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Human Lifeworlds

The Cognitive Semiotics of Cultural Evolution

Edited By David Dunér and Göran Sonesson

This book, which presents a cognitive-semiotic theory of cultural evolution, including that taking place in historical time, analyses various cognitive-semiotic artefacts and abilities. It claims that what makes human beings human is fundamentally the semiotic and cultural skills by means of which they endow their Lifeworld with meaning. The properties that have made human beings special among animals living in the terrestrial biosphere do not derive entirely from their biological-genetic evolution, but also stem from their interaction with the environment, in its culturally interpreted form, the Lifeworld. This, in turn, becomes possible thanks to the human ability to learn from other thinking beings, and to transfer experiences, knowledge, meaning, and perspectives to new generations.
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Anna Cabak Rédei & Michael Ranta - Chapter Six : Narrativity: Individual and Collective Aspects of Storytelling


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Anna Cabak Rédei & Michael Ranta

Chapter Six

Narrativity: Individual and Collective Aspects of Storytelling

Within the humanities, narratology has been a standing research area during the last 50 years, notably among literary analysts, linguists, and semioticians. Most of the time, narration has been associated with verbal discourses, whether written or oral, where, briefly put, events or situations are represented as temporally ordered. Moreover, within cognitive science, narrative-like structures have figured prominently in two ways. Probably inspired by the notion of memory schema propounded by Bartlett (1995 [1932]), early cognitive science introduced notions such as frames, scripts, or event schemas (e.g. Schank & Abelson 1977; Mandler 1984). According to this view, we acquire through previous experiences a large amount of culturally based stereotypes of events and scenes (along with idiosyncratic variations), either due to direct familiarity with instances of events, or due to our acquaintance with written, oral, and of course pictorial descriptions of them (e.g. religious or mythological tales). More recently, it has been claimed that narratives play a key role in human evolution and child development. Donald (1991) sees narrativity as prominent during the penultimate “mythic” stage of human cognitive development, and as a key factor in the evolution of culture and language. Nelson (2003, 2007) and Zlatev (2013), in their discussions concerning language acquisition and narrative, present the latter as a significant factor in child development. Moreover, it has been argued that narratives play a substantial role...

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