Language and Imaginability pursues the hypothesis that natural language is fundamentally heterosemiotic, combining as it does the symbolicity of word sounds with the iconicity of motivated signifieds conceived as socially organized mental events. Viewed phenomenologically, language is regarded as an ontically heteronomous construct performed by speakers within the boundaries of sufficient semiosis under the control of the speech community. From both angles, a commitment to some form of intersubjective mentalism appears unavoidable. This, the author argues, forces us to conclude that imaginability plays a central role in the constitution of linguistic meanings as indirectly public phenomena.
The book argues this case by comparing two main avenues along which the theorization of language has been pursued in the Western tradition since Aristotle, via resemblance relations and propositional accounts. Locke, Kant, Peirce, Husserl and cognitive linguistics are invoked on the side of resemblance and iconicity; Frege, Wittgenstein, Davidson and other analytical philosophers up to intensional semantics are interpreted in terms of their relation to imaginability. The book also addresses the ambivalence vis-à-vis iconicity which we find in much of linguistics, in brain research and evolutionary accounts, as well as in pragmatics. The study ends on a series of redefinitions of concepts at the heart of the theorization of language.
Philosophy of Language