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Language of the Gods

[First published in Taproot Reviews.]

Language evolves in much the same way as any other organic form evolves. Given a special environment, language adapts itself. It mutates to survive. It creates new forms--words and phrases--which allow it to function in the specialized environment.

Our society contains many specialized languages: technical, academic, bureaucratic, political, medical, and many others. Most of us use one or more of these languages every day. We speak computerese at work, sports with friends, politics over dinner. Each one of these specialized languages allows human beings within a particular environment--and this environment may only be a mental one--to successfully communicate.

Like individual plant species existing in widely differing climates, these specialized languages differ greatly from one another, almost as greatly as one language differs from another language. Like plants too, these languages do not long survive when removed from their environments. Some of them make no or little sense except when used in a very particular context. A cactus will not last long in water. An academic will not be understood in a factory.

But just as plants can be hybridized to create new species, so can specialized languages be combined to form something that at least resembles new languages. An example. Take a medical dictionary, the glossary from an astronomy textbook, and an encyclopedia article on the automobile. Now make a cut-up text from this material. You can cut the columns of text down the middle and recombine them at random. You can fold the text or blot out sections or cut the text into small fragments. Intermingle the various specialized languages until they form a new, more complex and enigmatic language of their own.

Notice how the cut-up technique resembles the grafting technique used by gardeners?

Your cut-up text will not really be a new language. Far too specialized for human communication, the language you create will be more like those rarefied hothouse flowers which need constant attention and just the proper conditions to survive at all. A mutant. Entirely impractical for utilitarian purposes. And yet, even hothouse flowers have their uses. They are beautiful, exotic, unearthly.

While your cut-up text will not be a new language, it will provide bits and glimpses of a new language, just as grafting an arctic tree, an underwater flower, and a tropical vine will provide a glimpse of a species of plant hitherto unseen and unsuspected, and definitely outside the natural evolutionary cycle.

Combining specialized languages, then, is a means to create a language that goes beyond the ordinary and useful. To create a language, perhaps, able to express emotions and urges as yet inexpressible by ordinary language.

A language of the gods. Or of the demons.

--Thomas Wiloch