Growth as constraint

Cobley, Paul ORCID: (2019) Growth as constraint. Recherches sémiotiques / Semiotic Inquiry . ISSN 0229-8651 (Accepted/In press)

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Human modelling is unique among the modelling of all the animals because it features both nonverbal and verbal communication (Sebeok 1988). Yet, in the development of this modelling, something must be lost with the movement to one mode from another, phylogenetically and ontogenetically. In the theory of natural selection, it is clear that what gets lost are the species, or species members, who do not adapt fit features to the evolving environmental imperatives. Biosemiotics, on the other hand, has been critical of the ruthless mechanism of the theory of natural selection. Contra neo-Darwinism, it posits ‘semiotic freedom. This semiotic freedom characterizes the scaffolding process in evolution, where the organism ‘builds’ on its relation to the environment. What happens on those occasions when one ‘choice’ is made by an organism over another or one set of scaffolding occurs rather than another? In the case of the phylogenetic development of communication it is clear that the ‘choice’ – exaptation – of linear speech for human communication was significant. By no means did it eclipse nonverbal communication; nor did it demote nonverbal communication to a subsidiary role in real terms; but it did ensure a bias towards the nonverbal and a disregard for it that effectively banished much nonverbal communication to a realm that is not conscious in the way that it was for our earlier hominid ancestors. A related fate can be seen with respect to ontogenetic repression of human nonverbality. In infancy, the child is almost solely reliant on nonverbal signs. Its Umwelt is attuned to verbal signs and such signs will certainly circulate there; but those same kinds of signs will not yet emanate from the child her/himself. Around 24 months, however, the child with an expected development rate will start to use speech and syntax in an elementary fashion, a development which is embedded in the remit of most public health systems that seek to treat impediments to infant development. With these observations in respect of human development in mind, this paper will consider the theoretical approaches in biosemiotics which suggest freedom of, repression within and constraints on (in Deacon’s sense) organismic action. The paper aims to stimulate discussion regarding which conceptions and terminology are most appropriate in this sphere.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media
Item ID: 27670
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Depositing User: Paul Cobley
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2019 16:43
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2019 05:15

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