Words signify a consciousness, of which a newborn or pet can only hear. The baby goes on to break a word up into its individual sounds, eventually coalescing into a communicative language of memes while your dog relies on its own form of internal narrative.
There is some form of mental awareness in all creatures. A body without a brain contains zero working neurons and a dead narrative.
Words are tokens, pictures drawn with letters
Words are a different animal than pictures, perhaps the most effective at harvesting attention; humans use words to propagandize, market, deceive and spread evil. Said Nikola Tesla on the potency of language: “If hate could be turned into electricity, it would light up the whole world.”
Words are sensory stimulants, made of information to which you supply order. They carve out emotions for which both the bad and good stuff sticks. The more you use a word, the more you’ll be charged for it. “Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words,” wrote William Faulkner in his 1927 novel, Mosquitos.
We invent words, best exemplified in lists, because we don’t want to die. Words cue action, form, and follow-through. Yet they also slip the leash — it is their existence that also poses the most threat to our everyday consciousness.
To make meaning and deeper complexity, we need better mental processors.