The Language of Poets and Philosophers

While reading the piece on image by Philip, I found myself thinking of something my German professor said on the first day of our 101 class a couple of years ago—That German is the language of poets and philosophers.

Philip discusses images behind individual words, but something he forgets to do, and something I see a lot of people within the English speaking world forget to do, is to look at the image/s brought up by the sentence as a whole. While languages such as German put strenuous rules on individual words (e.g. gendered nouns, various cases), English compensates for its lack of gender and cases by forming a very strict sentence structure: Noun, verb, preposition, possible second proposition, object—e.g. “he went to the store.”

German, on the other hand, has only one grammatical law: That the verb must be in the second place of the sentence, with the subject right beside it. So while in German it would be grammatically correct for me to say “The store went the man to,” English-speaking people would likely assume I’ve just had a stroke. In English, we put most of our emphasis on the subject—“the man went to the store.” While this more common in the German language, it is equally correct for me to put that same amount to emphasis on another part of the sentence—“the store went the man to.” The latter sentence forces the reader to look at the store first, thereby subtly altering the image behind the sentence in a way the English language simply cannot do, and thereby embracing a certain amount of creativity and meaning the English language lacks.

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