title states that language forms the main thread in all of the ways of knowing. Then how is it that a small child who can’t speak contain knowledge even without being able to communicate with language? Very young children are able to grasp new concepts of the world around them, purely by observation and perception. In conclusion, we can say that language have some bearing on the way we perceive things. Similarly, at many instances we do things merely on our instincts. Let me give an example of a real life incident that I read in a magazine. A boy was going with his friends to a hill station for a picnic. They were waiting for the bus and when the bus came the boy suddenly got a very uncomfortable feeling of getting into the bus. He felt that he and his friends shouldn’t travel by that bus. He some how persuaded his friends to take the next bus. Another day there was news that that same bus had met an accident and fallen from over a bridge killing each and every passenger in the bus. Here, there was no language as a way of knowing. It was merely the boy’s instinct that made him uncomfortable- an emotion of not travelling in the bus. In the same way when we do something wrong, we know it because we feel guilty or if we like someone we just feel it by emotion of love. Hence, emotions play a part in our way of knowing.
The thing to consider in the above situation is that we reason on the basis of our emotion and perception. But, for reasoning – a man’s tool for understanding – we need some kind of medium. As I asked before that a child who can’t speak can acquire knowledge by perception. However he understands this perception by reasoning out. This reasoning is carried out by the brain. The child then knows about things in his own language unless he grows up and learns language spoken by us and thus gets acquainted with what the things are called. Here, the child gained knowledge through perception and reasoning in his own language but when he learnt the language he gained knowledge about what things are named.
The power of naming things gives man the knowledge about things which helps it to describe it. Thus it is ultimately language as it is a medium to understand things and communicate.
It is true that language controls the "knowing" of the other ways of knowing, yet without the other ways of knowing there wouldn't be much of understanding as language itself has many barriers and POK’s. For eg, A bird has feathers and hence he can fly. On the same basis you can argue that a pillow also has feathers and hence he can fly. But, we know by reasoning that pillow being a non-living thing it can’t fly. This is also because we have seen a pillow.
Reason is something you develop through reflection and consideration of what you perceive or through emotion and you use language when you reflect (reason)on it, but indirectly. Hence to conclude language dosen’t direct emotion, perception and reason but is simply a means of knowing.