Is it significant to differ between signifier and signified? Isn't it already obvious that a written sign, a language symbol, a letter or a word, a line,
a dot, a sound or any other element of speech isn't the same as the object denoted? I think we all know that we could live without language, not at this
level of civilization, but somehow we would survive. Would we? Wouldn't this include the necessity of being alone? Because language isn't just what this
special term would mean. Language, or better: communication, can be anything from a gesture to a poem, including every form of expression.
Language is the only way for a species to exist as a community or simply to interact. There would be no necessity for communication between a cat and a
mouse; they would know their role as prey and hunter. But for a group of cats it would be something completely different: They have to communicate, to
define their own individual areas of interest, to signal their willingness to mate, to teach their offsprings some necessary things. Communication is the
basis of social behavior firstly amongst the members of one species.
But it can also be of significance for members of different species: Except the cat-mouse example, except from the merely food-chain relationships within
the animate world, there can be other interactions between different species, for instance if different kinds of birds shared their living space with
each other. Or, of course, the relationship between a human and their pet, or between the pets, between cats and dogs. A cat might not talk or speak, but it can communicate with humans, and humans can communicate with cats. When I interact with our cat, there is not even the need of verbal articulation, he and I can very well share a moment together, feeling and perceiving through visual or other senses what the other wants or thinks.
But could I share complex thoughts with someone who had no concept of signs, of language as we know it, of verbal or written articulation? It would be quite complicated, if not impossible, for a species to make progress and work together without developing a set of signs for communication. Language, complex language, is the basis for all organized interaction on a larger scale - if this organization structure is not prescribed or supported by genetics, as in the case of ants of bees. They have a sort of social structure, but their structure is limited to just this one concept, there is no individual development, they act like drones (no pun intended, well, perhaps a little one), they aren't able to overcome the given structure. They have no active descriptions of their own, their world is fixed - at least, as far as we now know.
For living communities, for those bound on complex communication, it is necessary to share descriptions, to make explorations and inventions known, to
organize an exchange. Contact with another civilization has always brought progress. Or, simplier and much more personal, learning a foreign language,
learning about a foreign culture leads to an imput of new concepts, new ideas as every language (now I really mean language in its usual context),
as every single language means another view of reality. For a present-day language learner, this might be a one-sided experience, but for a first contact
situation this would mean that the very attempt to communicate could and will create a strong bond, a productive exchange of concepts and descriptions. And
in the end, this might very well be why we are here: To perceive this world and find descriptions for it as already described in Genesis 2,19:
And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof .
July 7th, 1998