Papers from Jakobson's SW (6)

Jakobson, Roman 1985 [1978]. On the linguistic approach to the problem of consciousness and the unconscious. 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, 148-162.

In the second half of the 19th century the problem of "the unconscious", as the author of a critical survey has remarked, enjoyed a special popularity and was acknowledged as an important factor to be reckoned with when treating diverse topics in the history of behavior. (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 148)
This was so even in the 20th century. Recently I've been growing more and more suspicious that (one of the reasons that) the popular notion of "body language" became so popular in the 1970 was because a psychoanalyst named Alexander Lowen republished in 1971 under the title The Language of the Body his 1958 book Physical Dynamics of Character Structure. But then again I'm unable to confirm thus because I am reluctant to actually read explicitly psychoanalytical material. Vastumeelsus ei luba seda veel lugeda.
But on this first attempted acquaintance with Badouin's text, the depth and breadth of its ideas proved beyond the novice's powers, as he himself acknowledged afterwards. (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 149)
I've made fairly similar mistakes, reading texts outside of my comprehension too early in my studies. Aside from incorrect understanding I'm more infuriated that I didn't reference, quote and comment in a serviceable manner.
Already in Badouin's master's thesis of 1870 [...] among other major points there is one that declares: "When considering even the apparently simplest processes going on in language, it is necessary to keep in mind the force of unconscious generalization by the action of which a people subsumes all the phenomena of its mental life under certain general categories." Badouin's inaugural lecture in St. Petersburg, the one whose insistence on unconscious factors had so impressed Kruszewski, designates by the term forces "general factors which bring about the development of language and condition its structure and content". (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 149)
This seems true, but then again to my knowledge there are fewer changes to language undertaken consciously or with a specific intention than there are unconscious modifications. But then again I know very little about all of this.
Among such factors most prominently figure "habit, i.e. unconscious memory" and on the other hand, "unconscious oblivion and incomprehension (forgetting of what was not consciously known and incomprehension of what could not be understood consciously); [...] (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 150)
For 1870s this was historically spot-on. E.g. William Wordsworth's quote: "habit rules the unreflecting herd". Habit was also an important factor for Jeremy Betham for understanding society, and especially political society.
In Kruszewski's theory "language is something that stands entirely by itself in nature" due to the co-participation of "unconscious-physical phenomena" (unbewusstpsychischer Erscheinungen) which are governed by specific laws. (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 152)
This unbewusstpsychischer Erscheinungen is Eduard von Hartmann's term and refers to the concept of reflex and motor nerves. Hartmann was in turn involved with Darwinism.
On the whole, Badouin's view on the mental bases of linguistic phenomena evolved in the direction of bridging the gap between the conscious and the unconscious. At the end of his 1899 speech to the Copernicus Society of Cracow he likened consciousness to a flame that casts light on single stages of mental activity; unconscious (nieświadome) psychical processes also have the capability of becoming conscious (uświadomianie), but their potential consciousness is actually identifiable with the unconscious (nieświadomość). (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 152)
This may prove helpful in the semiotic analysis of mentality, especially in relation with the role of consciousness upon (lower) psychic processes.
Among phenomena which are experienced "entirely subconsciously" by the individual and by the whole people, the author provides examples from the areas of beliefs, fashions, manners and the rules of modesty. (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 154)
Franz Boas relegates nonverbal phenomena to the unconscious.
The language-learning process, "particularly the acquisition of a feeling for the formal set of the language", a process very largely unconscious, might possibly, "as psychological analysis becomes more refined", throw new light on the concept of "intuition", this intuition "being perhaps nothing more nor less than the 'feeling' for relations". (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 155)
Sapir, in his "The Grammarian and his Language" puts forth the clearest definition of intuition that I have met.
Of all Sapir's research works the one that most breadly covers the topic of the unconscious is the paper, "The Unconscious Patterning of Behavior in Society", which he prepared for the symposium "The Unconscious" held in Chicago during the spring of 1927. The author starts from the assumption that all human behavior, both individual and social, displays essentially the same types of mental functioning, both conscious and unconscious, and that the concepts of the social and the unconscious are by no means mutually exclusive. Sapir enquires why we are inclined to speak, "if only metaphorically", about forms of social behavior, of which the ordinary individual has no intelligible knowledge, as socially unconscious, and he answers his own question by pointing out that all those "relations between elements of experience which serve to give them their form and significance are more powerfully 'felt' or 'intuited' than consciously perceived". "It may well be", Sapir goes on to say, "that, owing to the limitations of teh conscious life, any attempt to subject even the higher forms of social behavior to purely conscious control must result in disaster." (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 155-156)
Another important point for the study of mentality. The latter parts about intuiting and attempts to bring these forms under conscious control have echoed far and wide. The linguist, Mary R. Key, who wrote extensively on nonverbal communication and paralinguistics, pointed this out most clearly, most likely quoting Sapir. That Key's suggestion and Bateson's elaboration both contribute to what I like to call "nonverbal ethics", I might have to read Sapir's paper soon as well (It's available on the Mead Project).
F. F. Fortunatov (1848-1914), in a remarkable lecture delivered to a congress of teachers of Russian in 1903, argued with good reasons that "the phenomena of language, in a certain respect, themselves belong to the phenomena of thought". (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 157)
This is what the supposed Sapir-Whorf hypothesis argues for and what the Sapir-Whorf antithesis argues against (in Mamardašvili's and Pjatigorski [1997]).
Instead of unconsciously automatized means of expression, the metalingual function brings into play the cognizance of verbal components and their relations [...] (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 157)
The cognizance of nonverbal components and "talking about it" is a major aspect of what nonverbal ethics deals with.
"Virtually every new word stimulates an effort in the child to interpret its meaning", Gvozdev declares and, with that declaration in mind, cites questions and thoughts typical for children. (Jakobson 1985 [1978]: 157)
In this way I am childish. Today it seems commonplace to google an unknown word and find out its meaning. Turning to google, though, can be taken too far, as one of my ironically favourite new smooth jazz songs, "Google your feelings", indicates.

Jakobson, Roman 1985 [1980]. Brain and language: Cerebral hemispheres and linguistic structure in mutual light. 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, 163-180.

Our perception of speech sounds demands an apprehension of the sound pattern and of its cognitive functioning in a given language, whereas the identification of any nonspeech sound requires an immediate recognition of the stimulus perceived, its identification in form and meaning. (Jakobson 1985 [1980]: 167)
What are nonspeech sounds? Are they any sounds whatsoever or those produced by the vocal apparatus, but not speech? This is a relevant distinction for strepitistics.
The allegiance of one, superficially similar sound to two different cerebral hemispheres is, one could say, prompted by Sapir's introductiory discussion to his epochal "Sound Pattern of English", where he compares two physically more or less similar formations - the candle-blowing sound and the prevocalic wh of such words as When - the former "'a directly functional act', while the latter has no direct functional value, it is merely a link in the construction of a symbol": "in brief, the candle-blowing wh means business; the speech sound wh is stored-up play which can eventually fall in line in a game that merely refers to business." The former is obviously processed by the right, and the latter by the left hemisphere. (Jakobson 1985 [1980]: 168)
This is what elsewhere is discussed in terms of intrinsic coding. Jakobson's wording actually makes allowances for viewing directly functional acts as links in the construction of a symbol as well. (But then this act ceases to be intrinsically coded and becomes extrinsically coded.)
A peculiar place belongs to elements which permeate speech yet share the character of what one may call immediate signals. These particular ingredients of current discourse, listed soosely, without consistent delimitation, as interjections, exclamations, and ejaculations, stand outside the general syntactic patterning of language, and they are neither words nor sentences. They tend to differ from the phonological rules of usual vocabulary, and semantically they are reduced to stereotyped affective expressions. (Jakobson 1985 [1980]: 168)
Indeed he seems to discuss intrinsic coding, but only in speech. Ekman and Friesen were of course talking about physical acts.
A patient with a disorder of the right hemisphere usually understands the meaning of what is said, but he often fails to recognize that it is spoken in an angry or a humorous way." (Jakobson 1985 [1980]: 170)
Geschwind's example is neat, at least for demonstrating paralinguistic metacommunication in relation with functional asymmetry.
One might recall that over one hundred years ago scientific intuition enabled the sagacious J. H. Jackson - especially in his essay of 1874 - to assign intellectual language to the left, and emotional to the right hemisphere (see 1958, p. 134). Already in 1866, the earliest of Jackson's notes on the physiology and pathology of language opens with the statement that "there are two modes of expression, the emotional and the intellectual" (see 1958, 121). (Jakobson 1985 [1980]: 170)
I wonder if this courd have influenced Cassirer, who reportedly had similar distinctions.
The inactivation of the right hemisphere leads to a deficit in ostensive communication. In semiotic literature (see especially Osolsobě) this way of communication might be defined as "placing something at the disposal of the cognitive activity of a person". A couple of shorts and socks exposed in a window announces a haberdasher's shop. Ostension merges with synecdoche: the voice of a patient's wife, which he hears without seeing her, is her pars pro toto, just as the sound and/or grimace of yawning is an ostensive, synecdochic expression of the simulated or natural drowsiness of a fatigued or bored utterer. The presence of an emotive tinge in the speech sounds immediately introduces into the speaker's message information indicating his excitement. (Jakobson 1985 [1980]: 171)
Oh wow. It turns out that "ostensive communication" might be Jakobson's preferred term for metacommunication. At least one source explains that onstensive communication "means "pointed or pointing" communication, and is the way humans not only tell each other things, but also tell each other that they are telling them something important! It refers to the way that humans use tone of speech, eye contact, physical contact, etc, to place a "frame" around a piece of communication to emphasise that it is a bit special... To say "wake up, what I am about to say is important!"" I'm was not familiar with this term because it is an inherently linguistic term.

Jakobson, Roman 1985 [1980]. My favorite Topics. 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, 371-376.

Time and space, usually regarded as extrinsic factors in relation to the verbal code, prove to be veritable constituents of the latter. In the speakers' and listeners' code any change in progress is simultaneously present in its initial and final forms as stylistic variants, one more archaic and the other more advanced, both being mutually interchangeable in the speech community and even in the use of its individual members. (Jakobson 1985 [1980]: 374)
Bakhtin would most definitely agree.
Since my earliest report of 1927 to the newborn Prague Linguistic Circle I have pleaded for the removal of the alleged antinomy synchrony/diachrony and have propounded instead the idea of permanent dynamic synchrony, at the same time underscoring the presence of static invariants in the diachronic cut of language. (Jakobson 1985 [1980]: 374)
This sounds interesting, because people don't really challenge the diachrony/synchrony opposition that much.
The ever increasing recognition of the biological roots of language does not cancel out The equally relevant social premises of languages - the coaction of an interlocutor and the indispensability of learning. (Jakobson 1985 [1980]: 375)
All three general factors are present: the species-specific/biological, the socio-cultural, and even the individualistic (learning).


Post a Comment