Beth Jervis


The Linguistic Taxonomy of Identity

Here follows an essay outlining this thinking. The essay was written in 2008:

I would be interested in exchanging with anyone who would like to explore this idea. 

 The linguistic taxonomy of Identity.


The lead up to the approach I am taking in this book needs some explaining. It basically stems from a very simple idea. The culmination of ingredients leading up to that Idea are a little more complex. 

I studied English language at GCSE and at A-level, which is where my approach to textual analysis comes in. I also have a broad spectrum of experiences under my belt for a person of my age, in just measure of my maturity. They range across the social spectrum from scouting to ballet, heritage houses to rugby, Art and the avant-garde to fishing, horses, mucking in, gruesome and ugly family goings on and time spent living amongst the British arch nemesis in identity, the French. As a child, and as I got older I have learnt to embrace my emerging conflictual identity, and slowly I have learnt not only to Love it, but also to exploit it. 

Of course, ‘Identity’ is all the rage in cultural studies, as we are urged across different areas of study to consider identity relations and their implications in language, behaviour, psychology, and in their many historical contexts. 

I personally am all for this new take on politics, as it allows me to really engage with the material I come across. By thinking a text in terms of the traditional framework of linguistic analysis we are able to get to grips with the semantic goings on of a text. Questions about identity arising in new cultural research add another relational dimension to semantics. I don’t feel this dimension has been integrated into linguistic approaches to its full potential, and that is why I am writing this book.

This relational dimension needs to be integrated in to linguistic categories because without it, they remain incompatible with much of contemporary discourse in society. The problem which I am describing arises from the Post modern debate which has been brushed under the carpet.

The intellectual has discovered that meaning is not chronological, that memory is not chronological, and that our sense of self and the world depends on our position in the space-time continuum. Meaning by our definition exists in a position in time where it is constantly changing. 

In order to re-evaluate our approaches in cultural studies we now think about identity. I want to take these notions down to the smallest linguistic unit we can work with, the morpheme. My hope is that in time we can use the linguistic identity taxonomy to faster understand our own habits, positions, and self relations in a user friendly system that can be adopted institutionally. I intend that this method will be applicable across the spectrum of cultural research, and influential in the education system. I hope that by thinking structure in terms of identity rather than just position, we will be able to redefine our grammar to the benefit of society. 


Defining why ‘order’ is not quite the correct approach to the definition of syntax.

Syntax philosophically speaking, is what demarcates us from animals. English as a language has an especially playful approach to syntax, which is the term referring to the grammatical order of words in a sentence or utterance. 

Other animals who have communication means bordering on language, do not have syntax. Birds for instance have a number of set phrases in their phrase bank to warn danger or call to a mate, bird song. For instance, a bird song is produced as follows:

Do re mi fa sol la

It can not be produced as follows

Do re mi sol fa la 

The bird is not capable of nuances in meaning as humans are. For instance

1)The boy sat on the red chair.
2)On the red chair, the boy sat. 

This ability to nuance meaning sets humans aside. We are able to reason, interpret, and translate worldly relations between people and things by creating different tensions between words. Without this ability, humans would not be human. Language and philosophical notions are therefore strongly related, but linguistic study in its aim to become scientific in nature and authority, often tends to neglect this fact. Some analogy is made between the social and language use, phonology, semantics, lexicography, graphology, and the complexities of language have been profoundly investigated. However, we do not often start thinking about language as though it is the fundamental question, which is perhaps why we are never able to stagger meaning in a truly satisfactory measure. I do not propose to do that here. But I do hope to provide an alternative approach to language analysis by putting the ‘fundamental question’ first, and using language to model it, in ways we may imagine it might. 

I will now perform a philosophical nuance with phrases 1) and 2).

It appears that in these two phases, the dominant feature that governs the alternative phrasing, is order, But I would argue that this is not strictly the case. Order is not the reason why the two versions are different, it is just the appearance of their differences in a graphical representation. 

In both cases the boy being sat on the red chair is described. It seems the meaning of both is the same. We say that syntax allows us to alter word order and retain a similar meaning. But the meaning in both cases is not really the same. In these sentences the meaning derives from issues that are fundamental to the reader and the author’s understanding of the world, and fundamental to how they might interpret it under alternate sets of circumstances.

In the first instance the boy is the clear subject of the action and the action has a clear narrative quality. As we say out the words ‘The boy sat on the red chair,’ we imagine the boy going through the motion of sitting on the red chair.

In the second instance the boy is still the clear subject of the action and it still has a narrative quality but the image conjured first is of the red chair. We imagine the red chair, and then the boy sitting on it. ‘On the red chair, the boy sat.’ This fact has repercussions for notions of how we perceive our actor in the narrative, and how we process the information mnemonically, creatively, and individually.

The chair comes first in the second example, so it might have a more distinctive character than the boy. We might ask which element is more distinctly real when we see the image in our minds. In this case the chair has the further quality of being red. The boy is anonymous. Perhaps it is inappropriate to say the chair is more real than the boy in the second example but in terms of how memory works the distinct red chair may be remembered differently, as will the anonymous boy. 

In this second case, we may find ourselves drawn to the object over the subject. As beings constantly battling with existential questions, and just as we would identify with the hero who most resembles us in an epic tale, we try to identify with the strongest presence, the strongest identity. In this case the red chair conjures more dominant notions of existence than the boy, and so we are distanced from the boy and distracted from him with an image of a red chair. The two phrases may describe the same act, but the realities are not the same. 

In the first example we follow the motion through: The boy sat on the red chair. In the second example we follow the action through but attention remains with the notion of the red chair: On the red chair, the boy sat. There is identity conflict here because our identification is displaced as our attention is drawn to the red chair. We can identify with the red chair, but not personally as it is an object put forward as significant by an anonymous voice in a text. There is an existential emphasis placed on the red chair. It seems its haunting presence has been created by an outside source, an anonymous voice in a text. It inherits some sort of existential, spiritual, unspoken, taken for granted mnemonic and imagined significance. But if we examine this proposition we see that the difference between author and reader is ill defined where the meaning of language resides, causing this illusion of another force. This is an illusion of language which has implications for how we might create individual realities. 

Words themselves take meaning because we have agreed on something outside of language, be it spiritual or material. An object takes it’s name as of the dual seeing of it by two people. Those people who decide that red will be ‘red’ for instance, and that objects approaching a chair notionally will also take that name. We can therefore not expect the chair’s reality to exist outside of ourselves when we talk about it with words. The chair becomes real because it is imagined as real. If its realness is uncanny then that is because multiple realities exist. Each individual imagines differently, so the imagined images to not partake of the same reality. They only gain meaning from their notional history, in the context of every other known chair and non-chair that has been designated. It is you who decide what a chair is and what is not a chair through what you know of ‘chair.’ But it is other peoples experience of chairs which expands your notion of a chair, as it is communicated to you in different contexts. Our identification of objects is collective but our definition of them belongs only to us as individuals. Language is therefore an artifice which implicates identity, and effects and moulds that identity according to time place relationships which extend themselves historically, and in the context of alternate realities, those which are essentially real for other human beings. 

If there was no way other to describe the given example than by saying

‘The boy sat on the red chair’ Then we could never imagine the same act under another set of circumstances. Just try whilst mnemonically repeating the words ‘The boy sat on the red chair’ to imagine ‘On the red chair, the boy sat.’ You will find it is very difficult without focusing only on the image in your head and ignoring the words. At this stage the concept has become a pure abstraction, and its only meaning is the image inside your head, which can never be communicated because it relies on the combining of two alternate meanings which entertain only one mode of expression. (When we entertain the idea that there is only one mode of expression)

Of course you can attempt to draw or to act out these nuances, but at this stage those drawings or actions become attributes of your particular self. They become externalized elements of your identity. 

So in following up on this idea, order is not adequate to define the notion of syntax, because the order which governs the meaning of that changing order is existential. It relates to all being across time space in the now, and as it has been retained in the word, and in memory.

If syntax was restricted to notions of order, it would be kept at a third remove from the reader. All that would change in my two examples would be the order of the unfolding of the event. In the first instance the boy appears first. In the second instance the chair appears first. However, the order is not the only aspect which is altered in the changing examples. The way we feel is also altered, about how we see, who other people are, and how they see, and why our identity is distinct from this. 

There is a functional operation of syntax aside of order, in the realms of relational identity. Syntax can not be kept apart from these identities because language is simultaneously an act of reading and interpreting as it is an act of writing in memory, and deriving from memory. No element of language is free from the existential conflicts from which meaning derives. 

In this book I will be looking at how different elements of language are implicated in relational identity. I will first look at parts of speech.  

 Part 2. Nouns.

Part 2. Nouns.

In language, meaning is specific in nouns because they indicate a specific position in time as form which can be transferred. Although an object may change over time it’s durational character makes it solid across different contexts and situations. The chair I am sitting on now will roughly be the same chair tomorrow, and I can refer to it as though it had not changed. It is a whole word, a noun. Such real coherence is transferred between people and places in language.

Other words such as prepositions and verbs describe tensions and forces between objects in a situation, creating an imaginary structure in their transitory objectival essence as the describing words which have no durational material referent. The result is structure. Structure conjures time-space illusions about the actors imminent in or inferred to in a text such that together, nouns within structure depict the unfolding of time about an ultimately anonymous subject: the narrator. The narrator is the voice of any text who operates as both the inside and the outside of meaning, events, and people. The narrator has a set trajectory on the page in the represented narration but the internal trajectory and external trajectory of the closed text is guided by all who hear, who read, who see, who breathe. Even when written in first person there is a sense of another entity being behind a text because the actor describing an act happening to them can not also be writing at the same time. But the narrator is omnipresence. i.e. ‘I walk towards you.’ As this is read the act of me walking towards you is imagined but the imaginary nature of the illusion is a conscious aspect of the event at the same time as reality is experienced. The idea thus inhabits another world parallel and connected to the real one. The idea of thought is in both.

Imaginary cohesion caused by the separation between words and reality and the simultaneity of non-sense with reality is actual cohesion as we know it, as there is no way to avoid rifts between real objects when multiple words are chosen. Words can refer to the real but never provide an exact adequate expression. Yet at the same time words themselves are really here. I.e. ‘he was slower than me,’ gives a notional image of relativity now and a reference to an unplaced then as concurrent with now without exacting proportions. But our sense of understanding in the present is informed by a non-sensical approximation. Imagination does not really affect reality but is present with reality for all people and affects all people. The operation is different for written and spoken media, and I will later investigate each. In both cases, however, time space effects on the imagination of the subject caused by words in a written or spoken form provide frames or frameworks that have a situational content. The situational content is mnemonic representation, memory, but in which the referential elements can be substituted no end to create bizarre, unreal simulations. Grammatically, phonologically, semantically, graphologically, reality is not set because words do not photograph it in the first place. They approximate it and force it to become by that approximation. This is quite a power. 

Structure is the content of the imagination. The content of a thought or idea/ideology can be substituted in imagination by superstructural triggers, stimuli and illusion and measures of incoherrence external to meaning, which can get caught up in it, interlink with or touch upon frames and frameworks through the very approximate nature of structure itself. The subconscious is therefore not separate from the conscious. It is the same mechanism which allows for coherence and creates incoherence. The balance of the real depends on its structural arrangement in the now, and how that links in to internal frames and frameworks. These are triggered in to representations where the image takes primacy over the word and informs the language mechanism. The subconscious simulation of these proportions inferred by the frames and frameworks becomes the referential mechanism by which a sense of continual is created in the subject. When awake, external stimuli can trigger the relevant frame or framework allowing the subject to combine its presence with other subjects present as both imagine from a similar viewpoint externally upon their own internal framework. This event creates a new situation for words in the context of different people, in inherently different situations. It is a framework extended between persons which can be resummoned in the absence of one of those persons because of the interdependence of language on ultimate presence outside of the individual who is a part of it. Language and meaning derives at once from a whole immutable picture that can never be expressed with words and from its separate parts which frame movement, forces we can channel. When asleep, the lack of external stimuli and relaxed senses, means that the subconscious mechanism lacks a formly character on which to base itself but the imagination does not shut down. The imagination continues to play with relevant forces encountered in the world. 

The relevant frame or frameworks allowing the subject to combine its presence with other subjects present and creating a new situation for words in the context of different people in inherently different situations creates an incoherence in the unconscious because the same framework is applied to different situations. So there can be many images for a similar phrase or word internally, even with respect to a single object of a durational character. The scope in the imagining system for confusion, misplacement, untimely placings about words which do have specific referents in essence and internally but may be communicated in an ambiguous way, is an effect of polymorphic language. 

One way to express the simultaneities of words saturated by conflicting images and frames is with new words. But these new words are problematic. They refer back to an idea which really takes no form, but merely serves to repress dissimilitude. They refer back to the difference between concurrent or parallel sets of frameworks. A principle aim of academia is the emphasis on these tensions, the abstract noun, its inherent referent to an edifice outside of real structure. We deal with superstructures. These superstructures appear stronger in structural weight because they can serve to encompass a greater weight of situations in their ambiguities. It is hierarchical structure and power itself to structure a discourse which attempts to create a concrete noun from the abstract, lacking sense, lacking specificity, lacking in general a touch point that allows the reader back in to the text as it’s referent and obscuring the real. They block imagination and force the frames and frameworks of that imagination to morph as the subject strains to comprehend the non-sensical portrayed as the sensical. At the same time superstructure forces the imagination to become itself and see itself apart from the world. ‘Liberty,’ ‘Capitalism,’ ‘Existentialism,’ do not refer back to a colour that can be rediscovered or re-engaged with such as ‘green,’ ‘red,’ ‘lavender scent,’ but to sets of situations which transcend time space illusions, as they detach from the real subject and persist in the unconscious as unresolved disparities in word gaps. Deriving from the inability to perceive an idea based on its described aesthetic attributes, complex metaphysical ideas result. They result from the illusory character of language as the communication of a particular situation, whereas language can better be perceived as the channelling of forces in the world. Hence the nagging interruption and emphasis on these words in a text. They can not be placed but place us outside of ourselves and of the real, casting us in to the obscure. The text gains significance and these words gain significance because they haunt as spectres beneath the true relations words convey, as an act of communication, which mediates and traps force.

The ambiguous aspect of discourse is necessary as the non-simultaneity of narration with its causal action or movement. But academic, philosophical, coercive texts tend to a tendency of these words, which in turn in the cannon of writing, creates tensions to varying degrees between those non-sensical words, concretising them such that they stand relative to each other but alienate the subject in superstructures. In order for revolution today, and for the subject to take back power, they must revive sensible language, straightforward, relational, non-fictional, real words referring to situations in the world. They must go back to the act and describe the act themselves, being weary of the dependence on allusion to outside powers that may partake of that substandard superstructure which robs the subject of sentiment, placing, and autonomy by mapping their word banks on to an inaccessible and unattainable surrealist ideology. Morphing the frameworks outside of the word itself because the words used cease to touch referents still in the world. 

Most ideology is such. However, the ones that derive from stories have a greater root in the real, the value of Christianity and morals and values for instance. They are not transgressed by the deconstruction of being, nor are they perverted or effaced by the simulative world, because they rely on something real: a situation which can be imagined and can be put to task in its narrative structure. We do not and should not take holy books word for word in how we internalise those stories, but some of the frames and frameworks within them provide a healthy human concrete base from which to create, because they tell of humans channelling force for the good of humans. We can easily cut through and abandon the abstract surreal in the world. It is common sense, bold sentiment, and truth to recognise those words which don’t refer to anything outside of time-space connections in the present, even if part of a superstructure. If it doesn’t make sense to you now as a whole idea, then it never did. 

All true ideas can be extended to the whole. Illusion between words describes the underlying process of the brain in general, but does not impinge on the subject or subjective thinking if you choose for it not to and are solid about your convictions. The human innately knows what is right, correct, and moral behaviour because of their presence in the present, and is not reliant on historically confused notions of place-time taken to a theorised level. Of course, we sometimes need abstract words to stagger degrees of coherence. One is blue, one is dark blue, one is light blue, one is pale blue. In order to know the difference between light and pale one must have notions of light, how in light something is brighter and in dark it is fainter. But there is a difference between abstraction and poetry for good and poetry for evil. Light, dark, pale Capitalism, are pure poetry, dream, imagination, distancing of the subject, and power for the claimant of the abstraction. He who claims to know Capitalism is the holder of it’s lightness or its darkness because the object becomes that subject and discourse in the absence of a real referent and they appear to have a greater significance. But we are all the same, subjects of imagination and language.

Outside of the word the only thing is ‘God.’ But God can mean many things, it is the root of truth. The human being as a collective species driven to a common goal of survival for something in the world: for one another but also for heaven. Heaven is a concept which exists on earth in and around you and can be found easily. Illusory power is participating in dream organised by some other identity than God, at a remove from the world and in superstructural terms. True power is seeing organisations and institutions devoid of God and abstaining from participation. God is a tall word with many connotations, but when you see God, those connotations disintegrate and you only see truth. For this literature and religion are not needed, only strength of mind. 

Note: I allow this text to descend in to reference to 'God' and 'Christianity' because they are terms atuned to this particular language which aptly describe the goal sought out by the lover of truth and integrity. This is not a call for the revival of Christianity persay, moreso of story telling, in line with contemporary interest in Buddhism (word of mouth tradition,) and the 'narrative' as a thing in itself. I am not a Christian, but my culture and language comes through that.

This has been an introduction to nouns which attempts to describe their role as carriers of meaning and tools of structural formation, pinning it back into the world. I will go on to experiment with nouns and think about them in different contexts.