Index Language

Language Evolution - Origins of Language - Theories of Language

Gregory Bateson -
Niklas Luhmann

Francisco Varela -
Humberto Maturana -
George Lakoff -

Cognitive Linguistics:

Language and questions about how language works have accompanied my life for more than sixty years.
I grew up learning to speak Swiss-German. When I went to school, I had to learn a new language, we Swiss do not write our language, we write in High-German.
The little boy wondered why it was so difficult to learn to think with such strange, new words and sentence forms. And why could I not understand what Herr Blau, the Jewish refugee who lived with our familiy, said. He spoke "Hochdeutsch", the language I could now read, but I still could not understand what he said, he spoke with an accent that was not familiar. Why did people speak so many different languages?
At the age of twelve, we had to learn French at school. My first French word was "la carafe" - a container made of glass for pouring drinking water into glasses. An object that did not exist in our household. French speakers obviously lived in a very different world.
And then - three years later - the adolescent Me had his first English lesson.
I remember walking home after school having one very clear thought in my mind: Das isch miini Spraach - This is going to be my language! This is MY language!
It took me fifteen years to realise this dream. I graduated from Zurich University with a degree in English Language. It was during the years of studying at university that I learnt to ask questions about language:

How do we speak? How do we think? How do we communicate?
How do words get their meaning? How do we form sentences? How do we understand each other?

What I did not learn at university, is to answer such questions. I learnt a lot about grammar, about old forms of English, about the structure of language.
It was only during the last twenty years that I encountered authors who helped me realise that language cannot be understood if one studies it as a THING. Answers to my questions can only be found if one asks about the Process of Languaging.

Language - Languaging:
Francisco Varela - Humberto Maturana
Erkennen - beobachten - denken - nachdenken: Knowledge - Experience
Maturana: Baum der Erkenntnis Seite 123 :
Mit anderen Worten: Wir sind in der Sprache, oder - noch besser - wir «sprachen» nur dann, wenn wir durch eine reflexive Handlung eine sprachliche Unterscheidung einer sprachlichen Unterscheidung treffen. In der Sprache zu operieren, bedeutet also in einem Bereich kongruenter, ko-ontogenetischer Strukturkoppelung zu operieren.
Für unsere Zwecke können wir aber das Grundmerkmal der Sprache, die auf radikale Weise die menschlichen Verhaltensbereiche modifiziert und dabei neue Phänomene wie die der Reflexion und des Bewusstseins ermöglicht, identifizieren. Dieses Merkmal ist, daß die Sprache dem, der damit operiert, die Beschreibung seiner selbst und der Umstände seiner Existenz erlaubt - und zwar mit Hilfe sprachlicher Unterscheidungen von sprachlichen Unterscheidungen.

The branch of science that I had studied as a young man changed many of its basic assumptions in the past thirty years:

From studying "structure" - "langue" - "competence" -
to describing "processes" - "parole" - "performance".

From studying "language-production" - "generative syntax" -
to investigating "language-comprehension" - "cognitive semantics".

From assuming an innate "language module"
to studying how children learn to understand languages.

From regarding the brain as a digital computer - a trivial machine
to investigating the brain's "plasticity", its "learning capacity".
The brain is a non-trivial machine

My "unlearning" results: An update of ideas

Christine Kenneally The First Word
The search for the origins of language
Viking 2007

Kenneally - update I
Kenneally - update II

Francisco Varela The Certainty of Uncertainty
Berhard Poerksen: Dialogues Introducing Constructivism
Imprint Academic 2004
The idea of representation in the form of symbols has long been the foundation of mathematics and the basis of linguistics, whereas the ideas that I pursue introduce something very novel. There is still less experience with the investigation of dynamic and emergent systems, everything becomes more complicated and less easy to penetrate.
Cognition is the bringing forth of a world; the meaning of something is no longer understood as resulting from a correspondence between an object and a symbol but as the emergence of stable impressions and patterns invariants. These develop in the course of time. A regular pattern must have appeared first before we can take it to be a feature of a world that we consider independent from us.

- "structure" - "langue" - "competence" - "parole" - "performance"
- "language-production" - "generative syntax"
- "language-comprehension" - "cognitive semantics"
- "language module" - "plasticity" - "learning capacity"
- trivial machines - non-trivial machines: edelman-2nat82
- From Molecule to Metaphor Jerome Feldman - cognitive linguistics
- systems theory - Systemtheorie

So you see - as an old man of seventy-plus - I am still asking, I am still curious, I am still learning about language - about: The Process of Languaging - The Process of Thinking - The Process of Communicating - The Process of Living - The Process of Life - The Process of Being.