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enlanguaging mind
notes in light of The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics, 2007
February 24, 2008

1.1 – Obviously, there’s more to understanding and competence than what’s linguistic. The “language” of intelligence is kinesthetic, emotional, spatial, auditory, logical, and linguistic. An ontogenically-based holism of capability formation backgrounds linguistic competence and linguistic activity. John Searle argued in Intentionality (1982) that philosophy of language is a subarea of philosophy of mind (Burt Dreyfus’s phenomenology got to him). A concordant position, via maturation of cognitive science, became cognitive linguistics, as variously indicated—but nowhere disputed—in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics, 2007 (hereafter: OHCL).

1.2 – Having something to “say” may make itself grammatical, according to one’s capability for doing so, but capability of understanding and expression is not intrinsically grammatical. I would argue that the language of intelligence is primordially bioglyphic, which shows, relative to cognitive linguistic typology, as an ontogenically fleshed-out (individual) topology of embodied shematicity, “force dynamics, “ “mental spaces,” “attentional perspectivization,” “entrenchment,” “salience,” “frames,” “idealized cognitive models,” “domains,” “spatial semantics,” “prototypes,” richly variable trope-icality, “conceptual integration,” etc. constituted, in part, through, rather than by, its component, linguistically-representing capability formation. The upshot of cognitive science is that the “grammar” of mind is untranslatable into a grammar of linguistic contents of mind and action (though we seek to render that linguistically, but that’s about nonlinguistic neurocognitivity, prevalently employing non-linguistic modeling, e.g., neural-net modeling).

1.3 – Key to cognitive linguistics is that interests of action are primordial to development of linguistic competence (pragmatics is inherent to semantics). Human intelligence uses linguistic means to ontogenically gain vast resourcefulness, vastly facilitated linguistically, vastly linguistic in content, but the nature-nurtural enabling of intelligence is an individuation across years of experience that are kinesthetically, perceptively, logically, spatially, intersubjectively, conceptually, and linguistically realized.

1.4 – Desire for action—intentionality—motivates and gives purpose to language acquisition. Linguistic intelligence can only be constructively understood (i.e., understood as constructive for action) relative to the ontogenic interest expressed in “terms” of purposeful action, I would argue. (This discussion is an argumentation sketch, not pretending to be self-evidently convincing; rather, sketching my current understanding. Having this undermined would be welcomed!) The cognitively-rooted human interest in efficacious action is primordial, I would argue, and linguistic means powerfully serve that because linguistic representation tends to prevail in one’s sense of mental representation.

1.5 – But mind is primordially intentional: goal-formative or purposive, employing representations in light of interests. This kind of claim about the essentially-nonrepresentational nature of mind easily appears counterintuitive relative to [1] the conventional (sociological) pervasiveness of linguistic interest, [2] the vast content of mind that is linguistically tagged (though not grammatically organized!), and [3] the socially-common marginality of postconventional individuation (which is not sociocentric), altogether suggesting a primacy of representational interest (in terms of linguistic representations), rather than a primacy of purposive or goal-formative interest (in “terms” of appeals or “what” is appealing). We rely on linguistic intelligence for conveyance of anything and for communicable representation of anything—and, of course, anthropologically, life is pervaded by linguistic contents; so, linguistic intelligence (a) serves the interests of communicative representation, (b) biases the conception of representation linguistically, and (c) biases the conception of mind representationally, according with sociocentric orientations. But generally, mental representation serves the interest of action, communicative or not (e.g., in inquiry and problem-solving), which is basically purposive. (“Force dynamics,” “attention,” and “perspectivity” in cognitive linguistics pertain to “intentional stance” [Dennett] in cognitive science.)

1.6 – Teleological intersts of individuation may prevail over communicative interest (richly evidenced by research on creativity and problem-solving), though teleological interest is commonly communicative, and communicative interest is axial wherever human interaction is important (which is, of course, most of the time, the more so relative to the sociocentricness of one’s life). After all, gaining something new to say doesn’t arise from an interest in communication (which presumes something preceding it worth communicating). Gaining original representations doesn’t follow from given conventional frames of mind. Such a view is not instrumentalist or functionalist, in the sense of subservience to given ends, just as an interest in making paths doesn’t foretell what paths one is interested in making; or an interest in discovery doesn’t foretell what is-to-be discovered. The primacy of purposiveness is not as such naïvely instrumentalist, i.e., existing relative to a given sense of purpose. A “functionalism” that is primarily about high valuation of efficacy isn’t as such about valuing pre-specified efficacies.

1.7 – “Individuation through socialization” (Habermas, Postmetaphysical Thinking) doesn’t alone create the conditions for shaping good purposiveness, which is inherently open-ended in its efficaciousness, let alone accounting for high individuation (the condition for important discovery, novelty, innovation, etc.). Moreover, individuation that may gain postconventional (or trans-social, so to speak) excellence (presence) is not explicable in terms of socialization at all (especially as possibly becoming less a “stage” of development than a way of further developing). Potential for creativity, innovation, and difficult problem-solving requires even post-“postconventional” primacy of individuation over stage-centered modeling, in learning and action that engages the entire “language” of capabilities, contrary to common representational practices. But such individuating isn’t simply supervenient on its staged background. It’s as if that staging is no longer its background, as the conditions of conception may be transformed in the passage. The heuristic distinction between conventional and postconventional may be transformed into a way of employing the difference that is unaccountable as merely “postconventional” practice. Postconventionality may remain a kind of conventionality that is left behind for a sense of folding-back appropriativity of modeling that works easily among and beyond given paradigming. No wonder, then, that philosophy as conceptual design may look more like a strange rigor of rhetoric (e.g., Derrida) than as a recognizable brand of analysis.

2 – The above paragraphs look nothing like what I set out to briefly express several days ago (coming back to this intermittantly), as I first intended to merely note my interest in the OHCL, before elaborating a rather-disconnected set of notes, for the sake of moving on, by rendering a bridge to soon focusing on some aspects of recent cognitive science.

3 – It’s very notable and ironic that the OHCL has no chapter by George Lakoff, who is probably the primary parent of cognitive linguistics and is a key figure in most of the chapters of the OHCL. (The editors lament this absence.) Lakoff and company, in Berkeley, are presently running the “Neural Theory of Language” group, which delights me immensely, as I’m drawn to Ruth Millikan’s biological sense of language, especially her sense of concept as ability (conception as capability, pertaining to “schematicity” in cognitive linguistics). This has wonderful implications for a capability-focused approach to human development, ethically (Robert M. Adams, in terms of excellence, in A Theory of Virtue, 2007), politically (Martha Nussbaum, Frontier of Justice, 2006) and economically (Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, 1998), as well as ontogenically.

4.1 – Though the OHCL has a chapter on language acquisition, the primacy of this domain of inquiry for the entirety of cognitive linguistics isn’t emphasized. The OHCL chapter relating history of psychology to the history of cognitive linguistics implies a primacy of developmental psychology that the entire book corroborates, but doesn’t emphasize across its chapters. All of the especially-linguistic features of cognitive development are embodied (“entrenched”) in ontogeny of first-language acquisition (and in the optimum period for becoming bi-/multilingual that is early childhood). Merleau-Pontian kinestheology of space (Evan Thompson’s “embodied cognition”) generates a “spatial semantics” (the focus of one chapter of the OHCL) for the ontogeny of “mental spaces.” “Prototyping” in “iconicity” expresses primal conceptuality (“image schema”) that generates efficacy with “metonymy” and “metaphor” leading to capability for formal conceptuality. Language acquisition is derivative of general cognitive ontogeny (even though linguisticality prevails for socialization, inasmuch as individuation is sociocentric).

4.2 – Philosophy of mind may be ultimately about the ontogenic background (evolved neurocognitive phenotype) that is individuated in capability. Developmental cognitive neuroscience may be the foundational domain of inquiry for cognitive linguistics (the “evo-devo” bridge domain for evolutionary cognitive neuroscience).

5.1 – If a reader of Habermas should wonder whether “reconstructive science” is a real thing, s/he has only to consider linguistics, and any other human science relative to its linguistic relativities. (Linguistic relativity is obviously valid as a scientific notion, but ontic tenability for theorizing human potential doesn’t follow from that.) It’s dramatically obvious from the OHCL that cognitive linguistics considers itself a reconstructive science, just as memory itself is reconstructive for “purely” cognitive science.

5.2 – But there’s an ethos of surface-structuralism in cognitive linguistic’s sense of image schema and metaphor (which also affects—infects—the sense of “unconscious” in theorization of ideology critique, which is an overt focus of the OHCL). Surrendering the Chomskian sense of deep structure (as cognitive linguistics does) doesn’t call for surrendering genealogical deep structure (inquiry into ontogenic structuring), but the cognitive-linguistic sense of structure seems to be generally shallow, from a genealogical-capabilitist perspective, so to speak. In other words, cognitive linguistics asserts the inherence of pragmatics in semantics synchronically, but seems to lose the pragmatic in its sense of capability formation (i.e., the constitutiveness of image schemas, etc., as vested in actional interest), due (apparantly) to an underdetermination of capability formation in the sense of deep structure. I would delight to learn how wrong I am about this (as I did read all of the more-foundational chapters completely).

5.3 – Such an underdetermination of generative pragmatics may be symptomized in a general underattention to communicative action, lamented by the chapter on “discourse and text structure.” Thus, Habermas’ theory of communicative action is a profound complement to cognitive linguistics just waiting to be wed (while, conversely, JH’s formal pragmatics lacks the background in cognitive science that cogntive linguistics seeks to provide to its tradition).

5.4 – It is remarkable for a Habermasian to read the motivational background of cognitive linguistics (chapter 1 of the OHCL)—against Chomsky and professing the primacy of pragmatics—but find no note of Habermas’ formal pragmatics or theory of communicative action. (George Lakoff has been quite aware of Habermas’ work, at least since the mid-’80s) One might marvel at the fact that Habermas was proffering the pragmatic linguistic cognitivity that cognitive linguistics needs, c1976 onward (even 1971?), before linguistics (in Berkeley, at least—which seems to have remained the center of the field) was transforming itself through growing appreciation of cognitive science.

6.1 – Though the OHCL dispels linguistic relativism as an ontic claim, in its chapter on “linguistic relativity,” the field perpetuates a sense of linguistic relativism by seeing itself as the axial interdisciplinarity among the disciplines it inherits: cognitive science, cultural anthropology, developmental psychology, philosophy of language, historical linguistics (of course), etc. This is no weakness of cognitive linguistics, but it causes an inquirer who is not professionally invested in linguistics to bear this bias in mind.

6.2 – On the other hand (several hands, actually), one could characterize this interdisciplinarity—or, as I prefer, interdomainity—relative to the other domains that influence cognitive linguistics: (1) My comments above might suggest an axiality for developmental psychology. (2) Certainly, anthropology considers itself the site of synthesis for all human sciences. (3) Habermas has characterized philosophy as, in effect, master of ceremonies amid the group (axial integrator prior to a new interdomainity gaining identity as a discipline—a notion of philosophy, by the way, advanced by the chapter of the OHCL on philosophy and cognitive linguistics, a discussion there that is uncognizant of Habermas, though it is written in Europe).

6.3 – But we see Habermas remaining extensively philosophical, in solidarity with the history of philosophy (but without metaphysicalism). It’s common in cognitive science to see itself as essentially philosophical, in a Habermasian sense (though not in terms of Habermas’ work), and it’s common to cognitive science to see itself as an interdomainal site with axial importance for the evolution of inquiry in the human sciences.

6.4 – I would argue that the conceptuality of a given interdomainity is its axial gravity. But this conceptuality would not be a consensual domain within the interdomainal community of inquiry, which may rely on a generative ambiguity about its nature. An axial gravity can work best as latent flourishing of the interdomainity. (“We easily recognize the flourishing, but the flourishingness escapes us.”) Endeavors of clarifying multimodal, interdomainal conceptuality are part of the interdomainity, not its basis, and the ferment of disagreement there would be generative for the lifespan of the interdomainal form of inquiry. Any leading edge of discursive inquiry might welcome an elusiveness of its center of gravity—or welcome a mobile telos. (Picture a grand flock of birds suddenly changing course, then soon again, while remaining the same flock pathmaking through the ethos.) In all events, a potential question of the discursiveness of the quest is easily shared. If not addressed, the question awaits an inevitable stay.