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II. Words of Power


Thinking about thinking results in uncomfortable feedback - DEPERSONALIZATION - and talking about talk results in a lot of hot air; but there are words of power with which you can escape this vicious circle. For instance, very often what we really mean by ‘alphabet’ is a particular language’s Inventory of Phonemes. It’s a sort of list in the grammatical coding of a language that indicates which phonemes (what we erroneously refer to as ‘letters’) are recognized as phonological building blocks. To talk intelligently about phonemes (a.k.a. ‘feature bundles’) you have to get into Feature Theory, which has to do with those features of a phoneme that are ‘distinctive’ (i.e, acknowledged) as opposed to purposely ignored by the grammar. To illustrate: a distinctive feature may be the use of both lips (bilabial) when you say the first ‘letter’ (phoneme) of ‘blarney’. Three other distinctive features of that phoneme may be, firstly, the vocal cords vibrating (voicing), and, secondly, its being articulated with a complete stoppage of the air-stream (non-continuant) before, thirdly, the air is let go through the mouth (oral as opposed to nasal). But what was not a distinctive feature was whether or not air continued to stream out of the mouth for a markedly long time after the stoppage was let go of. Yet in another language (e.g, Sanskrit and its derivatives Hindi and Urdu) that last feature (aspiration) would have been distinctive! In other words, in Sanskrit et al there would not just be that phoneme we can represent with, say, the letter B, but that phoneme B plus another phoneme, which we can represent as BH.
If you pin something down with a label, one of two things can happen: (1)You may be effectively grasping — taking hold of — that something with your intellect. What could be more empowering? On the other hand: (2)You may find you yourself grasped — in the clutches of — a shoddy representation of reality. The difference between (1) and (2) is that between a compliment and an insult, between a blessing and a curse, between empowerment and oppression…
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