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Morphogenesis of Meaning

Translated by Franson Manjali

Jean Petitot

The original French version of «Morphogenesis of Meaning» was one of the important breakthroughs in cognitive semiolinguistics during the eighties. It provided a deep philosophical elaboration of René Thom’s Catastrophe Theory and exerted great influence on the main semiolinguistic schools in the world. Translated by Franson Manjali and revised with his help, the present English version focuses on dynamical modeling perspectives, the mathematical content of the models, and epistemologically foundational issues. The central problem dealt with is that of structure. Topological and dynamical models of morphogenesis are applied to structuralist theories such as phonology and categorical perception (Roman Jakobson), structural syntax and geometrical interpretation of case grammars (Lucien Tesnière, Louis Hjelmslev), narrative structures (Vladimir Propp, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Algirdas J. Greimas) as well as semiogenesis. It can be seen that there exists a theoretical convergence between many trends in American cognitive linguistics (Charles Fillmore, Len Talmy, Ron Langacker, George Lakoff) and the dynamical modeling perspectives which were developped in the context of European structuralism.
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Cognitive Morphodynamics

Dynamical Morphological Models of Constituency in Perception and Syntax


Jean Petitot

This book – written in collaboration with René Doursat, director of the Complex Systems Institute, Paris – adds a new dimension to Cognitive Grammars. It provides a rigorous, operational mathematical foundation, which draws from topology, geometry and dynamical systems to model iconic «image-schemas» and «conceptual archetypes». It defends the thesis that René Thom’s morphodynamics is especially well suited to the task and allows to transform the morphological structures of perception into Gestalt-like, abstract, proto-linguistic schemas that can act as inputs into higher-level specific linguistic routines.
Cognitive Grammars have drawn upon the view that the deep syntactic and semantic structures of language, such as prepositions and case roles, are grounded in perception and action. This study raises difficult problems, which thus far have not been addressed as a mathematical challenge. Cognitive Morphodynamics shows how this gap can be filled.