Tuesday, 16 June 2015
After Babel: Aspects of language and translation, 3rd Ed.,
George Steiner, OUP, 1998, page 135-136
Steiner has previously commented that the distance between a writer and a reader may be more than geographic or language - time is also involved.
A cognate duality marks the coexistence of language and of time. There is a sense, intuitively compelling, in which language occurs in time. Every speech act, whether it is an audible utterance or only voiced innerly, 'takes time' - itself a suggestive phrase. It can be measured temporally.
That seems obvious, when you think about it, of course. But language - speech - shares more characteristics with time.
It shares with time the sensation of the irreversible, of that which streams away from us, 'backward', in the moment in which it is realised. As I think my thought, time passes; it passes again as I articulate it. The spoken word cannot be called back. Becuase language is expressive action in time, there can be no unsaying, only denial or contradiction, which are themselves forward motions.