Saturday, February 13, 2010

Consultation on Biolinguistics

At January 14, 2010, Marcello Barbieri mailed this message to a group of scholars in biosemiotics:
"We have all been critical of Chomsky’s ideas, to a lesser or greater extent, but we cannot ignore them, especially because they are the basis of the new research field of Biolinguistics which has been developed in parallel with Biosemiotics. By a strange coincidence, the journals that bear their names, Biolinguistics and Biosemiotics, have even started regular publication together, in 2008.
The crucial point is that both fields regard language as a natural phenomenon and claim a scientific approach to its study. Two different philosophies can remain entrenched forever into antagonistic positions, but two scientific disciplines are bound to look for dialogue, testing, confrontation and, ideally, for a synthesis of their ideas. Such a process, however, requires not only individual contributions but also collective discussions, and that is precisely the purpose of this collective letter.
I am sending in attachment the draft of a paper [here, C.E.] that proposes a synthesis of the two fields and I invite each of you to express your opinion. If you want to comment on the paper I shall be grateful, of course, but you can also ignore it and just express your ideas on the issue in question. The purpose of this consultation is to get a realistic picture of the feelings that exist today in Biosemiotics in respect to Biolinguistics, and I hope therefore that you will accept to comment on this point. Many thanks in advance for your attention and for your contribution."
Now Barbieri has compiled a file with the ensuing discussion, and asked me to post it here. You can download the the file here.
Barbieri kindly mailed me a version of his revised manuscipt, "On the Origin of Language - A synthesis of Biolinguistics and Biosemiotics", of February 11, 2010, that you can download here. Noam Chomsky and members of the Biosemiotic community are acknowledge.


Anonymous said...

In the Barbieri paper most essential contributors to an up to date definition of language are missing such as late Wittgenstein, Austin, Searle, Apel and Habermas . This means, Barbieri doesn't integrate pragmatic turn results into his consideration. A discussion about integration of biolinguistics with biosemiotics therefore reproduces philosophy of science problems of the late 60ies of last century.


Anonymous said...
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Arrow said...

Dear friends, I see I have come in at Stan's invitation to this discussion at a very late point! I hope to find some time to recap through the discussion so far of Marcello's paper. Meanwhile, I was responding most directly to the last posting in the email list by Soren Brier, and I will try to continue that soon. Some of you know me, and some don't. I am originally a theoretical physicist, later a colleague of Stan Salthe's and with him a developer of "hierarchical" approaches to complex systems, in my case mostly eco-social-semiotic or "socio-natural" systems, focusing on issues of emergence and multi-level, multi-scale (esp. timescales) analysis.
Lately my work has taken me to issues of feeling and emotion, neuroscience views of these vs. cultural and linguistic views, and so to the problem of combining the phenomenological and the semiotic, whether in embodied humans or in the bigger messes in which we humans find ourselves embedded.
More to come, I hope. JAY Lemke.

Claus Emmeche said...

Hi Jay,
welcome to this site. Sorry for the delay in "accepting" your comment: We had to turn the comment moderation feature on due to attempts to spam the blog with ads.
Kind regards,

phonosemantics said...

Since I am new here I cannot create an original posting. I've been studying organizational and functional parallels between language and genome for a long time, and the list is growing as I now and again refamiliarize myself with the biological side of things. My linguistic work centers around iconicity, something ignored by linguistic structuralists. Unfortunately linguistic functionalists, though they give lip service to iconicity, and many accept it in morphosyntax, tend to shy away from the one place where form and meaning are married in discreet fashion- phonosemantics (a.k.a. 'sound symbolism', but it is really diagrammatical iconicity using the featural geometry of the phonology as the organizational motif). Almost 20 years ago I discovered that the relative amounts of iconicity vs. symbolicity vs. indexicality in languages depended upon language morphosyntactic type. The lower the synthesis and fusion, the greater numbers of iconically transparent forms the language had-- and functionally they actually opposed those of the grammar, and weren't really part of lexicon proper.

Around the same time I realized that there were parallels between the genomic organization of different organisms and morphosyntactic type in language. Putting two and two together, it started to become apparent that the kinds of iconicity seen in the mappings of the genetic code and corresponding amino acids with regard to side chain properties had relevance to the problem of iconic transparency in language.

Nature seems to be highly conservative when it comes to norms for transmitting information through narrow, linearized channels. Even certain properties of atomic and subatomic systems may be analyzed in linguistic fashion.

I don't know whether anyone here is interested. Folks like me tend to wander from place to place, give our spiels, and then go as boredom or frustration sets in, at one or both ends. But let me know. I'm always looking for fresh perspectives.

Jess Tauber