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Language, reason and education

Studies in honor of Eddo Rigotti


Edited By Giovanni Gobber and Andrea Rocci

Language as reason represents the unifying theme of this multifaceted reflection on Eddo Rigotti’s scientific contribution offered by his students and colleagues on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Spanning argumentation theory, linguistics, psychology, semiotics and communication sciences, the volume reflects Rigotti’s generous personality and his trajectory of semiotician, philosopher, linguist and specialist in argumentation studies. Language as an instrument of communication with semiotic peculiarities is considered at different levels in which it manifests traces of reason at work. This means considering how reality reveals itself by means of language and how the semiotic character of language structures is used by people to enable joint actions and change the natural and social world. Particularly in focus is the realm of argumentation, that is of those joint actions where people exchange reasons in various communities, fora and markets in view of understanding and practical deliberation. To argumentation Eddo Rigotti devoted all his research efforts in recent years, with a keen sense of its intrinsic educational value and a sincere care for fostering the development of the argumentative mind.
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Georges Lüdi: Do languages “really” exist or are they mere discursive constructions?


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Do languages “really” exist or are they mere discursive constructions?

GEORGES LÜDI, University of Basel

1. Introduction

In our daily life, we are constantly surrounded, not to say bombarded, by a myriad of vocal and written signs that represent a central part of our environment and actually help us to live (see also the studies about what is called the “linguistic landscape” [cf. Landris and Bourhis 1997; Gorter ed. 2006; Shohamy and Gorter 2008; Hélot et al. eds. 2012]). If we define language as “the totality of utterances that can be made” (Bloomfield 1926), there seems to be no doubt that it is ‘real’ in its intrinsic materiality. We may also adopt an idealistic conception of language as a species-specific property and genetically inherited capacity. As Hilty (1974: 44f.) put it:

Imagine a world where all written signs and all recordings of oral language have disappeared and where all human beings have fallen into a dreamless sleep. What remains is language [my translation].

Modern neuroimaging technologies (e.g. Perani and Abutalebi 2005) allow us to see that there is a material representation of language use or languaging (Pennycook 2010) in the brain that can be empirically described and measured and manifestly has its roots in neural engrams as a mental property.

But this is, of course, not the whole answer to our question. In fact, Bloomfield’s definition of language as quoted above is incomplete....

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