Derrida, Pictographs and the Possibility of Intercultural Communication
Kenneth Masong
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“Language is by its very nature a communal thing; that is,
it expresses never the exact thing but a compromise
—that which is common to you, me and everybody.”
- T. E. Hulme, Speculations, 1924

The ideal language model of communication – the notion that communication is the seamless transit of concepts from one person to another – is put under trial by the hermeneutical scalpel of Derrida’s deconstruction. Communication is possible only because there is an arrival of meaning, but from where does meaning emerge? Is it not the case that any communication breaks open the floodgates of meanings? Who arbitrates? Pedestrian casual talk takes for granted the kaleidoscopic quandary of meaningful communication, especially since much is presupposed and there is no point in being too critical and hermeneutic. The patent but underlying problematic in communication emerges when the issue is expropriated beyond temporal strictures and spatial horizons, as in the case of reading pictographs of our early ancestors – or more near tous – communication’s task of bridging cultures. If there is meaning to communicate, do we need to speak the same language? In deconstructing language, is communication still possible?

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