THE WORD IN LANGUAGE: A PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY by Jonathan Dunne
This is a book about meaning, the presence of God, in language. We use words every day and we give them a common meaning, one that is generally accepted by all the participants in a conversation. We study language, words, as evolving over time, and our vision of life is very time-based: it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But there is another—vertical—aspect to language, a meaning that the words themselves contain. We find this horizontal (time-based) and vertical aspect in the process of translation. To translate a text, we must first prepare a text: that is, read the text, look up unfamiliar words, consult the author or an expert where the meaning is unclear to us. This occurs over time and is horizontal. But the process of translation itself is vertical, it cuts through time, it is somehow outside of time, it is a continuous outbreath that can last weeks or months.
Language is studied horizontally, words are said to evolve over time. This is the science of etymology. But there is a vertical aspect to language: the meaning the words themselves contain. If we take them apart, if we jumble the letters, if we apply certain rules, we can begin to discern this meaning. The rules are fixed: we may read the letters in the same order or in a different order (for example, back to front); we may apply changes to the letters according to the rules of phonetics, where sounds are pronounced in the mouth; we may apply changes according to the letters’ position in the alphabet and according to their appearance. And we may add letters.
We will then find that language contains information about God, where we come from, where we are going, the environment, the economy, the way we lead our lives. For example, the word God is only a step in the alphabet (d–e) from ego. This should make us sit up. We have a choice in this life: to follow our own selfish impulses or to submit to the divine will. The word self, in reverse, if we add the letter h, reads flesh (it must go the way of all flesh); if we add the letter a, it reads false (we may find that its impulses do not lead us in a good direction), and, if we apply the phonetic pair f–v (one of seven phonetic pairs), we find that false gives slave. The self enslaves us.
But if we compare the lower-case letter l to an upper-case I, which is the pronoun used to talk about the ego in English (I), and take the ego out of the equation, then slave can be reduced to save. In a similar way, if we apply the phonetic pairs f–v and l–r, then self can give rise to serve (with addition of final e).
These are just examples, but they go some way to showing that there is meaning in language. I believe that this is a field that hasn’t been studied. I believe that we are somehow blind in front of language, we use the words, but we don’t see them, in the same way as we live in the world, but fail to recognize the Creator. We need our spiritual sight to be restored, so that we can begin to see the connections.
And there is a clear progression in language from the letter A, which represents Creation (AM, Adam), to the letter I, which represents the Fall (the ego), to the letter O, where the I (the eye) is opened, and we come to a realization (“O!”). This represents repentance. The progression from A to I to O can be found both inside words and between words. For example, we find it inside the word that describes a particle of matter: atom. Here, the I has had a line drawn through it (†, that is the symbol of the Cross, which is a deleted ego), and the O is written in both English (O) and Greek (W).
We find it between words in, for example, the progression from the name of God in Exodus 3.14, AM, to the more selfish I’m, to the word om, which is a mantra, but can be said to represent the Holy Trinity (O3). We find the latter part of the progression—I to O—between the words live/evil and love, or sin and son.
Language—the English language—clearly points us to Christ as the Messiah, as the Son of God, and to Mary as his Mother. It also serves as a basis for an understanding of the Holy Trinity: three in ONE. I discuss this in chapter 7. It points us to believe, a combination of the words belly and Eve: “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7.38). This verse is relevant because the word for “heart” in Ancient Greek is “belly” (κοιλίας), and because in Hebrew Eve resembles the word for living. So the truth of what Christ is saying is contained in the word believe.
Why should we be surprised by this? Isn’t Christ the Word? Just as we may discover God in the environment around us, in other people, who are made in his image, so we can find him in language.
As well as a short course in how to apply the rules for making word connections (chapters 2–5), in chapter 6, I give a more positive interpretation of the Fall—the only way the body of the Church could be formed with our involvement—and, as translation (an outbreath) can be likened to death, so in chapter 8 I suggest that death can be seen as a form of translation, when we are spoken into eternity. Christ became incarnate not only to translate for us the meaning of life in the parables (parable is connected to Braille by the phonetic pair b–p, it is writing for the spiritually blind), but also to translate us at our death. He could only do this by becoming a translator himself, which is the essence of human life. We are translators, because things pass through us, they do not begin with us. Most of the problems in this world derive from our wish to be authors, our claim that things begin with us and we own them, but here we are taking on a role that belongs to God, the Author.
English is the world language, it is spoken and understood by millions of people. But as with so much in this world, we simply use it when it suits us without seeing it for what it is. This book attempts to chip away the dirt on the surface in order to reach the fossil underneath and discover our origins and purpose as they are set forth in words.
Sofia, Bulgaria, 23 January 2021
The Word in Language: A Personal Philosophy by Jonathan Dunne is forthcoming. To receive information about the publication of this book, please join my Email List.
For a series of articles and photographs based on this book, please go to Word Articles.
For information about my previous book, Stones Of Ithaca, please go to Stones Of Ithaca (2019).
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