Language and Art: Vehicles of Human Experience

March 20, 2018 9:20 am

Language and Art_ Vehicles of Human Experience framed in black


In simple terms, both language and art have the function to give expression to our experiences. Using the structural properties of the very language one is speaking, we are able to share what is on our mind. However, the tools which language provides us with have their very limits: some experiences go beyond words or one might simply not have sufficiently developed language skills in order to express their experiences if we think of young children or mentally challenged adults.

Art and language_2017_poordog_180x150_oiloncanvas_preview.jpegArt and language_2017_lyrikII_200x155_oiloncanvas_preview.jpegArt, on the other hand, starts where words end. Compared to language, it is a more flexible and variable reflection of human experience. Art holds a mirror up to a certain society within a certain time and is consequently an epoch’s most authentic critique. In this way, artistic expressions throughout history challenged dominant social, religious or political beliefs in a given society. Interestingly, this did not only account for the first Christians, orthodox Muslims or loyal followers of Buddha, but equally for Plato, the founder of the first institution of higher education in the Western world. For as long as we know, certain pieces of art were labelled as dangerous by the ones in charge who banned and made them inaccessible for the public.

Sharing one’s thoughts and understanding someone else’s feelings is essential for human relationships while language, whatever the linguistic variety, is an uncontested and universal facilitator of this very process. However, one must remember that in the process of sense making, human experience comes before its verbal or written expression which is why language necessarily simplifies reality. It is in this sense that one should not underrate the power of art as an important meaning vehicle of human experience.


Written by Lissa Haid-Schmallenberg, Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). Lissa is a student at the University of Luxembourg and currently enrolled in the trilingual Master Learning and Communication in multilingual and multicultural Contexts. She holds a Bachelor degree in Social and Cultural Education from the University of Bologna, Italy.

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