Meaning of a word

Topics: Linguistics, Language, Word Pages: 4 (1126 words) Published: December 10, 2004
"Language is the subject. It is the written form with which I've managed to keep the wolf from the door, and in diaries, my sanity. In spite of this, I consider the written word inferior to the spoken, and much of the frustration experienced by novelists is the awareness that whatever we manage to capture in even the most transcendent passages falls far short of the richness of life. Dialogue achieves its power in the dynamics of a fleeting moment of sight, sound, smell and touch."

-excerpt taken from Gloria Naylor's 'The Meanings of a Word'.


The first sentence of this excerpt can have several interpretations, depending on which synonym of the word 'language' you choose to use. It could be her theme, her topic, her focus, the area that is under discussion. Language, for her, is the subject, the one she has used to support herself, the form she has employed to preserve her sanity. In the first part of her third sentence, Naylor states that she considers the written word inferior to the spoken in spite of her second sentence; it is second rate, of lesser importance than the words actually verbalized. For her, written words do not hold as much power as those that are spoken; she, and novelists like her, are aware that even the most descriptive and moving of passages do not fully capture a 'fleeting moment of sight, sound, smell and touch' the way dialogue does. Naylor is of the opinion that one simple gesture, scene, scent or sound achieves what a thousand words describing them cannot, and this is frustrating to her, hence, her statement, '...I consider the written word inferior to the spoken'.

I disagree with this idea and argue that the written word is superior to the spoken.

There is a phrase that says that 'the pen is mightier than the sword'. Taken in literal terms, this phrase is a physical impossibility. Obviously, he who wields the bigger, stronger sword would triumph over he who brings a flimsy pen to the fight, unless by some slim...
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