The origin of language

Glover, David (1974) The origin of language. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

Although in recent times; there has been all but unanimous agreement that the problem of language origin will never find a suitable context for modern investigation, G. Revesz has tried, in his formulation of the Contact Theory, to reintroduce the problem into contemporary thought. His Theory establishes a speculative evolutionary sequence of language "growth" from the earliest forms to the more highly, developed. While his sequence is admittedly theoretical, Revesz attempts to show that all available evidence tends to verify his hypothetical order. -- The Contact Theory, however, is developed without adequate attention to the traditional problem of 'mind-body interaction’. Man's vocal activity is problematic especially insofar as it becomes a “vehicle" for thought. The problem is how physical speech processes gave rise to, or were the result of, or were originally incorporated with, the processes of abstract thought. Revesz insists that his theory is based on neither an empiricist nor a rationalist view, but does not adequately clarify how he achieves this. -- Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology overcomes the basic weaknesses in Revesz's Theory by diffusing Descartes' dichotomy and providing a suitable method for approaching the critical moment of language origin. By means of the phenomenological description, Merleau-Ponty attempts to uncover the “grounds" of consciousness, and in so doing introduces his concept of the "body-subject”, the practical synthesis of mind and body which we "know" by living it. This "body-subject", in its preconscious activity, provides the basis for all "second-order" or cognitive experience, including the conscious use of language. Merleau-Ponty suggests that man has not outlived this level of "primitive being". The "body-subject" continues to be creative prior to conscious awareness. Conscious thought merely discovers what is created for it by the preconscious life of the intellect. -- If we grant Revesz's conclusion that language origin was a creative act, like those creative acts which occur daily, an examination of human creativity should provide some insights into the process which gave rise to human speech. This creative process, according to the accounts of the more eminent minds of both Art and Science, involves a dynamic which is hidden from the conscious mind. This dynamic can be described, in Merleau-Ponty's terms, as the preconscious activity of the “body-subject". -- Seen in this context, man's language continues to originate from preconscious creative acts which give man speech before his discovery of it in rational terms. Thus, by avoiding Descartes' dichotomy, and by removing primitive man from an evolutionary context, the language problem can become a contemporary question.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5734
Item ID: 5734
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 78-79.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 1974
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Language and languages--Origin; Language and languages--Philosophy

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