"What You Say Is Who You Are" : Language and how it is used.

Essay by Dickson89College, Undergraduate October 2005

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Language is generally seen as a means for an individual to directly express him or herself in a way that will be universally understood by everyone. After all, language is merely a set of symbols understood to be representative of specific actions, objects and descriptions. The truth of the matter is, however, that language is not simply an objective means of description used by a society; it is a complex representation of the person speaking as well as his relationship with the person to whom his speech is directed, both of which are determined by the surrounding sociological conditions. Mikhail Bakhtin explains this phenomenon explicitly in Marxism and the Philosophy of Language.

Though language is intended to be a group of symbols with meanings to which everyone speaking the language has agreed, the comprehension of language use is different depending on the persons engaged in it. What is said by one person is bound to be interpreted differently when spoken by someone else.

Additionally, when one speaks, the understanding taken from that utterance by one person would be different from the understanding taken from another. As Bakhtin says, "word is a two-sided act" (Bakhtin 933). The meaning taken out of a remark is directly related to the relationship between the speaker and the addressee. Bakhtin compares a spoken word to "a bridge thrown between [one] and another... territory shared by both addresser and addressee" (Bakhtin 933). A word without both a speaker and an addressee is like a bridge without groundings on both sides. Foundations are needed on both sides of a bridge to keep it up and functional just as a speaker and a listener are needed to support a spoken word and to give it meaning.

The notion of a word's meaning being dependant on the addresser/addressee...