Papers from Jakobson's SW (2)

Jakobson, Roman 1985 [1972]. Verbal Communication. In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings VII: Contributions to Comparative Mythology. Studies in Linguistics and Philology, 1972-1982. Preface by Linda R. Waugh. Berlin; New York; Amsterdam: Mouton, 81-92.

For all human beings, and only for human beings, language is the vehicle of mental life and communication. It is natural that the study of this explicit and effective instrument, together with the rudiments of mathematics, is among the oldest sciences. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 91)
In this sense, nonverbal behaviour is the vehicle of social life, as well as (or, actually, less so a) means of communication. It is also natural that the ancients were very well aware of sermo corporis. The problem here is that we cannot know about earlier people's knowledge about nonverbal communication without the mediation of verbal language. Drawings and cave-paintings tell us very little about actual knowledge. Also, the phrase "explicit and effective instrument", I now realize, may have something to do with Carl Bühler's theory of language as an organon. And what I think Jelena Grigorjeva has done is a simple reversal: that language is not the organon of our "mental life and communication" but that people constitute the organone of language.
In many cases discoveries were made only to be temporarily swept away. This, for instance, the historic attainments of the Schoolmen's linguistic (particularly semantic) theory were dismissed after, as Charles Sanders Peirce used to say, "a barbarous rage against medieval thought broke out". (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 81)
This is baffling to me. The scholastics are often taunted, but their method of learning - writing commentaries - seems very much like what I'm doing right now. I must look into the scholastics some day, for sure.
The "linguistic philosophy" of the Neo-grammarians was viewed by their champion Karl Brugmann (1849-1919) as an antidote to "the arbitrariness and error to which a crude empiricism is everywhere exposed". This philosophy implied the acceptance of two uniformities, each concerned with successive stages:
(1) the antecedent uniformity and subsequent plurality and (2) a uniform, "exceptionless" mutation from an earlier stage to a later one within any given speech community. Thus the question of likeness and divergence was applied primarily or even solely to the temporal sequence of linguistic phenomena, whereas the coexistence and simultaneous interplay of invariance and variation within any given state of language remained unnoticed. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 81-82)
This is possible because language signs can be recorded, written down. The "comparative" study of nonverbal behaviour has become possible only lately. Actually, the differences between the "interaction ecology" of 1970, for example, and that of today have scarcely been studied, to my knowledge, although it would make for an interesting work.
To quote the conclusion of my own survey of Sweet's arduous struggle, each of these spirited trailblazers who ventured to look far ahead "bears a stamp of tragedy on his whole life", owing to the resistance of a conservative milieu and perhaps even more to the ideological tenor of the Victorian era, which impeded the concrete application and further development of daring designs and unwonted approaches. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 82)
I think this is one factor which distinguishes Powys from many people of his day. That although he wrote at a Victorian time and was sometimes written off as a "Victorian literary critic" he lived in America for such a long time and "escaped" from society to solitude to write. Thus he wasn't stifled much by der Geist seiner Zeit. Some people just can surpass their own time. Jakobson himself seems like an example of this.
Winteler remained true to the principle of "configurational relativity" (Relativität der Verhältnisse) that had been disclosed in his dissertation with special reference to the sound pattern of language. In particular, his theory required a consistent distinction between the relational invariants and variables within language, respectively termed "essential" and "accidental" properties. According to Winteler's insight, speech sounds cannot be evaluated in isolation but only in their relation to all other sound units of the given language and to the linguistic functions assigned to them in such a manifold. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 84)
In nonverbal terms this is very much the equivalent of "context" that Birdwhistell propounded after Malinowsky in his Kinesics and Context. That is, the "meaning" of a gesture, posture or expression without taking account of what preceded it, co-occurred with it and followed it. I happened to think about this at length a few days ago when I saw an interview with the three actors that were the basis for the characters in "the world's best computer game" GTA V. One of them was talking about how they're just like brothers now, and touches another on the back. The other was smiling up to that point but as he was touched, the smile was immediately wiped from his face and replaced with a protruding jaw. Apparently the feeling of brotherhood was not reciprocal.
Einstein, the future proponent of "empathy [Einfühlung] into external experience", obviously felt a spiritual affinity with such an ardent devotee of science as Winteler, who had dared in 1875 to preface his book with the farsighted declaration: "My work in its essence is addressed solely to those who are able to grasp verbal form as a revelation of the human mind that stands to the mind in much more inner and sweeping relations than even the best products of a most consummate literature. Thus the addressees of my work must conceive the inquiry into the latent powers which determine the continual motion of verbal form as a task which, in its interest and relevance, competes with any other field of knowledge." (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 84)
I appreciate this archaic form of language. If I were to use this form it would go something like: "to grasp bodily behaviour as a revelation of the human emotion that stands to the body in much more inner and sweeping relations than..." But, alas, I wish not to get lost in "embodied cognition".
Whatever level of language we deal with, two integral properties of linguistic structure force us to use strictly relational, topological definitions. First, every single constituent of any linguistic system is built on an opposition of two logical contradictories: the presence of an attribute ("markedness") in contraposition to its absence ("unmarkedness"). The entire network of language displays a hierarchical arrangement that within each level of the system follows the same dichotomous principle of marked terms superposed on the corresponding unmarked terms. And second, the continual, all-embracing, purposeful interplay of invariants and variations proves to be an essential, innermost property of language at each of its levels. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 85)
At this point I have to concede that I don't know almost anything about Jakobson's markedness theory. I've only met it in Lotman's Semiotics of Cinema. Curiously, it was Charles Darwin who proposed that something like this should be used to study nonverbal behaviour. One of his three principles was "The principle of antithesis", according to which every "meaningful" expression must also have movement of "a directly opposite nature". (1998 [1872]: 34). And I retain my critical attitude towards all things hierarchical, because it seems rather restrictive. Here I can go on Eric H. Lenneberg's statement that "tree diagrams [hierarchies] can always be converted to Euler-Venn diagrams, but not all Euler-Venn diagrams can be converted into trees." (1969: 134). That is, I think imposing a hierarchy on anything can lead to an unfortunate exclusion of phenomena that might otherwise have been included.
Everything language can and does communicate stands first and foremost in a necessary, intimate connection with meaning and always carries semantic information. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 85)
Too general. Language can also be used to say nothing, to evade carrying semantic information, to baffle and confuse instead of inform. That is to say, there is no information without exformation (that which is discarded).
True, various reductionists experiments were conducted in America. At first repeated efforts were made "to analyze linguistic structure without reference to meaning". Some later tests confined the removal of meaning to the study of grammatical structures under such slogans as "Linguistic description minus grammar equals semantics". All these tantative operations were undoubtedly of considerable interest, particularly since they succeeded in providing us with a graphic demonstration of the omnipresent semantic criterion, no matter what level and constituent of language is examined. One can no longer continue to play hide-and-seek with meaning and to evaluate linguistic structures independently of semantic problems. Whatever end of the linguistic spectrum we deal with, from the phonic components of verbal signs to the discourse as a whole, we are compelled to bear in mind that everything in language is endowed with a certain significative and transmissible value. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 86)
Here it seems that Martin Joos belongs to that group of researchers, as he tries to banish both semantics and phonetics across the proverbial bridge (both are continuous phenomena that should be done away with to proceed with the study of language design).
Thus in approaching speech sounds we must take into account the fact that they are cardinally different from all other audible phenomena. An astounding discovery of the recent past is that when two sounds are presented simultaneously to both ears, any verbal signals such as words, nonsense syllables and even separate speech sounds are better discerned and identified by the right ear and all other acoustic stimuli such as music and environmental noises are better recognized by the left ear. The phonic components of language owe their particular position in the cortical area, and correspondingly in the aural area, solely to their verbal functions, and henceforth a constant regard for these functions must guide any fruitful study of speech sounds. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 86)
It seems that Jakobson was very well aware of the neurophysiology of his time. These were the major discoveries of the late 1960s.
The most plausible explanation of these either totally or nearly universal principles in regard to the admissibility and interconnection of features apparently lies in the internal logic of communication systems that are endowed with a self-regulating and self-steering capacity. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 87)
These are obviously cybernetic terms, but I have a hard time imagining how self-regulation and self-steering exactly function in communication systems. Then again the notion of "communication system" itself is notoriously ambiguous: is it the language system or the interaction system? In Jakobson the former seems more probable, but then tow do you self-steer a language?
For the study of verbal communication it is necessary to face the fact that any speech community and any existing verbal code lack uniformity; everyone belongs simultaneously to several speech communities of different extent; he diversifies his code and blends distinct codes. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 87)
The cardinal property of language noted by the initiator of semiotics, Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), namely the translatability of any verbal sign into another, more explicit one, renders an effective service to communication in that in counteracts ambiguities caused by lexical and grammatical homonymy or by the overlapping of elliptic forms. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 87)
I'm not at all satisfied with this account of semiosis. I feel as though Jakobson has disregarded Peirce's notion of synechism, according to which "all that exists is continuous". Peirce talks of a continuous process of interpretation of (mainly) thought-signs, not translation of verbal signs. Signs "grow" in the sense that a person can engage in cognition that s/he understands better at a later time. To reduce this beautiful idea into conciseness of verbal signs is doing brutal injustice to Peirce. But that's just my opinion.
In its general meaning any noun is a generic term relating to all members of a class or to all stages of a dynamic whole. The contextual as well as situational application of these characteristics to particulars is a transformation of the widest range. This interplay of universals and particulars, which is often underrated by linguists, has for ages been discussed among logicians and philosophers of language, such as the 12th-century Schoolman John of Salisbury, to whose formula - Nominantur singularia sed universalia significantur ("Particulars are named but universals are signified") - Peirce repeatedly refers. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 90)
This makes sense even in Morris's behavioural semiotic: particulars have denotation and universals have signification. This particular horse vs the idea of a unicorn are examples.
When we observe the highly instructive process of a child's gradual advance in the acquisition of language, we see how decisively important the emergence of the subject-predicate sentence is. It liberates speech from the here and now and enables the child to treat events distant in time and space or even fictitious. This capacity, which mechanists sometimes label "displaced speech", is in fact the first affirmation of language's autonomy. Is sign systems other than natural or artificial languages there are no parallels to the formulation of general and particular equational propositions, no capacity for building logical judgments. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 90)
Why does this remind me of Lotman and Uspenky's treatment of myths in culture from a year after this text was published?
Inner speech, one's dialogue with oneself, is a powerful superstructure on our verbal intercourse. As the study of language disturbances shows, impairments of inner speech take a conspicuous place among verbal disorders. A lesser dependence on the environmental censorship contributes to the active role of inner speech in the rise and shaping of new ideas. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 91)
So by now we have moved on from attributing receiver-less communication to being drunk or pathological and recognize that autocommunication can give rise to qualitatively new information? This development took only up to 19 years.
Written language is an evident fransform of oral speech. All sane human beings talk, but almos thalf of the world's people are totally illiterate, and the actual use of reading and writing is an asset of a scarce minority. Yet even then literacy is a secondary acquisition. Whatever script is employed, as a rule it refers to the spoken word. Along with invariants common to the oral and written language, each of the two systems in its constitution and use shows a number of pertinent peculiarities. In particular, those properties that depend on the spatiality of written texts separate them from the purely temporal structure of oral utterances. The comparative study both of verbal patterns and of their roles in social communication is an urgent task that can no longer be neglected. Many hasty generalizations will be dismissed. Thus, for instance, the role of schooling and continual transmission, far from being confined to the world of letters, is attested as well in oral traditions and rhetorical art. (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 91)
I wonder how a grammatologist would respond?
In a letter dated March 21, 1955, four weeks before his death, Einstein wrote: "The separation between past, present, and future has only the meaning of an illusion, albeit a tenacious one." (Jakobson 1985 [1972]: 92)
I suspect that these exact words might be behind the rise of countless quasi-Eastern philosophical (New Age?) discourses about how "time is an illusion" without any substantial reference to Einstein's theories.

Jakobson, Roman 1985 [1969]. The Fundamental and Specific Characteristics of Human Language. In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings VII: Contributions to Comparative Mythology. Studies in Linguistics and Philology, 1972-1982. Preface by Linda R. Waugh. Berlin; New York; Amsterdam: Mouton, 93-97.

The first stage of the child's initiation to language produces only single-word constructions or, to use a tersel terminology, mere holophrases. Their functions, originally syncretic, - simultaneously emotive, conative, and referential - gradually branch off and give rise to a prevalently or purely referential subclass of holophrastic utterances which are used chiefly or solely to designate and identify certain environmental items. (Jakobson 1985 [1969]: 93)
"Holophrase" is a neat term. They are so frequent in instant chat messages. They are also pushed out of the child's writing when s/he is forced by teachers to construct full sentences. In this way the emotive-conative-referential "Pointless." develops into "That is pointless." to "In my humble opinion, it serves no purpose." etc. In this kind of language ontogeny I can actually see the usefulness of Jakobson's "intralingual translation." Ironically, the teacher may in this example respond to a holophrase with an equally horophrastic interjection: "Full sentence!"
The third and, definitely, the most decisive stage on the path from infancy (infantia = speechlessness) to a command of language generates an aptitude for building independent clauses, syntactical constructions which comprise both an explicit grammatical subject and an explicit grammatical predicate. Any referential holophrase or two-word phrase of both previous stages acted as a verbal appendage to the immediate situation and was correspondingly interpreted and labeled in the centenary scholarly tradition as a "psychological predicate" to an outward, hit et nunc observablel and nonverbalized stimulus. (Jakobson 1985 [1969]: 94)
Neat etymology. Infantia is: mute, speechless; young, little. And again I'm left wondering what he means by "nonverbalized stimulus". The -ized seems to imply that the stimulus (or, before, context) is first verbal and then nonverbal-ized. This is confusing.
The emancipation of verbal symbols from compulsory deictic bond with the hic et nunc enables the speaker to vary the semantic capacity of the same word by using it in its widest, generic sense or in its narrowest, particular application, or in some intermediary extent prompted by the context. (Jakobson 1985 [1969]: 95)
In Morissis terms, the signs with "widest, generic sense" become not only general signs but "universal signs". "Meaning" and "being" are good examples in some the case of the philosopher's language.
The act of pointing at the given non-verbalized situation is complemented or replaced by pointing at the verbal context of one's own or interlocutor's message. (Jakobson 1985 [1969]: 96)
What do you mean???
In animal communication the code is tantamount to the corpus of signals, and neither directional changes in deictic signals nor the gradation of emotional force could be equated with creative freedom, the essence of human language. Hierarchy, the manifold and fundamental principle of any linguistic structure, is alien to animal communication. (Jakobson 1985 [1969]: 96)
Can I presume, then, that hierarchy is alien also to human nonverbal communication? I'm perfectly willing to agree with this. I'm kind of appalled by how he dismisses creative freedom as well in these regards, but it seems that Jakobson just has a habit of downplaying the reach and import of anything non-linguistic. It is also significant that I am not alone in doubting Jakobson's tendency to hierarchialize everything. His 1964 article "On Visual and Auditory Signs" was discussed by zoosemioticians in 1965, and the resulting discussion was published in the 1969 collection Approaches to Animal Communication. Thus, Alexandra Ramsay (1969: 183) writes that the implication of Jakobson's insistence that "acoustic modality is the one most adapted to the notion of hierarchy" is that "only sound should receive scrutiny as a possible forerunner in the search for a linguistic homologue". She also criticizes (1969: 185) the notion that "Any communication event can be seen in terms of a hierarchical model." on the basis that identifying the hierarchical functions of the elements is difficult and somewhat arbitrary. Most significantly:" No operational criterion has been given by which to assign an event unambiguously to a class." (ibid, 186)
The latter is devoid of all those dichotomies which undelrie human language, and lacks, e.g., such oppositions as general and particular, nuclear and transferred, and the four "duplex structures" which are of paramount importance in any exchange of verbal messages. (Jakobson 1985 [1969]: 97)
Again, somewhat circular: the communication means of animals who lack language ... lack the characteristics of language. Hmm... Yeah.
Human language, to quote G. G. Simpson (p. 476) once more, "is absolutely distinct from any system of communication in other animals". It may be added that even the utilization of signals learned by an experimental animal from its trainer differs totally from children's acquirement and use of verbal communication. None the less, despite all the intricacy of questions involved, the genesis of language as the principal event in the metamorphosis of the actulaly prehuman Homo alalus into a true human being, Homo loquens, must undergo a joint interdisciplinary search by linguists, biologists and neurologists, as well as anthropologists and archaeologists. (Jakobson 1985 [1969]: 97)
He ends this article by discussing glottogony or the development of language. Aside from Dennis Fry's 1977. book Homo Loquens, this is the only occasion where I've seen this term being used. Homo alalus is more baffling. I found that Homo alalus is der Sprachlose, meaning aphasic, dumbfounded, dumbstruck, mute, speechless, tongue-tied, tongueless, voicless, unspeakable.

Jakobson, Roman 1985 [1973]. Communication and Society. In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings VII: Contributions to Comparative Mythology. Studies in Linguistics and Philology, 1972-1982. Preface by Linda R. Waugh. Berlin; New York; Amsterdam: Mouton, 98-100.

Edward Sapir, the great linguist of our century, characterized communication as the dynamic aspect of human society. There is no society without "a highly intricate network of partial or complete understandings between the members of organizational units of every degree of size and complexity". According to the precise judgment of the same scholar, language, "the most explicit type of communicative behavior", appears to be "the communicative process par excellence in every known society, and it is exceedingly important to observe that whatever may be the shortcomings of a primitive society judged from the vantage point of civilization, its language inevitably forms as sure, complete, and potentially creative an apparatus of referential symbolism as the most sophisticated language that we know of". (Jakobson 1985 [1973]: 98)
Surely there are other dynamic aspects of human society... I can agree that communication is intricate, and a means of mutual understanding. With "explicitness" I recall that some, like Albert Mehrabian, wanted to rename nonverbal communication as "implicit communication". Could this here be the reason? That it's not as explicit as verbal communication? It hinges on awareness, which is more and more teetering on acknowledging the nonverbal as well.
Language is the fundamental but not at all the only system of communication. The science of signs, repeatedly set forth and programmed by philosophers and linguists and labelled semiotics (or semiology) is now rapidly developing and investigates the common features of all sign systems, their interrelation, and their specifics. Of course, language, its structure, and its influence on the other systems of signs are substantial questions of semiotics, but it would be a fallacy to neglect or underestimate all the other systems of human signs and to impose upon them properties characteristic of language but foreign to the other sign systems. (Jakobson 1985 [1973]: 98)
I'm most interested in language's influence on nonverbal behaviour and communication. I propose that concourse one way this occurs. That is, the way we talk about bodily behaviour and it's significance influences our actual bodily behaviour and communication. It has always occurred, but now we are aware of it occurring and how it occurs.
When speaking of language as a communicative tool, one must remember that its primary role, interpersonal communication, which bridges space, is supplemented by a no less important function which may be characterized as intrapersonal communication. The latter gradually develops in children's acquisition of language and creates such important mental procedures as inner speech with its internal dialogues. While interpersonal communication bridges space, intrapersonal communication proves to be the chief vehicle for bridging time. (Jakobson 1985 [1973]: 98)
So this is where this claim comes from. I knew it from Lotman's discussion of autocommunication. It is relevant that both time and space can be bridged in both cases, but these are the primary for both. That is, it is possible to bridge space as well, when communicating with oneself. It is merely a marginal case (e.g. echolocation in some animal species).

Jakobson, Roman 1985 [1967]. Language and Culture. In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings VII: Contributions to Comparative Mythology. Studies in Linguistics and Philology, 1972-1982. Preface by Linda R. Waugh. Berlin; New York; Amsterdam: Mouton, 101-112.

If one longs for communication with his fellow man, the first step toward mutual comprehension is ensured. Because what is language? Language is overcoming of isolation in space and time. Language is a struggle against isolationism. And this fight occurs not only within the limits of an ethnic language, where people try to adjust to each other, and to understand each other within the bounds of family, town, or country; a similar striving also takes place on a bilingual or multilingual, international scale. One feels a powerful desire to understand each other. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 101)
Here Jakobson prizes the conative function above comprehension of code. I'm starting to think "language" is for him a "universal sign", like "being" is for Heidegger.
Now, what is the problem of language and culture? These two concepts are to be viewed in their interconnection. Then, first and foremost, what should we have in mind: language and culture or language in culture? Can we consider language as a part, as a constituent of culture, or is language something different, separate from culture? I know, many in the audience would like to ask: well, but how would one define culture? (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 102)
This problem is not random. American linguistics grew out of anthropology, because before the natives could be studied, their languages had to be studied. Also, there were conferences devoted to the interconnection of language and culture already in the 1950s. It might have even grown out of the linguistic problems experienced in the IIWW, just like the study of marine acoustics grew out of the very instrumental need for submarines to distinguish natural sounds from man-made ones.
We may choose a very simple, operational definition, proposed in the instructive book Human Evolution by the biologist Campbell: "Culture is the totality of behavior patterns that are passed between generations by learning, socially determined behavior learned by imitation and instruction." I think, one can agree with this emphasis on imitation and instruction as the basic cultural devices. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 102-103)
Quite similar to Lotman's definition of culture. The significant difference is that Lotman replaced "behavior patterns" with sign systems. Heh, Kalevi Kull lisas Vikipeedia Kultuurisemiootika artiklisse uuenenud viite teeside taasavaldatud versioonile niipea kui võimalik.
Of course, language is learned through the medium of language, and the child learns new words by comparing them with other words, by identifying and differentiating the new and previously acquired verbal constituents. According to the precise formula of the great American thinker Charles Sanders Peirce, verbal symbol originates from verbal symbol. Such is the way of language development. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 103)
Arrrgh! Omne symbolo de symbolo does not apply to words only!
If we define language as a cultural phenomenon, a very serious question immediately arises. In culture, we deal with the relevant notion of progress. I hardly need to add that any idea of straightforward progress is a bewildering oversimplification. We find most various and whimsical curves, and if we confront, for instance, the poetry of Dante and the pictorial masterpieces of the Italian 14th and 15th centuries with Italy's poetry or art of the recent epochs, we could hardly view the 19th century as thoroughly advanced in comparison wit hworks of the trecento. Many other striking examples could be adduced. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 103)
Quite similar to Juri Lotman's theory of sinusoidal development of arts. The difference is that Lotman's sinusoidal waves or steps seemed in proportion while "most various and whimsical curves" is looser (more variegated).
If we venture to translate Albert Einstein's or Bertrand Russell's book into Bushmen or Gilyak languages, this task is perfectly achievable, whatever the grammatical structure of the given vernacular. Only its vocabulary must be enriched and adapted to the needs of a new scientific terminology. However, any new scientific or technical branch requires similar terminological reforms, adjustments, and innovations in languages of our civilization as well. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 105)
This is why I don't write about nonverbal behaviour in Estonian - I don't know nearly enough terms that I need to use; and I don't feel comfortable enriching my language irresponsibly. I'm deeply unsatisfied with people who write in Estonian about philosophy, for example, and don't seem to know the most common words, using "konkureerima", "premeerima", and "blameerima" instead of "võistlema", "tasustama," and "süüdistama". And the latter point in this quote seems congenial with a point in the Theses of semiotics of culture, which states something to the effect that the work of the scientist influences the life of the culture.
Now, when taking into account the universally human, and only human, nature of language, we must approach the question of boundaries between culture and language; between cultural adaption and learning on the one hand, and heredity, innateness on the other - briefly, to delimit nurture from nature. Once again, we are faced with one of the most intricate questions of present scholarship. It is necessary to realize and to remember that the absolute boundary which our forebears saw between culture and nature does not exist. Both nature and culture intervene significantly in the behavior of animals, and also in that of human beings. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 106)
Nature vs nurture was indeed a prevalent question at the time of t/his writing. Even nonverbal communication research went through the excruciating universalists vs relativists phase of its development. (And some still doubt if universal facial expressions are not an illusion!)
Sometimes, such a quest for an interconnection between language and thought led to narrowly isolationist doctrines, claiming that divergences in linguistic structure predestine peoples to an inevitable failure to understand each other. It might be replied to these fallacies that in any intellectual, ideational, cognitive activities, we are always positively able to overcome the, so to speak, idiomatic character of grammatical structure and to reach a complete mutual comprehensibility. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 108)
Again he places the conative function to the highest peg in his hierarchy.
However, beside strictly cognitive activities, there exists, and plays a great role in our life, a set of phenomena which might be labeled "everyday mythology", and which finds its expression in divagations, puns, jokes, chatter, jabber, slips of the tongue, dreams, reverie, superstitions, and, last but not least, in poetry. The grammatical patterning of language plays a significant and autonomous part in these various manifestations of such mythopoeia. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 108)
If these are not cognitive activities, are they affective activities?
Of course, if the verbal context or the nonverbalized situation of the given sentence does not supply its translator with sufficient cues, the latter faces certain dilemmas. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 110-111)
Here I agree with the attribution of context to the verbal and situation to the nonverbal (these are preferred situations, although many use "nonverbal context" without any hesitance). But I am still baffled why a context can be verbal but the situation has to be nonverbal-ized. "The nonverbalized situation of the given sentence" sounds as if the situation was verbal to begin with and then it was nonverbalized. But how? What does he mean by this?
The outlined difficulties almost come to naught when translating a scientific work written clearly, unambiguously, and with a lucid contextual meanings of all its verbal constituents.
The case of poetic language is quite different. One might even say that a close, faithful translation of poetry is a contradiction in terms. What remains possible is a congenial transposition - a free, creative response of an English poet to a Russian or Japanese author, and vice versa - a performance essentially similar to an artful, ingenious transposition of a poem or novel into a painting, motion-picture, ballet, or a piece of music. (Jakobson 1985 [1967]: 111)
Umberto Eco's The Role of the Reader is actually a case wherein a (seemingly) scientific work has been transposed rather than translated into Estonian - the two books appear as completely different works.

Jakobson, Roman 1985 [1956]. Metalanguage as a Linguistic Problem. In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings VII: Contributions to Comparative Mythology. Studies in Linguistics and Philology, 1972-1982. Preface by Linda R. Waugh. Berlin; New York; Amsterdam: Mouton, 113-121.

Although we distinguish six basic aspects of language, we could, however, hardly find verbal messages that would fulfill only one function. The diversity lies not in a monopoly of some one of these several functions but in their different hierarchical order. The verbal structure of a message depends primarily on the predominant function. (Jakobson 1985 [1956]: 113)
Here hierarchy actually makes sense in that it is Jakobson's circumlocution for "not (only) a single function is the most important, but others are also important to some extent."
The so-called EMOTIVE or "expressive" function, focused on the ADDRESSER, aims a direct expression of the speaker's attitude toward what he is speaking about. It tends to produce an impression of a certain emotion whether true or feicned; therefore, the term "emotive", launched and advocated by Marty, has proved to be preferable to "emotional". The purely emotive stratum in language is presented by the interjections. (Jakobson 1985 [1956]: 114)
On the one hand this use of "attitude" is in contradiction with Daniel H. Kulp's definition, which relates attitude to value. On the other hand it seems in line with George H. Mead's "conversation of attitude", elaborated by Morris as "communization" and comparable to modern "emotional contagion". If we perform a sebeokian reinterpretation of Mead's terms, then "conversation of gestures" becomes related to "intelligible gestures", and "conversation of attitude" to "emotive gestures." I'm not sure if there's any heuristic value in this, but there it is.
The emotive function, laid bare in the interjections, flavors to some extent all our utterances, on their phonic, grammatical, and lexical level. If we analyze language from the standpoint of the information it carries, we cannot restrict the notion of information to the cognitive, ideational aspect of language. A man, using expressive features to indicate his angry or ironic attitude, conveys ostensible information. (Jakobson 1985 [1956]: 114)
Finally some good sense! Information shouldn't be restricted to the cognitive dimension. There is information in feelings and actions as well.
Orientation toward the ADDRESSEE, the CONATIVE function, finds its purest grammatical expression in the vocative and imperative, which syntactically, morphologically, and often even phonemically deviate from other nominal and verbal categories. Imporative sentences cardinally differ from declarative sentences: the latter are and the former are not liable to a truth test. (Jakobson 1985 [1956]: 114)
To be honest, the conative function remains blurry in this description. It is veiled in too many linguistic terms.
This set for CONTACT, or in B. Malinowski's term PHATIC function, may be displayed by a profuse exchange of ritualized formulas, by entire dialogues with the mere purpaort of prolonging communication. Dorothy Parker caught eloquent examples: "'Well!' she said. 'Well, here we are', he said, 'Eeyop! Here we are.' 'Well! she said. 'Well!' he said, 'well.'" The endeavor to start and sustain communication is typical of talking birds; this the phatic function of language is the only one they share with human beings when conversing with them. It is also the first verbal function acquired by infants; they are prone to communication before being able to send or receive informative communication. (Jakobson 1985 [1956]: 115)
I think Jakobson's interpretation of Malinowsky's term is a bit off. He actually stated that phatic communication is involved in "free, aimless, social intercourse". Phatic communication occurs, for example, when people "gossip quite unconnected with what they are doing". Jakobson makes it seem like it is forced and unpleasant, and vacuous (merely for the keeping open of the channel), while in Malinowsky, it is casual speech that goes along with resting or doing some tedious manual work. In both cases phatic communication is not the sole aim of doing, it is speech that goes along with doing something.
Phatic communication occurs because people desire each other's companionship and, as Malinowsky puts it, "another man's silence is not a reassuring factor, but, on the contrary, something alarming and dangerous". For this reason we "small talk" and exchange, as he term it, "sociabilities". Phatic communication serves to break the silence and "establishes links of fellowship". Thus, it does not purport to prolong communication but to open up communication. It releases social tensions. Anyone who has had the experience of smoking at a dormitory's balcony knows that standing immobile a few feet from another smoker is much more unpleasant than striking up a casual conversation about whatever comes to mind.
Any attempt to reduce the sphere of poetic function to poetry or to confine poetry to poetic function would be a delusive oversimplification. Poetic function is not the sole function of verbal art but only its dominant, determining function, whereas in other verbal activities it acts as a subsidiary, accessory constituent. This function, by promoting the palpability of signs, deepens the fundamental dichotomy of signs and objects. Hence, when dealing with poetic function, linguistics cannot limit itself to the field of poetry. (Jakobson 1985 [1956]: 116)
The poetic function is often confused with a poietic ("to make") function. Irina Avramets was extremely critical of this in Jakobson, sayith that he invented this function from godknowswhat and confused a lot of researchers with it. Indeed it remains ambiguous, what is the poetic function? What is "the message for its own sake"?
"Why do you always say Joan and Margery, yet never Margery and Joan? Do you prefer Joan to her twin sister?" "Not at all, it just sounds smoother." In a sequence of two coordinate names, as far as no rank problems interfere, the precedence of the shorter name suits the speaker, unaccountably for him, as a well-ordered shape of the message. (Jakobson 1985 [1956]: 116)
Here it seems that the poetic function in language is basically, as Avramets touted, the aesthetic function. It is "beauty" that the poetic function enables us to confer on our messages - it makes them more "pleasurable". Paronomasia in a case in point.
Statements of existence or nonexistence in regard to such fictional entities gave rise to lengthy philosophical controversies, but from a linguistic point of view the verb of existence remains elliptic as far as it is not accompanied by a locative modifier: "unicorns do not exist in the fauna of the globe"; "unicorns exist in Greco-Roman and Chinese mythology", "in the tapestry tradition", "in poetry", "in our dreams", etc. Here we observe the linguistic relevance of the notion Universe of Discourse, introduced by A. De Morgan and applied by Peirce: "At one time it may be the physical universe, at another it may be the imaginary 'world' of some play or novel, at another a range of possibilities." (Jakobson 1985 [1956]: 120)
This is one of my favourite notions in Peirce, especially in Eco's interpretation. It sounds somewhat grander than "literary world", for example.
Metalanguage is the vital factor of any verbal development. The interpretation of one linguistic sign through other, in some respects homogeneous, signs of the same language, is a metalingual operation which plays an essential role in child language learning. Observations made during recent decades, in particular by the Russian inquirers A. N. Gvozdev and K. I. Čukovskij, have disclosed what an enormous place talk about language occupies in the verbal behavior of preschool children, who are prone to compare new acquisitions with earlier ones and their own way of speaking with the diverse forms of speech used by the older and younger people surrounding them; the makeup and choice of words and sentences, their sound, shape and meaning, synonymy and homonymy are vividly discussed. A constant recourse to metalanguage is indispensable both for a creative assimilation of the mother tongue and for its final mastery. (Jakobson 1985 [1956]: 120-121)
This activity constitutes a major part in my readings blog. Acquiring terminology and using it correctly ain't easy.


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