Extrapolation

Reversals and Paradoxes

China Miéville’s Anti-Language

Extrapolation (2015), 56, (3), 335–352.

Abstract

China Miéville’s Embassytown explores the nature of language through the warped mirror of an alien Language (capitalized). Human language and Ariekei’s Language share a number of properties but the latter does not allow its speakers to express anything contrary to fact. Nor does it allow for “real” thinking, which only emerges when the Ariekei transform from Language-speakers to language-speakers. Being an asemantic, asymbolic, non-signifying, and non-metaphorical system of communication, Language is claimed here to be an example of “anti-language” (in a redefined sense), a perversion of the very essence of natural human language. In an analogous, redefined non-evaluative sense, the Ariekei are “anti-humans,” a species lacking the very nature of humanness: free thought.

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Harré, Rom and Vernon Reynolds, eds. The Meaning of Primate Signals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Print. The Meaning of Primate Signals Google Scholar

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Langacker, Ronald W. Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print. Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction Google Scholar

Le Guin, Ursula. “Embassytown by China Miéville—review.” The Guardian. 7 May 2011. n. pag. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. Embassytown by China Miéville—review. The Guardian Google Scholar

Leezenberg, Michiel. Contexts of Metaphor. ILLC Dissertation Series 1995–17. Amsterdam: Institute for Language, Logic and Computation, University of Amsterdam, 1995. Print. Contexts of Metaphor 1995 17 Google Scholar

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Miéville, China. The City and The City. Macmillan, 2009. Print. The City and The City Google Scholar

Miéville, China. UnLun Dun. Macmillan, 2007. Print. UnLun Dun Google Scholar

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Pielevin, Victor. The Sacred Book of the Werewolf: A Novel. Trans. Andrew Bromfield. New York: Viking Penguin, 2008. Print. (Russian orig. 2004). The Sacred Book of the Werewolf: A Novel Google Scholar

Pinkard, Carolyn. Lies that Tell the Truth. A Book of and about Metaphor. San Jose, New York, Lincoln and Shanghai: Writer’s Showcase, 2000. Print. Lies that Tell the Truth. A Book of and about Metaphor Google Scholar

Podgórecki, Adam. “Second Life” and Its Implications, 1973. Mimeograph. Second Life “Second Life” and Its Implications Google Scholar

Richards, I. A. The Philosophy of Rhetoric. New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1936. Print. The Philosophy of Rhetoric Google Scholar

Saintedmad. “Unlanguage My Love”. Ink Circus, 2013. n. pag. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. Unlanguage My Love Google Scholar

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Shippey, Tom. “Impossible Cities.” The Wall Street Journal, 14 May 2011. n. pag. Web. 9 Apr. 2014. Impossible Cities. The Wall Street Journal Google Scholar

Swift, Jonathan. Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. London: Benjamin Motte, 1726. Print. Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. Google Scholar

Thao, Trân Duc. Investigations into the Origin of Language and Consciousness. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1984. Print. Investigations into the Origin of Language and Consciousness Google Scholar

Ullmann, Stephen. Précis de Sémantique Française. 3rd ed. Berne: A. Francke, 1965. Print. Précis de Sémantique Française Google Scholar

Vance, Jack. The Languages of Pao. New York: Avalon Books, 1958. Print. The Languages of Pao Google Scholar

Varella, Adriana. Unlanguage. Interactive installation. 2012. n. pag. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. Unlanguage Google Scholar

Vygotsky, Lev S. Thought and Language. Ed. Alex Kozulin. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1986 [1934]. Print. Thought and Language Google Scholar

Whitney, William Dwight. Language and Language Study: Twelve Lectures on the Principles of Linguistic Science. New York: Dover Publication, 1875. Print. Language and Language Study: Twelve Lectures on the Principles of Linguistic Science Google Scholar

Whorf, Benjamin Lee. “Linguistics as an Exact Science.” Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Ed. John B. Carroll. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1956 [1940]. 220–232. Print. Linguistics as an Exact Science. Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. 220 232 Google Scholar

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. TractatusLogico-Philosophicus. Trans. C. K. Ogden. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., Ltd., New York: Harcout, Brace & Company Ltd., 1922 [1921]. Print. TractatusLogico-Philosophicus Google Scholar

York, Tripp. The Devil Wears Nada. Satan Exposed. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011. Print. The Devil Wears Nada. Satan Exposed Google Scholar

Zebrowski, George. “The Word Sweep.” The Road to Science Fiction. Vol. 4. From Here to Forever. Ed. James Gunn. Lanham, Maryland and Oxford: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003 [1979]. 458–467. Print. The Word Sweep. The Road to Science Fiction. Vol. 4. From Here to Forever 458 467 Google Scholar

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Głaz, Adam