Submitted for Linguistic, Educational and Intercultural Research 2017, Vilnius University, October 12-13, 2017.
Pragmatic Constraints for the Foundations of Language
Current research on language often presumes that independent individuals are consciously exchanging statements which encapsulate fully expressed meanings. We cast doubt on these assumptions and sketch out alternative foundations for what language is and how to study it.
Our conscious mind is like a tiny flea that rides a giant elephant of unconscious knowledge. Our unconscious presents us with the one right intuition to whatever question our conscious might have. In this way, the conscious mind exercises nontrivial but incomplete control.
We have evolved to act as extensions of each other's neurons. We may be born as independent thinkers, but if we want attention, then we need to learn the language of getting, giving and sharing attention. Yet that same language is a scaffolding which allows us to reassert and champion our independent thinking.
Most of what we say is not what we care to say, but rather, what we need to say in order to be understood. (If, indeed, we actually do have anything to say.) When we say "tree", then we do not have to agree on what that means exactly, for we may simply be trying to refer to the person standing next to the tree.
With this in mind, we consider metaphysical, semiotic, cognitive, neurological and evolutionary foundations for language as the development of shared frameworks to address three questions: what matters (argumentation), what we mean (verbalization) and what happens (narration).