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A picture paints a thousand words – or maybe none at all?

We have all heard the expression a ‘picture paints a thousand words’. The general sense of this is that what would take us many words to describe in language can be represented in just a simple picture.

But does a picture paint any words? If you look at the picture at the head of this post – which is not a Van Gogh original (and not even a good copy) – what words can you see here?

Well you might say you can see a ‘chair’ or a ‘bed’ or a ‘room’. Or you might say it suggests ‘the room is empty’ or ‘there is something to drink on the table’. But where in the picture does it say this? How does the picture ‘paint’ these words and sentences?

In fact it doesn’t. It doesn’t contain any of these words or ideas. All it contains are colours, lines, curves and shades. And it doesn’t even contain these because these are linguistic words.

You might argue that the picture ‘suggests’ these words and ideas, or puts them into the mind of the observer as they peruse the painting. But that depends on the mind of the observer. It is their mind that brings forth these words and ideas, not the painting. The painting may act as a stimulus, but it is the mind and language which paints our world.

Only language can paint the world. We can only be conscious of ‘chairs’, ‘tables’ and ‘beds’ in our minds through language. A picture doesn’t paint anything.

#ItsLanguageStupid #LanguageIsOurDNA


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