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Vico, Metaphor, and the Origin of Language

Marcel Danesi

Publication Year: 1993

"... serious scholars of Vico as well as glottogeneticists will find much of value in this excellent monograph." -- New Vico Studies

"... a provocative, well-researched argument which might find reapplication in the fields of anthropology, semiotics, archeology, psychology or even philosophy." -- Theological Book Review

Danesi returns to the work of the 18th-century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico to create a persuasive, original account of the evolution and development of language, one of the deep mysteries of human existence. The Vichian reconstruction of the origin of language is described at length, then evaluated in light of contemporary research in the cognitive, social, and biological sciences.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Advances in Semiotics

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

In 1866 the Linguistic Society of Paris imposed a ban on all discussions related to the question of the origin of language. A similar prohibition was endorsed by the Philological Society of London a half century later in 1911. Such drastic actions were motivated, no doubt, by the endless speculations, conjectures, and unfounded theories that were being bandied about...

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ONE: Glottogenetic Theories and Research: A Brief Sketch

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pp. 1-29

Since the dawn of recorded history, human beings have had an abiding fascination with the origins of things-the universe, life, themselves. This is reflected, for instance, in the fact that virtually all of the world's cultures have composed myths to explain their roots. But nowhere has this need to know been more manifest than in humanity's quest to understand why...

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TWO: The Primitive Mind: A Vichian Reconstruction

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pp. 30-59

The new scientific framework within which the investigation of language origin and evolution is being conducted is concomitantly leading to a better understanding of what language is and of how it works. Researchers from diverse paths of inquiry are digging up different kinds of information which glottogenetic theorists are piecing together to construct interesting...

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THREE: Language and the Imagination: The Vichian Glottogenetic Scenario

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pp. 60-82

As mentioned previously, Vico did not assign the subject of glottogenesis to a separate category (section, subsection, chapter) in the NS, aligned in some sequential way to other parts of the book. Rather, he interspersed the idea that rational-syntactic language, culture, and modern institutions were generated by the workings of the imagination and metaphor throughout...

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FOUR: The Dawn of Language: The Iconicity and Visual Mimesis Hypotheses

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pp. 83-104

The Vichian scenario holds a strong intuitive appeal. But is it a plausible one? After all, language does not leave fossil records. So, in this, and in the next two chapters, my plan is to put the scenario described in the previous chapter against the template of scientific research. Each chapter will assess a different part of the scenario. The present one will look at...

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FIVE: From Language to Speech: The Audio-Oral Osmosis Hypothesis

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pp. 105-120

The third event in the Vichian scenario signals the passage from Homo sapiens to Homo sapiens sapiens (= Homo loquens). The main feature of this event is audio-oral osmosis-the tendency to emit sounds that reflect or reproduce some property of the referent (onomatopoeia), or to associate an interjectional emission with some affective state, urge, or response. This...

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SIX: From Percepts to Concepts: The Metaphoricity Hypothesis

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pp. 121-142

The crucial feature of the Vichian glottogenetic scenario is Metaphor. As F6nagy (1983) has also suggested, it is the evolutionary link between perception and conceptualization. Metaphor is the feature that allowed the primitive mind to connect different percepts in the deep level and thus to generate first-order concepts. These then came to form the foundations of...

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SEVEN: The Sociobiological-Computationist Viewpoint: A Vichian Critique

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pp. 143-164

In this chapter I will discuss what I perceive to be the main alternative to the Vichian scenario sketched in this book-the sociobiological-computationist paradigm. Although sociobiology and computationism belong to different disciplinary domains, they can be seen to share the same basic viewpoint-that (syntactic) language reflects a universal genetic etiology. I...


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pp. 165-186


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pp. 187-190

E-ISBN-13: 9780253113702
E-ISBN-10: 0253113709
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253316073

Publication Year: 1993

Series Title: Advances in Semiotics