ENSO Seminar Series

Linguistic bodies: what they are, what they are not, what they might be

Elena Cuffari

Worcester State University
Nov. 10, 2016, 8 p.m. UTC // Nov. 10, 2016, 8 p.m. in UTC

In this seminar I hope to present and elicit a conversation about a core set of ideas of a book project that is underway with Ezequiel Di Paolo and Hanne De Jaegher, in which we derive a view of language from key principles of enaction, particularly participatory sense-making. I will outline in what we take linguistic sense-making to consist. This involves setting typically central explicans aside. Notably, we take speaking, writing, and gesturing to be salient and pervasive ways in which linguistic bodies make sense, but neither necessary nor sufficient criteria for an activity to be considered linguistic. By “linguistic” we do not seek to specially signal immaterial, discursive, propositional, written, or verbal phenomena.

Linguistic bodies are those that “live by” a certain kind of enactive, participatory sense-making. Even before birth, linguistic bodies are attuned and 'groomed' towards certain phenomena as meaningful. Once active, engaged, and precariously in-the-world they incorporate sensitivities and powers within an enlanguaged milieu, with the unfolding result that their intersubjective sense-making and internalized-subjective sense-making alike is linguistic, which means (on our view) embodied, dialectical (in a few ways), agentive, and valuing.

Linguistic bodies are not “the body” of cognitive linguistics. (Forgive the (deliberate) grammatical awkwardness.) Linguistic bodies are not “the body” of post-structuralist thought. Linguistic bodies are not “the body” of any mind/body dichotomy. Here I’ll elaborate these contrasts only insofar as they are help get our view into focus.

Linguistic bodies might be mindful, ethical, and just in their sense-making and their inevitable contributions to the sense-makings of others. Or they may not be. Some features of these bodies are that they understand too readily; they get swept up by each other and external rhythms; they dominate and hurt each other casually. Their constitutive habits are difficult to get into view or under ‘conscious control.’ They are not identical to one another and do not enact language in the same way, but they are fundamentally social and prone to neglect regular differences.

This work is still very much in progress and welcomes your commentary and critique.

Link to join/watch the seminar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJxtO6am5ZI

Recommended Reading

From participatory sense-making to language: there and back again (Elena Clare Cuffari, Ezequiel Di Paolo & Hanne De Jaegher)
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences ISSN 1568-7759 Volume 14 Number 4 Phenom Cogn Sci (2015) 14:1089-1125 DOI 10.1007/s11097-014-9404-9