Saussurian Biolinguistics? Bouchard’s Offline Brain Systems and Sign Theory of Language

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Original languageEnglish
Article number20182005
Number of pages37
JournalCognitive Semiotics
Volume11
Issue number2
Early online date18 Oct 2018
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Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
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This article examines Bouchard’s (e.g. 2010, 2013, 2015) discussion of the nature of language as ‘Saussurian Biolinguistics’. A fundamental assumption of Bouchard, that of the existence of the Saussurian sign as a psychologically real entity in language, is disputed and an alternative understanding of the semiotic function of language is stressed. The consequences of Bouchard’s adoption of double interface signs for the relation of language to thought are also discussed and it is argued that such an approach leads inexorably to a form of linguistic relativity, and that positing a language independent ‘mentalese’ resolves this problem. The proposed model of language evolution, in which Bouchard is sceptical of protolanguage, is challenged, as are his claims regarding the properties of the language faculty. Bouchard presents a theory of the cognitive underpinning of language, ‘Offline Brain Systems’, which is inadequate in accounting for the unique properties of human cognition. Instead, a more insightful and explanatorily comprehensive theory is presented here: dual-processing and the Representational Hypothesis.

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