Does the need for linguistic expression constitute a problem to be solved?

This paper has two objectives. The first is to formulate a critique of present-day cognitive linguistics (CL) concerning the inner workings of the cognitive system during language use, and the second is to put forward an alternative account that is inspired by the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty. Due to its third-person methodology, CL views language use essentially as a problem-solving activity, as coping with two subproblems: the problem of minimum and maximum, which consists in selecting the appropriate expression out of an unlimited multitude of possibilities, and the problem of the underdetermination of signification. This approach presupposes a notion of an isolated subject and a representationalist view of perception. We defend an alternative view of man's relation to the world in which intersubjectivity is constitutive of embodied subjectivity and which exchanges the representationalist view of perception for a direct nonrepresentationalism. We describe the ensuing view of linguistic action as intra- and interpersonal “all-at-onceness.” This approach dismisses the two subproblems CL implicitly identifies as constitutive of language use. The first is countered by rethinking what it means to be a situated speaking subject and results in the concept of “style.” The second is tackled by opposing the concept of “overdetermination” to CL's notion of underdetermination.
Keywords Cognitive linguistics  Representationalism  Phenomenology  Direct perception
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