Re: Language and non verbal constructs
Tue, 04 Jun 1996 10:32:05 EST

Gary Blanchard writes the following about John Fisher's post:
1. What do you mean by 'language'?
> 2. If something is 'pre-verbal,' by which one means
> 'outside of / beyond language,' then how do we know of
> its existence? How do we consider / view / think
> about it? How does it presence itself to us?
> 3. If something is, indeed, 'outside of language,' can
> we humans even be aware of it? Example: A dog
> whistle.

I can't speak for John, but I'd like to address these questions. By
language, I would (start with) sign activity, where signs are defined
as arbitrary symbols used to communicate shared meaning. I would
differentiate signs from other types of symbolic activity, like images,
gestures, or from signals, like facial expressions.

I also prefer the notion of non-verbal to preverbal. Imagistic
activity can be non-verbal, as when I imagine my wife, the smell of
coffee, or a Mozart sonata. Images are not necessarily linguistic,
but they can be structured in part by signs, or at least by meaning.
We know about images from our subjectivity of them; they are presented to
us in the activity of construing something when it is not immediately
before us.

A dog whistle is not simply "outside of language" -- it is outside
of the range of out sensory receptors. We can entertain all types of
experiences that are outside of language! These would include the
examples of images listed above, as well as emotional feelings, the
feeling of being in the forest after a rain, coldness, etc.... Language
is a vehicle of commuication, enculturation, as well as inner thought,
etc. But it does not exhaust human functioning; to imply as much would
be to offer a reductionism -- a different kind of reductionism, but
a reductionism nevertheless.

Mike Mascolo