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How to talk the unknown into existence: An exercise in X-filology

McHoul, A. (1996) How to talk the unknown into existence: An exercise in X-filology. In: Lavery, D., Hague, A. and Cartwright, M., (eds.) Deny All Knowledge: Reading The X Files. Faber and Faber Limited, London, England, pp. 135-147.

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There is an intimate relation between language and knowledge. Even if we can experience things nonlinguistically (by visual, tactile, and olfactory senses, for example) it is a moot point as to whether we can be said to know them unless they have a linguistic form. At least, if we can say or write something, we can usually also claim to know it. If so, language may well be said to come to an end, or to reach its limits, when it comes to expressing the unknown. That is, although it may be possible to refer to some general category of the unknown (as in the previous sentence), the particulars of some specific unknown thing by definition are not available to linguistic expression. However, language in actual situations of use (discourse) is more subtle than this. We know that it can hint, suggest, and imply, and through these mechanisms, it can arouse possibilities, vague ideas, and suspicions.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Humanities
Publisher: Faber and Faber Limited
Copyright: 1996 The Author
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