How Humberto Maturana's Biology of Cognition Can Revive the Language Sciences

Constructivist Foundations 6 (3):352-362 (2011)
Purpose: This paper demonstrates the conceptual relevance of Maturana’s biology of cognition for the theoretical foundations of the language sciences. Approach: Stuck in rationalizing, rather than naturalizing, language, modern orthodox linguistics is incapable of offering a comprehensible account of language as a species-specific, biologically grounded human feature. This predicament can be overcome by using Maturana’s theory to stress that lived experience gives language an epistemological “lining.” Findings: The key concepts of Maturana’s biology of cognition provide a more coherent theoretical framework for the study of language that can give new life to the language sciences by stressing languaging and the importance of connotation. Conclusion: Maturana’s concept of “languaging” allows the language sciences to depart from the view of language as a system of symbols. Instead, focus should be placed on how the relational dynamics of linguistic interactions trigger changes in the dynamics of the nervous system and the organism as a whole, and how their reciprocal causality is distinguished and described by the languaging observer in terms of mind, intelligence, reason, and self-consciousness
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