Show Less
Restricted access

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.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 12. Protolanguage as Formulaic Communicaction (Serena Nicchiarelli)


Serena Nicchiarelli

Chapter 12

Protolanguage as Formulaic Communicaction

1. Introduction

One of the major debates in evolutionary linguistics is concerned with the nature of early protolanguage and its transformation into modern language. In that respect, two competing models have given rise to a lively debate: the synthetic account (Bickerton 1990, 2010; Tallerman 2007, 2010), in which word-like units are eventually composed into sentences, and the holistic account (Arbib 2005; Wray 1998, 2002), in which sentence units are broken apart into words. The fundamental distinction between the two accounts lies in the initial conditions, namely in the nature and complexity of the meanings associated with basic units of protolanguage (Smith 2008). In Section 2, I introduce these two competing accounts and present a proposal that relies on a notion of protolanguage that is more consistent with the holistic account.

However, a protolinguistic code in which every single signal is strictly associated with only one atomic meaning, independently of the context, cannot be assumed to be the evolutionary starting point. The emerging verbal communication could not be useful unless initial linguistic expressions were contextually constrained. Hence, protolinguistic abilities need to be explained with regard to those cognitive systems that allow agents to act in their own environment: “Language can best be understood as a device which refines an already complex system – it is to be explained as a ‘recently’ evolved refinement of an underlying ability to interact with the environment” (Arbib et...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.