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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.
Contents: Problematic Aspects and Key Issues of Structuralism – Understanding ‘Structure’ – Main Trends in Structuralism – The Problem of Formalizing Structures – The Necessity for a Morphological Geometry – The Principles of Catastrophe Theory – Categorical Perception and Topological Syntax – Phonological Categorizations as Critical Phenomena – Actantial Schematism – Tesnière’s Notion of Verbal Valence – The Grammatical Reduction of Structural Syntax – The Scenic Conception of Case Roles and the Morphodynamical Schematism – The Localist Hypothesis – Semio-Narrative Structures – The Sources of Greimasian Theory – Panorama of Greimasian Theory – Paul Ricœur’s Observations – Schematization of the Undefinables.