What is the Prelapsarian Language?

In Stillman’s first conversation with the protagonist the story invokes an idea that language in its prelapsarian state involves words correlating to an object’s function and physical exterior. When Quinn asks Stillman his purpose for collecting broken objects, Stillman replies that he’s “invent[ing] new words that would correspond to the things”. This can be interpreted as Stillman giving the objects new names that would agree to their functions and outward appearances. Through the thought of the objects being renamed in accordance to their very nature, the scene suddenly evokes a sense of wholeness hence supporting an underlying theme of unity. But how does this connotation we receive from the mere thought of renaming an object tie to the theme of unity? Recall that in Stillman’s umbrella analogy he indicates that when we hear the word ‘umbrella’ we think of an object that protects us from the rain. By thinking of the umbrella in terms of Stillman’s description of it, we are drawing an immediate connection between the objects name and its nature. This relationship that we are picturing between the object and its name blurs the boundaries that separate the word ‘umbrella’ and the object it names, subsequently making them seem as one. From this interchangeability we feel from sensing this connection, evokes the connotation of wholeness. Though this connotation we receive lies the underlying theme of unity as this tone that we sense involves the unification of the word and the object it names. However, if the umbrella were to break, it would no longer serve its function as something that would protect one from rain. Hence, would it be appropriate to call the broken object an umbrella? Stillman believes not! Alas, the sight of the broken object does not correlate to our initial impression of the word umbrella. Because we were initially taught to recognize an umbrella, as Stillman describes it to be, as “a kind of stick, with collapsible metal spokes on top that form an armature for a waterproof material which, when opened, will protect you from the rain” calling an umbrella that is broken as an umbrella removes the connotation of wholeness unlike when we draw the connection between the name of the object and the object itself. Without this feeling of wholeness, the name ‘umbrella’ loses the sense that it is a language in its prelapsarian state.

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