Tuesday, June 22, 2010
post by Jennifer Carter
In college I was always intrigued by the idea of linguistics. Webster defines it simply as the study of human speech including the units, nature, structure, and modification of language.
When I think of it though, I do so more in terms of linguistic anthropology, and the way language is so much a part of culture. But which came first, the language or the culture? On the one hand we manipulate or modify our language to suit our needs and change with society. On the other, language can limit our accounts of experience because we only know so many words.
Then there's the matter of dialect--presumably the same language but with differences so pronounced it becomes a thing of its own, seemingly derived from the landscape. It's a beautiful thing, I think, to picture the globe and turn the sound up on the thousands of languages and dialects spoken every day in cultures so different from ours.
As a new writer I struggle often with that daunting task of "finding my voice." But as I picture that global view and begin to zoom back in on my own country, state, city, house, and writing chair, I start to feel like finding my voice is not so much a hurdle I have to cross as a writer, but a responsibility. It's a responsibility to use the language I inherited and tell stories so that (hopefully) others can read them, both while I'm here and after I'm gone.
How long did it take to find your voice? And how did you know you'd found it?