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ISSN: 0974-892X


Jul '21 & Jan '22



Language and Mind: The Pathological Equation

Dr. Kanakamalini M. A., Associate Professor of English, Dept. of Collegiate Education, Government of Karnataka



The acquisition of language skills and development of one’s vocabulary has something in common with the spread of the pathogens in the human body.  Certain negative phrases of languages are   easily picked than positive connotations. The similarities between the pathological movement and the spread of language structures is really surprising. Language structures are captured by the mind   only when the host cell creates suitable helipads for the reception. The received structures and words may remain dormant or inactive for some time.  They might surface or multiply into related structures in suitable situations. It is surprising that alien language structures rejected are accepted and absorbed when they come in mutant forms associating themselves with the originally present   structures. Language structures replicate and can control the mind, in the way the pathogens go viral. Language germs can kill and hurt people. Language works in an intriguing way.

Key Words:  language, passive, active tool, remote, colonisation, adhesion, pathogenesis, worm, mutation, invasion, structure, patterns, sounds, repertoire, negative emotion, mutant.



It is an absolute truth that language is created by human beings, over the years, with new forms of structures, words and patterns added to it by creative minds   based on   situational   needs. It is   an established fact that the human species is the only kind to have an evolved language. Though the apes have an astonishingly developed well repertoire of sounds, no where it can match that of the humans. Man’s reasoning and analysing mind has been credited with this rare achievement. Then comes the question whether language that ever one uses is just a tool like any other tool and   it has a passive existence till someone orally or in writing gives life to it. What did a person do when he developed a certain kind of negative emotion when language or an   evolved language did not exist? How did he react or vent his feelings? Did he gnarl, frown and produce an aggressive sound pattern or resort to some physical aggression just like animals? When an evolved well-developed language system is available, even while thinking, we use a silent mode of language that is neither oral nor written. Sentence structures like “How mean he is! How rude she is! Cheap creep!” start floating in our mind and they take control of the feelings that our mind has conceived. It becomes impossible to emote without   the aid of language. Even the crudest of the mind that resorts to violence of the physical kind employs certain crude structures of language. What I mean is, language, though conceived by man, takes control of the human mind to such an extent that it cannot be considered a passive tool that man gives life to. Let us take  into account the post structural theory of Roland Barthes in which he finds the author dead  and shows how his writing is part of the already existing writing.

Barthes’s own words,  
“Succeeding the Author, the writer no longer contains within himself passions, humors, sentiments, impressions, but that enormous dictionary, from which he derives a writing” (Barthes, 147)   

Succeeding the evolution of language, the human mind can no longer think independently of the existing structures and it remixes the existing patterns into new patterns which appear to be new but the infection of existing language patterns never allows the mind to move free.

Feeling curious about the spread of virus and the power of the minute, unseen   clusters of cells. I read a few articles on the   spread of virus and the conditions favouring it(Medical News Today,2020).  The steps of pathogenisis and the power of the germ over the body despite of the strong inherent immune system, seemed enigmatic. The intriguing process involving exposure, invading, colonisation and the damage done made me think about it deeply (Wilipedia,2020). Simultaneously, I was observing the increasing number of negative messages on the social media, having been confined to the media more during the forced lock down period. The mindless reactions, the way people reacted without going through the facts and the crudity of the comments had puzzled me a lot. Somewhere I could see a similarity between the spread of the virus with that of the language. Certain words seemed to have come out without any effort of the mind. It seemed that the words had overpowered the reasoning ability of the mind, in the same way, a pathogen overpowers the immune system of the body. Unknown people were blaming and scandalising unknown people with the choicest foul words hurting and causing irreparable damage. It was like an uncaring virus freely entering any body and damaging the host with the least compassion (Pathogens and Diseases,2021).   

Pathogenisis: When we think of how language structures and words take control over human mind, we think of   the first stage that facilitates such an  usurpation, which is exposure.

Exposure: A child, as it grows, listens to and hears variety of sound patterns and gets exposed to many sounds and structures depending on the social milieu. Some of the structures and words are encouraged by the cultural set up it is brought up in, and some other words and structures prohibited    by the social surroundings remain hidden, not erased. Under certain pressures and in certain heated moments, they may show up and slowly replicate and invade and infect. Exposure to particular language structures makes one a parasite depending on the same structures and words for expression and emotion. An angry child might shout, “I hate you, you are bad, etc”, repeating the same structures once used by any of the family members in the same or a different condition. What the child would have said or done in the absence of an evolved language is left to our imagination. It might have remained sullen for some time or thrown something at the signified or just kept quiet. People might argue that, that was the animal stage and we have come past it, having evolved. The argument that language is a symbol of rational and civilised behaviour has great strength in it. This cannot be denied also. What exactly language does to the mind or what effect it has on the human behaviour is an intricate subject. Any story of taming a savage begins with language teaching. Caliban was taught language with the intention of   refining him but he remained the same and language became a tool of protest there. There the mind dominates the language.  How did Caliban’s mind caught hold    abusive language structures without hearing them?  Prospero was the only person to have had language skills in his possession and he teaches both Miranda and Caliban. If he had not used the curse words for Caliban how would he have learnt them? What Caliban had heard must have accepted by his mind and got associated with other structures and gone viral in situations of pressure and anger. (Tempest.I.ii.366-368)

Adhesion and Colonisation: When we write about exposure and language infection it is important to state that language can never be an individual culprit. The mind or nature has a minor role to play here. The receptors of language structures and words are present well within the mind, or nature that   form suitable helipads for the reception of the language structures. Once these helipads are formed on the surfaces, the lure of receiving the hovering and floating structures becomes an easy process. Once these structures successfully land on the adhesins, they start accumulating and penetrating the surfaces and form colonies. The settled structures are soon a part of the host and the host cannot distinguish or discriminate between the originally cultivated and the parasite. Now, within the comfort zone of the host domain, the new colonisers wage a silent war of invasion and intrusion leading to infection.

Invasion:  How do language structures invade the mind? Let me give an example. A cute video of a thankful child saying “Thank you, Mama” drew more than fifteen thousand ‘dislike’ responses (Thank You Mama, 2020). People might have disliked the video for various reasons but the options were just two, ‘like’ and ‘’dislike. Someone who did not find the video very interesting might not have disliked the innocent child. The only other option available to ‘like’ was chosen by the mind. I would rather say invaded the mind. The effect of the word ‘dislike’ is not comprehended fully and the invaded mind uses the same structure again and again as a ready response, as an option for not finding very interesting. The structure “I dislike” infects the mind and is made use of without paying a thought to its effects or possibility of better responses. In a tense or agitated situation many such invaded words and structures play freely and brew more poison. In any social group, it is observed that certain language structures are repeated without or little involvement of the mind. Someone’s obituary draws thousands of RIP messages and many don’t even care to know who has died. “Rest in Peace” is a serious heart felt wish that grieved heart can offer but the structure has infected every mind to such an extent that it just comes out without any meaning or feeling. Thankfully, it is not a damaging structure and though not said with any feeling or true intent, doesn’t cause any damage. Various other words and structures, used by the infected mind, get transmitted to many others rapidly A disappointed lover might use the words ‘slut’ or ‘bitch’ to vent his anger not because he associates her with these words but has heard others using the same words in similar situations somewhere. The angry mind searches for some kind of expression and the hidden pathogens get activated and come out gaining control over the mind. The parasites get transmitted to many more and surface during suitable situations.

Worm or Word: How does our body react to the entry of a foreign body or a microbe? There will be resistance and the body immune system acts as a shield to prevent the attack.  when there is a forced entry or a welcome by certain receptors, the body system readily produces certain antibodies to resist the invasion. The statement that   language learning takes place in natural situations is a half- truth.  Language   learnt at home is also a result of persistent effort by people around. What is heard or listened to makes sense only in a certain cultural and social set up. This is why there is resistance to learning a particular language which is not one’s mother tongue. Aren’t languages forcefully taught in classrooms? There is always resistance to an alien structure and it is expressed in typical accents, structures modelled after native language structures, pronunciations and choice of word. In India, despite of learning English for ten years from class fifth to second year degree level, major failure rates are in English subject. Even among the passed, the levels of language skills are considerably poor. There is an innate, inborn resistance to languages that are not one’s mother tongue. There is a similar kind, or even more resistance to imposition of Hind language among the southern states, of course, one can find it a political issue, but Hindi language skills are equally disappointing among students who learn it in their higher primary   grades. As we grow up, our resistance to learning new language skills become more evident. This resistance to learning languages will be poorer in at the younger age compared to the adults. This resistance is broken when some of the willing receptors welcome the alien structures for various reasons. It is an observed fact that foul words easily make inroads into the minds of people and the parasitic foul words are used with least realisation of their effect. A multilingual person’s active vocabulary has more foul words than normal words. I have seen many with faulty English language structures using the foul words ‘bastard’, ‘mother fucker’, ‘shit’, ‘rascal’. etc, comfortably without realising their true meaning. They might not use the mother tongue equivalents of these words with the same kind of ease.

Mutation of Structures of Language

When an alien body tries to enter the body, the body resists the entry with its immune system. The alien body adopts mutative techniques to confuse the immune system and tries to make inroads into the system. It attires itself in known outfits and makes a foray into the body. Certain pronunciation patterns and semiotics of the mother tongue give a safe passage to the alien structures and fuse them into the existing structures in such a way that no distinction is possible.

The English word ‘bus’ is accepted as ‘bussu’ in Kannada, ‘car’ becomes ‘caru’, ‘cycle’ becomes ‘cycallu’ and ‘sir’ becomes ‘sirji’, ‘mummy’ becomes ‘’mummiji in Hindi language where in ‘ji’ is an honorific suffix.

In case of proper nouns Sandy, Narin, Vicky and Mandy are easily accepted in place of Sandeepa, Narayana, Virupakha and Mandeep by the British and American people. Chinese reluctance   to learning new   languages can be another example of resistance to anything from outside.  Adulthood provides complete immunity and the mind rejects acquisition of language skills and any attempt made in learning a new language fails and only superficial acquisition can happen.

Death by Language:
Pathogens invading the host can seriously destroy the system built over the years, once they gain an upper hand. Even a healthy body can get destroyed in a week or a fortnight with all its life saving systems sapped and blocked threateningly. Language structures acquired by a child can be manifested in the most threatening way over the years .Simple four lettered words like  ‘hate’, ‘ugly’, ‘kick’,etc may cause immense pain when come out attached to other words ,and in terrifying forms and structures like ‘I hate you’,’ You are ugly’, ‘ Feel like kicking you’ etc. Even words can create indelible black spots on mind. Words can hurt and kill people with the same effect of a pathogen. Language can choke lungs and throat. A person rejected with the word ‘ugly’ can see the reflection of that word in thousands of eyes and the effect is viral. A negative comment on any particular race or religion goes viral within seconds and invades the hearts and the system within no time. Positive words and structures take great effort in entering minds but negative phrases and words are caught   easily. It takes just a week for an unknown virus to destroy a healthy person’s body but the recovery takes months. The   negative feelings attached to certain words like ‘black’ may take years to vanish but positive connotations take root slowly.  Harsh words of language can create permanent scars within the layers of the sensitive mind and can cause irreparable   damages. The use of language   can be as intriguing as the spread of virus.


1. Barthes, Roland. trans. Stephen Heath. Image Music Text. Fontana Press,1
2. MLA. Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Cambridge: Harward University Press,1958.
3. Medical News Today,2020. “Pathogens: Definition, types, diseases, prevention, and
More”. accessed on 21 August,2020.
4. PATHOGENS AND DISEASE.Ed.Huston,Wilhelmina,Issue 5,July 2021.
5. Thank You, Mama. YOU TUBE.23 June, 2020. Grey and Mama. Accessed on 26 May, 2021.
6.WIKIPEDIA,2020. Pathogen .accesed on 22 June,