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Meaning, Mind and Communication

Explorations in Cognitive Semiotics

Edited By Jordan Zlatev, Göran Sonesson and Piotr Konderak

This volume constitutes the first anthology of texts in cognitive semiotics – the new transdisciplinary study of meaning, mind and communication that combines concepts and methods from semiotics, cognitive science and linguistics – from a multitude of established and younger scholars. The chapters deal with the interaction between language and other semiotic resources, the role of consciousness and concepts, the nature of metaphor, the specificity of human evolution and development, the relation between cognitive semiotics and related fields, and other central topics. They are grouped in four sections: (i) Meta-theoretical perspectives, (ii) Semiotic development and evolution, (iii) Meaning across media, modes and modalities, (iv) Language, blends and metaphors.

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Chapter 7. Meaning, Consciousness, and the Onset of Language (Lorraine McCune)


Lorraine McCune

Chapter 7

Meaning, Consciousness, and the Onset of Language

1. Introduction

Cognitive semiotic theory, as a systematic study of meaning-making, offers a rich opportunity for considering children’s gradual development from early consciousness of perceptual and movement experiences, to representational consciousness and language. The present paper develops a cognitive semiotic theory of the transition into language based on empirical findings interpreted through both cognitive (Piaget 1962; Werner and Kaplan 1963) and Peircean theory. For the latter I rely on the work of colleagues who have made strong inroads in the process of integrating developmental and semiotic approaches (e.g. Daddesio 1995; Sonesson 2007; Zlatev 2009a; 2013; Lenninger 2012). Semiotics can be defined as (a) the study of signs, which is the historically more common description or, more broadly, (b) the study of all meanings. Under (a) there is variation in what constitutes a sign, but only sign-based meanings are included in semiotics. Under (b), favoured by many in cognitive semiotics, all experience of meaning (even sensation) can be considered semiotic (i.e., meaningful), but only some special kinds of meanings are signs. From a developmental perspective, equating semiotics with meaning, while allowing signs a developmental course of emergence is most useful and will be adopted here.

The field of cognitive semiotics requires a developmental perspective in order to track the time and growth trajectory of children’s development of meaning. This perspective is represented by a number of pioneers in the field...

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