Essay: Why So Much Is Beyond Words

"In the beginning," says the Gospel of St. John, "was the I Word." The mystical meanings that the Bible lays upon the word Word are not embraced by everyone. Yet nobody can reasonably doubt that the coming of the word, if not the Word, to humankind was the start of something big in history. Human talk may have struck dyspeptic Nathaniel Hawthorne like "the croak and cackle of fowls," but the rise of language, written and spoken, is all but universally rated as one of the glories of the species. What is surprising is that in the common give and take...

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