Autistic Songs

Alan Griswold


Previous Table of Contents Next

Linguistics for Autistics

Language is the use of a biologically immediate artifact to represent something not biologically immediate.


Almost any material artifact can serve the purpose of conveying language—gestures, sound, nudges, smears in the mud. The larynx was convenient, but not essential.


Since the locus of language is the external, material world (not the inside of our human skull) language remains open to any life-form. If a species does not use language, it is because that species has nothing to say.


Humans had nothing to say for an incredibly long period of time—this species passed the better part of its existence locked inside its biological immediacy.


What is crucial about language is not its material form, but rather its representational form. That is what connects biological immediacy to conceptual distance.


If you are aware of a pattern, then you are aware of time. If you are aware of symmetry, then you are aware of space. But how do you inform your neighbor?


Among other things, language was a solution to autistic loneliness.


One cannot deceive within one's own biological immediacy. Deception is a consequence of language.


Not only is deception a consequence of language, it is an essential feature of language. The means by which one conveys biologically removed events are also the means by which one conveys biologically removed non-events.


As with nearly every other autism-inspired invention, non-autistics quickly co-opted language for their own use and bent it to their own purpose. And as with nearly every other instance of non-autistic pilferage, the results have been stunningly prodigious.


Chomsky was doing just fine when he approached linguistics as a branch of logic. He went awry when he began approaching linguistics as a branch of science.


The underlying structure of language (Chomsky's universal grammar) reflects the structure of the non-biological world: space and time, stasis and change, mass and energy. The underlying structure of language arises from autistic perception.


Language always acts (represents) in the here and now. Persistent forms of language—such as writing—convey the material of language across space and time, but the sending and receiving still occur within someone's biological immediacy.


Although autistic perception launched human language and gave it its underlying structure, non-autistic perception soon provided a hefty adornment—language gained its biological and social girth practically overnight.


Pronouns are superfluous to language, as is gender—but try convincing the ninety-nine percent who would feel empty without them.


What value is you and I, we and they, he, she and it, when a proper noun would serve just as well? (That is a question asked by someone not strongly attached to the species.)


Small talk is a reminder of this speciesí former days, when language itself would have been superfluous. Subtext was once all we had, and all we needed.


Autistic children grow up to a language that has been corrupted—the biological and social adornments constantly throw them off.


Autistic and non-autistic individuals are both exceedingly logical—just not in the same way.


Mathematics, logic, science—these are all salves against deception, and as such belong under the umbrella of language, not the umbrella of the objective world.


An artifact of language can be used to represent language itself, but it is almost never wise to do so. Meta-language is a misuse of the tool.


Language is not an instinct. Even less so is it a human instinct. What most children have an instinct for is to do what other humans do.


There are no language modules inside the human brain—just the magical thinking modules of linguistics professors and cognitive scientists.


Together with self-reflecting mirrors and obsessive masturbators, Steven Pinker reminds us that expansive vision is possible only because cognitively diverse people have the wherewithal to get beyond themselves.

Copyright © 2011 by Alan Griswold
All rights reserved.