Monday, April 04, 2011

Truthfulness Language

In non-violent language a person works to say things that do not cause internal conflict. Marshall Rosenberg has set forth many strategies to going about doing this in his works, but I would like to in addition talk about the possibility of adding a truthfulness component to non-violent language. The practicality of such a way of speaking would mean serious changes to the grammar of the English language and therefore would make it not only awkward, but also alienating to some. This would be counterproductive towards the original intent of creating peace. Still though while the concept is not fit for this time, it needs to be explored and considered so that a complete system of peaceful language could one day be attained.

As human beings communicate the listener is constantly hearing each new word, fitting it into context and constantly predicting what the next word or even sentence might be. But in doing this, different possibilities arise, some of which are violent. One among many goals of a truthful language is to help curb this; that essentially by speaking in a truthful manner, a person might be qualifying sentences in a manner as to limit possible meanings, and therefore limit possible violent meanings.

The way this is done is by organizing the words in a sentence so that more important words come first, thereby restricting the meaning of the words that come after them. In doing this, the language also is more truthful. Let’s look at the following common expression.

Example 1:

A. Did you talk to your friend?

B. I didn’t talk to my friend.

In Example 1, the language is not truthful in many respects although this might be a very common thing to be heard and said. Here are some problems with the sentence. First of all considering the question, for a person to be a friend it is assumed that the two people must have communicated. So, immediately we know the question must not be taken literally and must be meant in context, but to understand a bit of language in context probably creates many different possibilities of meaning, some of which as I mentioned are violent. While one clear context might usually stand out as the clear meaning most of the time, it does not all of the time. Therefore, the question in this example would be much better qualified and could be taken much more literally by saying, “Today, did you talk to your friend?” Now a literal yes or no answer may be given. So by using the qualifying term of “today” the question now becomes more truthful and easier to answer.

The answer also needs to be qualified, although to a much greater extent. The problems with the answer are many fold. For instance, the sentence starts off with “I did……” But in the listeners mind at the point of hearing “I did” it would seem that the answer is going to be positive, only to quickly find out that it isn’t when the “n’t” is added negating the previous verb.

Furthermore, what if a third party enters the room after the question is ended but at the start of the answer and a person hears, “I didn’t talk”. Now the third party is hearing a person say they didn’t talk when they clearly are talking. This again causes some confusion because the literal truthfulness of this statement is in question and it must now be taken in context. To alleviate this, it would be better to qualify whom wasn’t talking before saying “not talking”, and before that to qualify the actors in the sentence to a certain time. This could be done in two ways by saying, “Today, my friend and I” or “My friend and I today.” But again for the sentence to be taken literally, then the negater should come before the verb and not after. Therefore an acceptable truthful way to answer would be, “Today, my friend and I not talked.”

As one can see, this is seriously rearranging the grammar of the English language and would meet resistance if practiced on unknowing participants. Still by setting a scene of actors, place, and time, and then going into actions that have taken place, a more truthful language that can be taken quite literally instead of contextually can be created and practiced ultimately causing less internal conflict and violence when trying to communicate.

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