Representation, levels, and context in integrational linguistics and distributed cognition

Language Sciences (6):503-524 (2004)
Distributed Cognition and Integrational Linguistics have much in common. Both approaches see communicative activity and intelligent behaviour in general as strongly con- text-dependent and action-oriented, and brains as permeated by history. But there is some ten- sion between the two frameworks on three important issues. The majority of theorists of distributed cognition want to maintain some notions of mental representation and computa- tion, and to seek generalizations and patterns in the various ways in which creatures like us couple with technologies, media, and other agents; many also want to offer explanations at subpersonal levels which may undercut the autonomy of personal-level accounts. In contrast, dominant views in integrational linguistics reject all invocation of representation, resist the explanatory search for similarity across contexts and moments, and see linguistics as a lay dis- cipline which should not offer explanations in terms alien to ordinary agents. On each of these issues, I argue that integrationists could move closer to the distributed cognition frame- work without losing the most important aspects of their view: integrationist criticisms of mainstream or classical theories can be respected while alliances with revised cognitivist views about representation, context, and explanation are developed. Ó 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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