Language Is The Dress Of Thought Essay

932 Words Sep 27th, 2016 4 Pages
Language, when used effectively, tailors a story and fashions securely around the thoughts of its speaker. Moralist Samuel Johnson wrote, “Language is the dress of thought.” If language, essentially, clothes our thoughts, then Johnson is suggesting that when an individual’s language is taken away, he is left bare and vulnerable, subject to humiliation or oppression. In James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn 't a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” and Neil Postman’s “The Word Weavers/The World Makers”, Postman and Baldwin explore the power of language, and consequently, the nakedness of oppression. Through this exploration, they reveal the key to transcending definition—in order to preserve a sense of reverence and identity, one may use language as a cloak of power.
Baldwin, a social critic and black American, personally understood the relationship between language and the preservation of identity. When he wrote his essay in 1979, the validity of Black English as a language was in question. He expressed his earnest belief that “...language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identity: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity”(799). In this passage, Baldwin uses the word “proof”, as a means of connecting language with power. If language proves one’s power, then it is natural to assume that without it, one lacks proof of even the threads…

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