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#352010 - 09/17/08 04:52 PM Words Are Spells
Butterball Offline

Registered: 08/24/08
Posts: 101
Words Are Spells
My first official essay on magic.

Imagine a world wherein primitive humans had not yet verbalized communication. Those humans had tools. They could make fire. They could make weapons. They could make clothing. They traveled in tribes. We're masters of the greatest magic of all: the harsh reality of nature. (What nearly every civilized human is sheltered from.)

An alpha male of these pre-historic tribes was the most adept hunter, the most feared man. His wife, the alpha female, was the craftiest child-bearer. He had to make a killing and she had to spend his net earnings wisely. It was the magic of survival. In a world such as that, death was the alternative to Mastery.

People pointed at first. Without words one had to draw attention to whatever was of importance to the person who was trying to communicate something. If a man wanted to take his tribe hunting he had to point towards the hunting grounds and emit the emotion that hunting required. Without words it was exactly like charades. So, "Let's go hunting." was probably a war cry, a thump on the chest, a show of weapons and a point in the right direction.

As humans became smarter and acquired more technology, they utilized everything that they possibly could. Evolution is like chaos in all directions, magma deep in a volcanic mountain chain... flowing through every conceivable opening. Evolution doesn't break through barriers, it seeps through the cracks.

Humans could make sounds. Humans could communicate information. Someone somewhere in pre-history had a light bulb flash in their head, everything clicked, and one fateful night while roasting a mammoth flank over a large pile of blazing cinders, that one genetically fortunate human jumped up, pointing, and shouted, “Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!” Until he was sure his tribe was sufficiently trained to understand the sound he was making in conjunction with his pointing.

The next day, while the tribe was busy doing what tribes do, the magician returned. He waved his arms up in the air to simulate flickering flames. “Fire!” He shouted! The tribespeople ghasped. The magician summoned fire in their minds. They all wondered how he was able to do so. After some time the people were able to copy him and repeat the word without the use of charades. And from that point on they kept inventing words.

Words are spells. Use them wisely.
Mastery - NOT masochism
I'm lending you my light.

#352056 - 09/18/08 06:39 AM Language's Promethean Spark. [Re: Butterball]
Linguascelesta Offline

CoS Warlock

Registered: 11/01/05
Posts: 2352
Loc: Europa
While your interpretation of paleophonetics is somewhat... imaginative (which is fair enough, as the first word of your essay suggests this, and implies you've not actually researched the history of language as best we know it), I do agree with your overall point.

Most of the oldest words we know of are onomatopoeic, by the way. Words didn't come from nowhere in a flash of inspiration, as you suggest. In the case of "fire", note how most languages even down to the present day have a "f" sound commencing, like the fffffff sound a fire makes while burning.

In the case of the oldest language we know of, Sumerian (only 6,000 years old, but they invented writing, so that's about as far back as we can go), the word for "fire" is "izi".

Bear in mind that "z" and "f" are phonologically linked, being both fricative consonants, each easily transubstantiated into the other; this happens so much in the evolution of language that it has a colloquial name, "consonantal drift" (the alternate equivalent is equally humourously known colloquially as a "vowel movement").

Similarly the cuneiform for the word "izi" is essentially a stylised ideograph that, when turned on its side (most Sumerian words need to be turned on their side to see the ideograph; this is due to their manner of writing) depicts a bonfire with smoke rising from it.

But yes, words are a considerable implement of magic.


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