The theory that talk is a mode of transport sounds rather strange. Actually is is a very familiar theory. It is the theory that linguistic communication consists in conveying mental things — ideas — from one person’s mind to another person’s mind by means of things that can be heard or seen, things which if one accepts the theory, are called ‘signs’ or ‘symbols’. The theory is that these audible or visible things have meaning only in virtue of expressing and evoking mental things, ideas or thoughts. A speaker somehow ‘translates’ his ideas or thoughts into spoken or written signs, he ‘encodes’ them, and the hearer translates them back again, he ‘decodes’ them, so that he has the same thoughts, near enough, as the speaker. A corollary of the theory is that if only we were all experts at telepathy we could manage without language at all. Communication would be direct, the non-mediated transference of ideas from one mind to another.
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