Mimesis and language: A distributed view

Interaction Studies: Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systems 13 (1):17-40 (2012)
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Abstract

To unzip language from social behaviour one can hypothesise that language-systems are constituted by words and rules or, alternatively, constructions. The systems thus become autonomous and, if linked to individualist psychology, one can posit that each person’s brain operates a language faculty However, such views find little support in neuroscience. Brains self-organize by linking phonetic (and manual) gestures with action-perception. Far from being housed in the skull,language activity links people across time-scales. Not only does articulation give rise to speech but,together with gesture, this is partly anticipatory, uses long term and working memory, and links with both previous interactions and linguistic history. Further, without conscious acting and perceiving, what we call language would be no more than sound or visible pattern. Accordingly,language can be viewed as what Fowler (2010) calls ‘between person public activity.’ As such, it arises as people co-ordinate while using cultural history and circumstances. On this distributed view(see, Cowley, 2007a; 2009), this results in skills with affective, verbal and social resources for doings things together Genotypes build phenotypes as persons or selves (Ross, 2007) arise under biological, linguistic and cultural constraints. As we concert activity, we re-enact the phonetic gestures and visible expression of our fellows. We come to hear phenomenological patterns that can be described as languages and their parts.

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