Archive for Language

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Searching for the Dao

This post presents some ideas about the Dào (“Way”) as described in the Dàodéjīng (“Book of the Way and its Virtue”), that legend claims was composed by Lǎozī in the 5th Century BCE. The Dào cannot be explained in words. But that has never stopped anyone from writing about it.

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Thoughts on the Kaballah

The Kabbalah is a body of Jewish thought based on mystical insight into the nature of God and an imaginative interpretation of the Torah. The word itself means “received.” According to legend this special knowledge was imparted by God either to Adam in Eden or to Moses on Sinai, and handed down thereafter from generation to generation to an enlightened few, who preserved the received wisdom and taught it to their students. This post presents some thoughts about the Kabbalah from someone who, though neither Jewish nor fluent in Hebrew, is fascinated by the intricacy of its ideas. 

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The Changing English Language

The purpose of a language is to communicate with our fellows. All languages must change to fit the times. New words become necessary. Old words take on new meanings. The way in which words are put together evolves. The rules we learnt as children do not last forever.

In the preface to his seven-volume A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles (1909-1949), the great Danish linguist Otto Jespersen remarked

It has been my endeavour in this work to represent English Grammar not as a set of stiff dogmatic precepts, according to which some things are correct and others absolutely wrong, but as something living and developing under continual fluctuations and undulations, something that is founded on the past and prepares the way for the future, something that is not always consistent or perfect, but progressing and perfectible – in one word, human.

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