Words are "the point at which thinking becomes thought" (RCA 53); they are "the expression on the face of concrete reality" (PD 62). Indeed, in the roots of words, we can still hear "the echo of nature herself sounding in man. Or rather, they are the echo of what once sounded and fashioned in both of them at the same time" (SA 123). Thus, "Words and their meanings are to qualities what numbers are to quantities" (LEC 431).

Words, Barfield reminds, are not what they appear to be. "The full meaning of words are flashing, iridescent shapes like flames-- ever-flickering vestiges of the slowly evolving consciousness beneath them. To the Locke-Müller-France way of thinking, on the contrary, they appear as solid chunks with definite boundaries and limits, to which other chunks may be added as occasion arises" (PD 75). Words "are not solid as stones are, but rather as human faces, which sometimes change their form as the inner man changes, and sometimes, remaining practically unaltered, express with the same configuration a different personality" (HEW 82).

See in particular Poetic Diction, passim, "Language, Evolution of Consciousness, and the Recovery of Human Meaning," Speaker's Meaning, passim.