Saturday, 25 February 2012

The consonantal tyranny?

The consonants are killing me. 

Let us begin by thinking about H, as an anomalous consonant. It's breathy and always requires an exhalation; and thus can be seen as the engine behind a vowel howl. The properties of H are quite unlike the orally smothering lisps, palate-brutalist clicks and gnashing ticks of the other consonants, H is the softest, the sympathetic consonant from the chest, from the heart – it is the only non-oral consonant. It bathes the vowels (e.g. : “home”, “help”, “hehehe” and “honey”) in vaporous cloud of life, of corporeal, human life. H the signifier for ones soul, God breathed life into Adam(1), a genesis of ceramico-pneumatic poiesis – it can be argued that our breath is that of Gods, we share our respiratory material with god, when we are unconscious or asleep asleep we breath. H is the ever-present breath. Its absence is death.

Let’s take a moment to analyze the more typological characterizations of H in context with it’s consonantal peers.


H is has 2 lines of reflectional symmetry, the only other consonant that also contains these is X. X is the polar opposite of H in nature, it delivers a flurry of oral violence against the vowel. Say “HEX”, slow it down, “hheeeeccckkkkksss”, “heeeekkkst” - the X is a triad, a chimerical beast that can kill a vowel with a tumble of tongued, teethly guillotine strikes, X is a massacre, a spinning triple kick of devastating logos shackling brutality.

X marks the spot, it denotes a place, it is a mark – in the strictly Derridian sense it is a deathly cross, a morbid hieroglyphic – signifying a loss presence, a signature of void, the hand of an event that was. It is historically analogous that the X has been used a the substitute signature for the illiterate who cannot scrawl their absence, the X is chosen, not a flourish of affirmative ticks or the neutrality of the hyphen but the mortological signification of X is most apt.

But back to soulful, affirmative and positivistic H. Think of laughter: “Hehehehe”, or “Hahahaha”. Can you hear a consonant other than a silently lungosonic H in laughter? Often not, certainly not in genuine laugher; utter joy, 'hysterics' (often characterised as its ascent into pure respiratory reaction) and happiness and are often, uncontrollably expressed in a respire-centric pneumatization of H and vowels. Are these not more quite natural phenomena that support H’s corporeal sympathy, and position as an affirmative signifier of life and soul?

However, there is an exception, the sinister laugh: Mwhahaha - an exhalation of vowel howls tied to a primary foundation of consonantal control. This eruption of evil consonantal palate mechanisms entwining around genuinely animalistic and respirocentric vocalizations can be been elsewhere, in martial arts, battle cries and malicious sports chants – where by a strong animalistic vowel, a howl, is heightened (in an almost reflexive utilization of phonetic constructs) to intimidation through the aggressively rapid deployment of brutalizing consonantal phonemes. A prevalent example of this has successfully been reincarnated in modern video games (perhaps due to low quality sound, a merely tonal, vowelocentric vocalization of aggression could also be mis-understood, or mis-heard, as a cry of pain or desperation(2)). The now infamous “Hadouken” or the “ATATA” (coincidentally both triphonic) are fittingly caricaturesque examples of such sinisterly entwined consonantal and vowelian inter-phonemic dynamics.

The tyranny of consonants within language, their mode of dominance with logos against corporeal expression or sublimely alogos respiratory vocalization is becoming more ubiquitous as technologically formatted means of communication emerge. Example: predictive text. As the monopoly of the E.161 12-key telephone keypad stoically stands as our only interface for converting our agitated and twitching digits into digital code, we are jettisoning the signifiers of passion – we are missing out the vowels.

However as Reza Negarestani comments on vowels:

"the 'cognitive / writing complexity' of vowelless alphabets which itself renders the vowel-based writing systems(which cannot be merely reduced to the generally accepted dimension of WRITING) as communicational tyrannies (or effective communicational defense mechanisms); Following the recommended articles, one will finally ask “what does a vowel do?” (a simplified but crucial question)

Firstly, vowels are among the fundamental anthropomorphic oversimplifying systems over communication (worse than redundancy) Back to neo-Sumerian age: see how the channel regimes of hieroglyphs/pictographs or tools of ‘corporealization / stabilization’ and transcendental informatics directly deposit as vowels, making a consolidated repression on the cognitive interfaces or the affect space of the nervous system and how vowels are customized as the Nucleus of ‘representation’. On the hand, consider vowelless alphabets and the gates they creatively open (just a few obvious threads): right-brain processing (i.e. slow processing or taking a more engaging paths for interlocking with communication systems) [1]; engineering semantic irresolution which brings an immense tolerance of informatic pollution (suspension, horror, complexities, deferral, etc.), this offers a great potential for engaging with ambiguities and abstractions; the resistance to voice (the authority: pharaoh?) is exceptionally increased; etc.

[1] also visuo-spatial processing and the ability of identity-recognition of different objects with different configurations are highly promoted. "

Negarestani states that vowels are part of an anthropomorphism of "systems of communication". But isn't a system of communication essentially a construct? To anthropocentrically construct an intrinsically vital component of a communication system (the vowel) that so beautifully expresses, and affords space for the corporealization of language, for the whimper or the battle cry to be the pneumatico-respiratory soul between the guillotines of logos’ mercenary consonantal foot soldiers – isn’t this a valuable substitute for more autonomous or flexible forms of communication (such as digitalized programs, or mathematically formed matrices)?

Let’s reconsider the historic significatory politics of the vowel first, for as yet we have only contemplated the articulatory aspects. It is all well and good to juxtapose the eight consonantal articulations (bilabial, labiodental, interdental, alveolar, palatal, velar, glottal and uvulars) and pit them against a helplessly emotional, soft and fleshy vowel (which has one mode of articulation: airflow) – but this would be to binary, too easy. 

Rather than investigate a pareidolic mirage, echoing The Connors fight against Skynetian cyborg persecution(3), we must dig deeper. In this linguistic excavation we can return to Negarestani once more:

“vowelless alphabets are just anthropomorphic as they have been engineered by the high priests of Semitic Slaves (and in their open laboratories) who unleashed their alphabetic epidemic once they composed it (no later or extra programming) ... think using the term anthropomorphic in a negative sense (economical lines of transcendence, corporealization, expression, communication, etc) is not appropriate here ... their alphabetic epidemic hit autonomy and activated as a self-propagation germline with its own uncontrollable artificial intelligence, diversities and cognitive insurgencies as soon as it was set free ... vowelless alphabets are not anthropomorphic in this negative sense but radically artificial, emerged out of participations between different lines simultaneously: hyperstitional grasp of the universe [there is no word FICTION in ancient Hebrew because it’s already a contagious fiction], numeracy, anti-image / anti-voice cognitive patterns, etc.) ... but take the path of vowels: the authoritative corporealization systems of the early syllabic/pictographic languages (entirely based on the despotic anthropomorphism or affordance-based [J. J. Gibson] cognition with the universe through representation and corporealization) are directly deposited as vowels. Vowels are also autonomous in some respects as they restrain, direct and manage, re-organize and smuggle the initial anthropomorphic transcendence of the pictographs’ corporealization systems and their cognitive / vocal repressions through the progression (evolution?) of vowel-based alphabets ... vowels are watchers: they maintain programs of their nucleus. They carry and develop their nucleus without introducing much diversity to it -- only re-organization of their nucleus by re-organizing themselves. Vowels (re-)manage and optimize the initial despotic corporealization processes and the VOICE (Who?: Pharaoh, God, Cosmos, Oedipus, Sphinx?) lurking within them from the first syllabic/pictographic place.”

Corporealizatory linguistic evolution as a product of repression from anthropological corpo-forms – the ancient logograms harboured an anthropological tyranny, rooted in repression, and this tyranny has evolved into the vowel graphemes and phonemes of today. Should we re-think vowels as the breathy, harmonious, resonantal, ghostly, Siren-Cyclons that haunt and thwart our voyage to the Eden of truly autonomous communication? Or rather should we simply cherish their corporeality, their autonomy from communication constructs and their opportunity as gates to the animalistic? Is this another form of the  dyadic extimacy within the voice?

(1)See Sloterdijk, for further ceramic-pneumatic analysis in Genesis.
(2)This also aligns the platonic thread of logoscentricism against the voice as harmony or music – of meaning and sense being the the side car of political, phallocentric dominance.
(3)Or simply allows one to dredge up Dolarian dyadicisms – the ineradictable extimacies of consonantal/vowelific phonotactics..

Useful links and stuff

Akkadian Language
The Old Babylonian Period (c. 1900-1500 BCE) Languages recording at SOAS - Mark on predictive texts
Mark and Reza on vowel elimination  - etc


  1. I commented earlier about Foucault's mention of rousseau and vowels and consonants on vomitorium. And thought i'd comment here.
    I'm afraid I've read no Negrastani, although I have Nick Land and Mark Fisher (they're connected thinkers, yes?), but am better versed in the more old school (they were new school in my day...) Foucault and Deleuze (well Deleuze was).

    But I find this interesting as I know Mark looks at the problems of T.I.N.A and I am particularly fond, even if not in 100% agreement with Nick Land's conception of Kantian noumena as vampire, or at least as I read it the vampiric problem of a cetagorical imperative.

    I say this as I came to this site because of my interest in the phenomenon of 'hearing voices', of course this is different from the 'Voice' the focus here, other than the fact that in a sense the phenomenon of hearing voices is that of an Other, often but not always vampiric that i 'heard'.

    I have been reading some of the discussion of acousmatic here and wonder about the idea of hearing voices as 'acousmatic' as they often have no origin, or more perversely can be heard from objects; cars screeching, tapping, clicks, basslines, riffs. I particularly like the idea of acousmatic as being thunder, I once heard a booming voice speak to me in a thunder clap. Terrifying experience.

    In another post there was discussion of the Idiot where Myshkin listens to voices from behind a door (the Idiot remains the book that took me the longest to read - from age 17 to 24) and it struck me as the position of the voice hearer, where the door can be likened to the one from Kafka's tale before the law and these voices come through it? or are they the judges hastening you through? or condemning you for not passing?

    Anyway, so in my research I have been looking at research that connects 'hearing voices' to traumatic experience and are a form of emotional disregulation (it seems possibly from the experience of the traumatised subjects reception in the world), and these emotional experiences return as speech (the Law as symbolic?).

    however, this post leaping commenting I am doing started from a post on sloterdijk, and inter-uterine experience as a base for subject formation affected by aurality.

    Now, if you can follow this leap, what Negerastani, who I belive is associated with accelerationism? seems to be saying is that the severing of emotions that has been a project of the Enlightenment since Kant (although I'm sure Hume would disagree), can be finalised in the neo-liberal order by the severing of any link between emotion and need (feelings being so parasitic on needs - or is it need parasitic on desire?) by removing vowels? Machine code only?

    exorcise the Mother finally, end the project of modernity started with primitive accumulation. All we have left is noise?

    Not Oedipus, nor Ulysses but the desire of Ulysses oarsmen who are caught in a double bind between the call of the Siren and Ulysses (the father-entrpreneur/capitalist?).

  2. Yeah, just google CCRU warwick, it's all there. I really like Negarestani's essays in Collapse Journal. What is T.I.N.A.?

    Hearing voices ties into the metaphysical implications of the acousmatic I guess, the ultimate acousmatic voice, not a hidden source but an internal source that throws all external sounds into question... Hearing voices in external phenomena - a form of pareidolia right, seeing info that aint there in info that is there... the hollywood shorthand for schizophrenia. This is a fascinating split to contemplate, the sound source is visible, it NOT acousmatic, but the meaning is false, internalised and fictional (arguably).

    My Prince Myshkin analogy was maybe a touch naff, I can't remember the exact scene really, it's just Sloterdijk uses the analogy of a child putting a glass to a door in the home and I felt Myshkin had that childlike feel about him, so threw it in the post...

    There's actually a lot of information about hearing voices, hysteria and the acousmatic in the reading texts for the course - the list is on the side.

    I'll need a Negarestani ref I'm afraid with the last bit, I only know his Collapse essays and Cyclonopedia tbh. But on first glance I think the RN comments I linked to show vowels as something that can be jettisoned for greater, purer levels of communication - Negarestani also comments on the code-ial repression by the vowels origin - vowel as dominant - quite the opposite - but this, these origins are something im totally unfamiliar with - but I his comments are, I guess from an accelerationist POV in that post

    SS - you should definitely invest in Bubbles, there is a whole chapter about the Sirens and Ulysses, he basically says the Sirens sing the sound of home but that it;s actually in his head, it's the thought of the sounds of home, his welcome home, that ironically threaten to derail his journey.... You should also check out Dolar's book, there is a whole chapter on the workings of the word/voice of the law, of the father, of thunder on the mountain to moses (IIRC)

  3. T.I.N.A - the acronym for There Is No Alternative - the stuff Mark talks about with regard to Zizek and people finding it harder to imagine the end of capitalism than the end of the world.

    Bought Dolar book from reading this blog, haven't read it yet though. But gonna have to up it up the to-read list.

    Damn and i may have to invest in Bubbles.

    BTW, talking of Sloterdijk taking Lacan's lack to task, and what you have written on here about Sirens and mermaids. I started trying to write about Ponyo (it is a japanese animated version of the Little Mermaid - my son loves it, he watched the Disney too, but wasn't really in to it, but loves Ponyo) in comparison to Lars Von Trier's Antichrist.

    In Ponyo the little boy has to see the mermaid for who she is to forestall environmental disaster, a disaster that includes prehistoric fish appearing (if you haven't seen it check it out), in Antichrist it is about a complete failure to accept women's emotionality, and here I will add especially those dealing with the trauma of a several thousand year persecuting, authoritarian, patriarchal history that includes persecution of witches and phallocentric psychoanalysis.

  4. oh, and the death of a son (big missing chunk there)

  5. re: Pareidolia there is are also ideas (or delusions) of reference. Thinking the radio or TV is talking to you.

    Also re: Paraeidolia I do get flashes of words appearing in books and in adverts (static therefore not subliminal (at least intentionally)

    Amusing voice experience, walking down the road to my house past a workshop (I live on an industrial estate) thinking about Max Weber's idea of the state having the monopoly of legitimate coercion and a voice comes out of the workshop, "Better report them to the monopoly and mergers commission then"

    It seems my unconscious is wittier than i am :-)

    (Out of interest) I've recently had an article accepted for publication, hopefully in the September issue of Asylum magazine ( on a form of Pareidolia I call Signifier Surfing. It's for a non-academic audience but i play with Lacan, Damasio and Nick Land amongst others and try and have a bit of fun, whilst describing psychotic exeriences

  6. That's interesting, I've never watched Ponyo, but I did go through a phase of being preoccupied with Ariels voice - I'm very interesting in the underlying female repression (phallocentricsm AND/OR logocentricism?? - thats a question!!??) throughout the myths (Hera + Echo + Sirens), the greek guys (Plato, Aristotle) and the dodgy legacy it's left - Mermaids - like ariel - you may have seen this before but just incase:

    The whole female voice/ sirens mermaids thing is, kinda explored a little there....

  7. "It seems my unconscious is wittier than i am :-)" right there - that's a split, a schism, schizo - whilst walking.... you're living up to your name - how apt!

    I'll have to check Asylum out and find your article - send me a message when you know it's out - if you get chance.

    I think pareidolia is a very natural thing, we look for patterns to survive, we get pinched by a crab so we fear spiders - I was reading lovecraft after a long day at uni last week and I honestly thought I read cthulhu qua cthulhu - needed to give it a rest I guess!

  8. I went through a period of being obsessed with the idea of Herakles as a voice hearer. I found out that the root -kles was linked to hearing.

    and Herakles is linked to 'hearing Hera' as much as 'the fame of Hera', also 'kles is linked to 'kleis' which is to do with the legacy of the father, the fame of the father's deeds carried on through the children.

    Also Hera was the only Greek goddess to be married so I went down this whole Hera as Andrea dworkin's rich Women thing.

    So it all became I was Herakles as I was being persecuted by a female voice at the time (these things vary) I was hearing the social norms of the area and time, the Genius-loci in the form of the views of a woman who supports the patriarchal status quo by oppressing other women and those who would support any form of liberation.

    Also I am a massive fan of Boz Scaggs song 'Hercules' and the lyrics really seemed to sum up what I was going through at the time.

    I stole the term schizo stroller from a book by Rolando Perez called On An(archy) and Schizoanalysis.

  9. Meant to also say associated with the Greek -kleis, we had in Christianity the sins of the Father, as opposed to the fame. fame is a sin?

  10. Hera, was basically a strong woman having to live in Zeus' shadow, right, I found a lot of her problems/rash reactions had Zeus or Jealousy at the bottom of them - that's the impression I get from the small parts of Ovid I've read, she was goddess of marriage and women - a doomed position really when you consider Zeus.

    To quote you back "a woman who supports the patriarchal status quo by oppressing other women" - sounds an awful lot like Hera!!

    I ought to check out Heracles more, I've only read his lion escapade so far.

    You could say you were Narcissus too, you were being persecuted by a female voice, but it was internal, so essentially the words were, to some degree yours... check out this old post that analyses the Ovid text directly:

    The post before sums up a little Dolar and touches on the Echo and Narcissus relation a little too

  11. "While taking a stroll outdoors, on the other hand, he is in the mountains, amid falling snowflakes, with other gods or without any gods at all, without a family, without a father or a mother, with nature. "What does my father want? Can he offer me more than that? Impossible, leave me in peace." Everything is a machine. Celestial machines, the stars or rainbows in the sky, alpine machines - all of them connected to those of his body. The continual whirr of machines. "He thought that it must be a feeling of endless bliss to be in contact with the profound life of every form, to have a soul for rocks, metals, water, and plants, to take into himself, as in a dream, every element of nature, like flowers that breath with the waxing and waning of the moon"." - FELIX GUATTARI GILLES DELEUZE, 1984. ANTI-OEDIPUS: CAPITALISM AND SCHIZOPHRENIA. Edition. CONTINUUM INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING GROUP - ATHLONE. (Chapter - Desiring Machines , Page 2)