What Does the Language Build? On Language and Communal Life

“Even if a bird exists
with no other parts to be shot but its heart,
If getting shot is what breaks the locks, and not the strike,
A man stands up over his own inquiry,
He’s searching. Is Yusuf nothing but a mirror?

 

Intricate, doubtful, stranger
The more a man becomes himself
the more dissimilar he becomes.”

 

(İsmet Özel)

We are living among the realities built on humanitarian and communal planes. This field includes money, companies, all institutions, possession, social classes, marriage/divorce, races, genders, works, artworks, language and law, all of which are social realities built by humans. Their founding subjects are humans, beyond being things that came from the sky. Language has a clear position in all of them, it has a significant function in the process of the communal life. In this article, let’s try to focus on what a “built social reality” means, and what it stands for in our communal lives.

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A (new) field of thinking called social ontology includes a fundamental determination regarding the social objects’ entities of specific forms and levels. This field engages with the questions of how the references that are developed and have communal contents were formed, and the way they were practically reciprocated in the network of communal relationships. It can also be said that it is an analysis of “communal realities”. The expression “communal reality” is used to point out the “things” that find their original meanings within the communal order network.

The most essential criterion is the collective acceptance/recognizance of a central process required to be adapted, in order for a thing to achieve the status of reality within the flow of communal life practices. The fact that a claim or concept being put forward turns into a reality or thing that is built collectively does not achieve the status of a built reality without collective approval.

The existence of such a structure has both positive and negative sides. The good side is the fact that not everything that finds itself in the public sphere automatically achieves the status of reality. There is a communal process it has to go through. If we refer to a saying in Turkish, a thing may not become “reality” after it is uttered for forty times. The bad side, however, is the fact that not everything that has been through the process of communal approval is automatically good or true. The process of commonality/approval might have some mistakes during the naming processes. For example, branding of different levels or stereotyped judgments regarding people are formed this way. The fact that a thing, which come in sight, is formed through a common approval does not necessarily mean that the thing in question is always true. Commonalities on bad and wrong can be seen frequently.
Being a reality among realities that are produced depending on people who are fully in charge of their establishment, language has a different founding and determinant characteristic than other characteristics. Language has a founding function beyond being an ordinary characteristic within all these relationships. Built realities, such as money, possession, marriage, graduation, titles (“institutions” in English) are of a structure in which they cannot exist without it. In that aspect, it is required to pay special attention to language within the daily-communal life practices. Each title that is used points out specific responsibilities and impacts on human life.

The power in the meaning of the truths established by people through language mostly has various meanings and functions that are not related to it at all, beyond its physical aspects. For instance, the power of a 100 TL banknote in its field of use has a practically recognized function, which is accepted communally, rather than a physical power, or it includes the emphasis made beyond related specific point dates, and the creation of a meaning.

These are good examples of the variety of the communal realities that are built. For instance, specific dates, such as 14 July for the French society, 1 May for the world labor movement, 1 January for Christian communities, have meanings, which make them different than other days on the calendar page. In addition, they bear strong meanings built beyond those factors. Language established both the first and second powerful meanings on a communal basis.

Exceeding the characteristic of being an ordinary calendar day is a socially ontological event in full. It is established by the power of the language and shaped by the collective will. Language and communal life practices are integrated in that sense. These meanings enable “ordinary” days to go beyond their ordinariness, and give them their special meanings collectively within their own collectivism. This collectivism appears in the construction of reality, in its equation with language and recognition.

Language is a product of civilization. They are of an established structure; their producers are humans, or in a general sense, the entire humanity. Languages are the common heritage of humanity. Words, however, are products of the common mind of the humanity. A thing that exists in the nature does not have a peculiar, distinctive meaning; attitudes and behaviors of people are what make them meaningful and functional. Rain indubitably exists independently of people in the nature; nevertheless, the practical meaning emphasized by the phenomenon of rain is compulsorily communal. For instance, it not possible to mention marriage in the nature, as this is a practical name given by the civilization of humans. Requirements lead to things, which lead to names.

In this sense, language-communal life-civilization of humans function all together. There is not a single thing of civilization object that is not characterized by people. Traces of humans and attempts on interpretation lie beneath all parts of the civilization.

All in all, they are a product of the necessities of humans that historically appeared through language. This is the glue that jointly establishes communal life. This glue not being a thing that sticks humans to the places where they are depends on its method of use. Establishing communal life over a general good would be good use of that glue. A language that is built through the elimination of branding, stereotypes and prejudice would be a tool in the process of improving the communal life even more.

Z. Soner Dinç
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