American Linguist Quotes
If only there were a lexicographer of Liang Shih-ch'iu's ability who also had the perspicuity to arrange his dictionary by sound rather than radical! … No wonder most of us are so sour and gray by the time we reach fifty! The amount of time consumed and the spirit expended in this sort of meaningless, not to mention destructive, type of activity is beyond calculation.
A community is known by the language it keeps, and its words chronicle the times. Every aspect of the life of a people is reflected in the words they use to talk about themselves and the world around them. As their world changes — through invention, discovery, revolution, evolution, or personal transformation — so does their language.
William Carlos Williams, late in his long life, had a dream: He saw an enormous spiral staircase in empty space, and his father slowly descending toward him. When he reached the bottom, his father walked over, looked him in the eye and said: You know those poems you're writing? They're no good.
Electronic brains may help us to use our heads but will not excuse us from that duty, and as to our hearts-cardiograms cannot diagnose what may be most ill about them, or confirm what may be best. The faithful woman and the versatile brave man, the wakeful intelligence open to inspiration or grace-these are still exemplary for our kind, as they always were and always will be.
Heart weeps. Head tries to help heart. Head tells heart how it is, again: You will lose the ones you love. They will all go. But even the earth will go, someday. Heart feels better, then. But the words of head do not remain long in the ears of heart. Heart is so new to this. I want them back, says heart. Head is all heart has. Help, head. Help heart.
As a scientist, objectivity is one of my most deeply held values. If we could just try harder, I once thought, surely we could each see the world as others see it and learn to respect one another's views more readily. But I learned from the Pirahas, our expectations, our culture, and our experiences can render even perceptions of the environment nearly incommensurable cross-culturally.