Documents Relating to the Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
All human languages have certain common characteristics, called “universals” in linguistics. All, for example, have a class of words translatable as English nouns and another class translatable as English verbs. All have a means of asking questions and making statements. The universal of interest to readers of the fifth novel in Doris Lessing’s series Canopus in Argos: Archives is “displacement”—that is, that all languages have the capacity to refer to something not physically present to the speaker and hearer. People can talk about what happened yesterday, about what may happen tomorrow, or even fantasize about what cannot possibly ever happen. Baboons, to select one example as a contrast, use verbal signals to alert the pack to the presence of food or danger; however, the baboon never gives the call for food unless it actually sees or smells food, and it never gives the call for danger simply because it is lonely or nervous. Baboons always tell the truth.
From the possibility of displacement in human speech springs the ability to lie, but from displacement also springs all verbal art, all history, all planning for the future, all science dependent on hypothesis. Indeed, a society built on a language lacking displacement seems inconceivable.
Doris Lessing’s Documents Relating to the Sentimental Agents in the Volyen...
(The entire section is 1823 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Book World. XIII, April 24, 1983, p. 8.
Booklist. LXXIX, February 1, 1983, p. 698.
Christian Science Monitor. June 22, 1983, p. 11.
Library Journal. CVIII, March 1, 1983, p. 517.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. July 6, 1983, p. 6.
New Age. VIII, April, 1983, p. 63.
New Statesman. CV, May 27, 1983, p. 23.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVIII, April 3, 1983, p. 7.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIII, January 28, 1983, p. 71.
Times Literary Supplement. June 3, 1983, p. 562.
Village Voice. XXVIII, April 26, 1983, p. 45.
(The entire section is 60 words.)