Linguistic fire and human cognitive powers

Pragmatics and Cognition 20 (2):275-294 (2012)
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Abstract

To view language as a cultural tool challenges much of what claims to be linguistic science while opening up a new people-centred linguistics. On this view, how we speak, think and act depends on, not just brains, but also cultural traditions. Yet, Everett is conservative: like others trained in distributional analysis, he reifies ‘words’. Though rejecting inner languages and grammatical universals, he ascribes mental reality to a lexicon. Reliant as he is on transcriptions, he takes the cognitivist view that brains represent word-forms. By contrast, in radical embodied cognitive theory, bodily dynamics themselves act as cues to meaning. Linguistic exostructures resemble tools that constrain how people concert acting-perceiving bodies. The result is unending renewal of verbal structures: like artefacts and institutions, they function to sustain a species-specific cultural ecology. As Ross argues, ecological extensions make human cognition hypersocial. When we link verbal patterns with lived experience, we communicate and cognise by fitting action/perception to cultural practices that anchor human meaning making.

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Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe.
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind.Evan Thompson - 2007 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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