language and mind

April 28, 2012

Burning the Flag – where is the language?

Filed under: language, language processing, language use, law, psycholinguistics — teresapelka @ 10:46 am

Having earned a legal badge with EzineArticles should not make one overconfident, I realize. The legal profession is a depth of recondite detail the Supreme Court has the right firmly to deliberate. The linguist I am, I yet can venture a few observations — and this has been quoting freedom of speech to invalidate prohibitions on desecrating the American flag.

United States versus Eichman, United States versus Haggerty, Texas versus Johnson: all cases argued violation of free speech under the First Amendment. Haggerty’s case would have the implication to make the Flag necessarily your piece of cloth before burning. It is when the Flag belongs to an institution like Seattle’s Capitol Hill Post Office that you get fined. ;)

Let me think. I imagine a person burns something. Is there a speech sound produced, should the human just silently sit by a campfire, warming his or her hands? Is there any written or printed stretch of language to emerge from the flame? Should one try to interpret the wood or coal crackling and hissing as stanzas, quatrains, epodes? Could we hear the anacrusis?

I could not, and there is nothing wrong with my hearing. Things do not produce language. Facts remain similar with hammers, saws, wrenches, screwdrivers, and whatever a handyman’s bag might contain: there is no speech produced with the use, unless the guy is eloquent, interesting, and whatsoever handsome — however noisy the job. ;)

Non-verbal acts cannot convey speech and language. The Flag itself – the many the people, the many the answers; ask someone what the Flag looks like and what it symbolizes: no description will be identical, owing to language specifics.

The Supreme Court decided the Flag could be burned under the First Amendment. It does not allow abridgment of free speech. If a burning object could be legally a speech act, what do you do if you see the Flag burning – would it be against the law, to put it out? ;)

The Flag Code may be found here,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Flag_Code,

http://www.usflag.org/uscode36.html,

http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf, and many other places.

I do honestly believe that flags are for people and, naturally, their use should not be forbidden. I have put an image of the American flag on my grammar book covers. For one thing, I like it: I think the flag is visually attractive. More, the grammar is not a temporary idea. :)

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