The functions of language - PART 2
Sometimes people use words just for the pleasure of hearing or making the sounds, or for other effects. It can be phrases, jokes, tongue-twisters, songs, even really silly songs like ”Pineapple pen”. Remember when that song first aired? Yeah, the whole world does because people of all ages enjoyed the silliness and it gave pleasure just to irritate others.
The power of human voice is engaged in various ways. This use of language could encompass any of the entire range of sounds that the human voice is capable of making. The power of sound is a driving force behind us all. Think about a group of labourers who chant while working or the great power from spectators’ voices at a soccer match. Although deafening and not communicating one-on-one at all, it still makes sense.
In some instances, a belief in the magical or sacred power of language plays a big role in some religious contexts. In other cases, using language in this way has the effect of bringing about a new psychological or social reality. Consider the following:
”I now pronounce you husband and wife”
”I baptise you…”
”I swear to tell the truth…”
This type of language is used to do or to change something. Somehow, pronouncing a certain verbal formula makes an occasion “real”. However, when someone uses language to do or change something, what is said may not always be called “true” or “untrue”, since the words spoken may not always be a statement of fact.
Why is it sometimes important to extract a promise from someone, and to actually hear them speak the words ”I promise…?” Why, in many countries, does a witness in court have to verbally take an oath before giving evidence? Do these situations reflect our deeply-rooted belief that words somehow have the power to bind the speaker to their promise or oath? Is this how we have been conditioned (whether good or bad)? Is it wrong? Is it right? I don’t know, but’s it’s powerful indeed!
A difficult issue arises in a workplace, where an employee believes his/her rights have been infringed upon. When investigating the case, the employer consults lawyers who study the laws embodied in the Constitution. The Constitution contains highly organized, clear, and explicit information, which has been written down to serve as a guide for all citizens. What use of language is the Constitution? This is a very important use of language in society and is obviously linked to the development of writing. It’s purpose is to record facts and to state guidelines. It’s communicating a solution to problems that (is supposed to be) fair.