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Commonplace Book #21

Posted by Erik on April 29, 2009

“All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.”

Staying his knife on the carved wood, Murre asked, “What of death?”

“For a word to be spoken,” Ged answered slowly, “there must be silence. Before, and after.” – Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea


4 Responses to “Commonplace Book #21”

  1. Beautiful…

    But demonstrably false. :-)

    As a speech scientist, I can tell you there is no silence between words in normal conversation. There CAN be, but there almost never is. Words are strung together with no silences at all. This is easiest to hear when you’re listening to a language you’re unfamiliar with.

    As soon as one word ends, another begins.

  2. Feral Boy said


    A phoneme with no beginning or end would be noise.

    — Feral Boy

  3. Jeff Lilly said

    Feral Boy, I’m not sure what you mean. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound that creates a difference in meaning, such as ‘t’. I was talking about words. In any case, the issue is not whether words have boundaries — they clearly do — but whether they are surrounded necessarily by silence. To me, the difference is essential; it’s the question of whether death brings oblivion or reincarnation. :-)

  4. Vitor said

    I have to agree with Jeff here. The boundaries between words are applied arbitrarily by our understanding of the language being spoken.

    I suppose that you never unconsciously ‘matched’ the wrong word in your mind when listening to someone speak. From there onwards the sentence inevitably turns into noise, and you have to backtrack to get it into order again.


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