One of the many reasons why I love Kenneth Pike is his unique ability to stretch traditional categories of thought and apply them to new situations. He does this by applying linguistic categories to other parts of life and human behavior. I explore this a bit in the conclusion of The Trinity, Language, and Human Behavior. This post is (I hope) the first of many on how our world has a sort of grammar to it: a structure in human behavior and in the constitution of creation that can be viewed through grammatical categories.
Let’s start simple: a handshake is a conjunction. The meeting of two human hands is analogous to the meeting of two clauses or phrases or words. In English, we have coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so). Of course, it’s easiest to view a human handshake as analogous to the conjunction “and,” since two persons are being connected in a general sense. Just as “and” can signal a host of more nuanced relationships (addition or grouping of particulars, the connection of thoughts), so also can a handshake. The variations in our pronunciation of “and” are analogous to the physical variations in handshakes. Handshakes can be weak, firm, resolved, nearly thoughtless, and so on. The conjunction “and” can be pronounced in similar ways, with more or less stress, reflecting intentionality or purposiveness.
The point is that the union between two human bodies is analogous to the union of two clauses or phrases or words. And the semantics of our grammar can parallel the semantics of our behavior.
So, the next time you see two people touch hands, feel free to point out the conjunction to others. You may be met with some awkward stares, but you’ll have the advantage of seeing how profoundly linguistic our world is, precisely because the triune God is profoundly linguistic, and has infused the world with a language-like structure.