The Future of Language

“It is by a complementary shift of attention that one may suddenly come to hear the familiar song of a blackbird or a thrush in a surprisingly new manner—not just as a pleasant melody repeated mechanically, but as active, meaningful speech. Suddenly, subtle variations in the tone and rhythm of that whistling phrase seem laden with ex- pressive intention, and the two birds singing to each other across the field appear for the first time as attentive, conscious beings, earnestly engaged in the same world that we ourselves engage, yet from an astonishingly different angle and perspective.From such reflections we may begin to suspect that the complexity of human language is related to the com- plexity of the earthly ecology. Language, writes Merleau-Ponty, “is the very voice of the trees, the waves, and the forests.” As technological civilization diminishes the biotic diversity of the earth, language itself is diminished. As there are fewer and fewer songbirds in the air, due to the destruction of their forests and wetlands, human speech loses more and more of its evocative power. For when we no longer hear the voices of warbler and wren, our own speaking can no longer be nourished by their cadences. On the other hand, our speech is nourished by other human speeches (globalisation).”

Source, via Jasmine de Bruycker: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Lanugage in a More-than-human World.