I'm not at all clear why you see this as a questionable conversation
since it has to do with fundamental issues of linguistics, but I agree
with your claims here about the conventional status of word and meaning
and the centrality of context or syntax. Diana will have to say what
she meant by the words she cites, but symbolizing the pre-verbal seems
rather like an oxymoron to me.
>>> Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> 07/22/07 2:46 PM >>>
Nancy Gish wrote:
> Interjections are not half-verbalizations; they are words. They
> function as morphemes, that is, sounds that carry meaning on their
> The Chicago Manual Style defines an interjection as "a word, phrase,
> clause that denotes strong feeling" and, as I noted before, as
> grammatically independent of the rest of the sentence."
> The CMS also distinguishes between "Oh" and "the vocative O, a form of
> classically stylized direct address. . . as in "O Jerusalem!" None of
> this is the pre-verbal; it is the verbal and is quite clearly part of
> the realm of the symbolic, not babbling of sounds and not image
> linguistic difference.
I've never been on an e-list (literary or otherwise) or (I think) even
in a casual conversation where so much time has to be spent in arguing
that yes black cats are cats. That anyone should suggest that any letter
combination in a poem is other than a word, a word first, last, and
always, is baffling. I mean shouldn't it be too obvious to require
comment that the first word in the following line is a symbol, and that
all its effects depend on the reader being familiar with it as a part of
Gr-r-r - there go, my heart's abhorrence!
The connection of that sound with anger is conventional in English, not
a direct effect of the sound.
In general, it depends on cognitive content to give significance to any
sound. Onomatopoeia in fact is almost always, probably always, dependent
on being somehow labelled as such:
What? like Sir _Richard_, rumbling, rough and fierce,
With ARMS, and GEORGE, and BRUNSWICK crowd the verse?
Rend without tremendous Sound your ears asunder,
With Gun, Drum, Trumpet, Blunderbuss & Thunder?
Those all caps crowd the verse only because Pope _tells_ us that they
are crowding the verse; the nasals, d's and r's are tremendous sounds
which rend our ears only because Pope tells us that they are.
Complex texts, verse or prose, literary or discursive, achieve their
complexity by the relations established within the text, and relations,
unlike the things related, need to be thought not observed:
Never, never, never, never, never.
By itself that line is nothing; it takes the whole of King Lear to give
significance _or sound 'value'_ to the repetition of the word. The
extravagantly articulate Lear has been reduced to inarticulateness, but
the inarticulateness of the line would lead no one, I hope, to claim
that here "Never" was pre-verbal. But like "Gr-r-r" in Browning it _is_
a symbol of the pre-verbal! That is "Gr-r-r" has to be seen first as a
word, a semantic/symbolic element, before it can be "non-verbal."
Perhaps that is what Diana wants to claim. That certain words in TWL
symbolize pre-verbal content. That of course happens all the time in
speaking and writing.
P.S. It's interesting how so often one notes a feature of a line or
passage for the first time when typing it out. I'd never focused on the
g's, h's, and r's in Browning's first line before.