The Language Builder
An essay on the human signature in linguistic morphogenesis
Linguistics, as a social science, should have something to teach us about humans as social beings. However, modern grammatical theories regard languages as autonomous systems, so these theories are little concerned with speakers and hearers, their interactions, and their relationship to the world around them. Further, these theories tend toward excessive concern with methodology and the properties of linguistic systems, neglecting, in fact, the languages themselves and those who use them in everyday life. Even the shift toward cognitive approaches, promising for their new insights into the brain, still misses an equally important aspect of language, namely a framework which would account for the social activity by which speakers build linguistic structures in order to meet the requirements of communication. Based on a wide range of languages, Hagège's work sheds light on the human language building activity. He argues that the conscious and unconscious 'signatures' of human nature are written everywhere in language. The study of these signatures gives insight into basic characteristics of human beings, tends to re-humanize linguistics, and stresses the importance of language as a dynamic activity as opposed to a self-contained system.