Thursday, February 22, 2007

Another Approach to Infant Vocalizations

Deleuze says that differences in the system of language should not be thought of essential oppositions, which introduces the point of view of a representational consciousness, but should rather be seen as the entry points to a "transcendent exploration of the Idea of the linguistic unconscious" (Difference and Repetition, p. 204). He cites approvingly the work of linguist Gustave Guillaume, whose Foundations for a Science of Language I've just requested from the library. A somewhat different take on Guillaume comes from Marc André Bélanger's Chaos, Complexity and Gustave Guillaume. I'll withhold judgement on what Guillaume is really all about, but since the paper has come to my attention, I want to look at what Bélanger has to say about the infant's exposure to language, which stands in contrast to the way Cavarero has portrayed vocalizations between mother and child in early infancy.

When a child learns his mother tongue, he does so by trying to reconstruct the system behind the utterance he hears...[T]he order of the system comes not only from the "aggregated behaviour" of humans as speakers but also from the mind of the infant (Latin: "unable to speak") learning his tongue. The child will make all the intuitive generalizations he can based on the evidence, and will form, reconstruct, the best system he can. As he grows up, he figures out through a process which entails both induction and deduction (and, as Pierce would say, abduction) the different categories of words and what each can and cannot do.

("Chaos," p. 7, emphasis Bélanger's)

In many respects Cavarero presents the more realistic account of infant vocalizations. The first facts of language that are learned by the infant are its rhythms, its musicality, its embodiment and its relationality (For More than One Voice, p. 180 and passim). However, I wonder whether she doesn't go too far in her banishment of the subject (see this passage for example). If Bélanger's infant subject seems a little too advanced to be credible, the alternative of no conscious subject of language learning also appears to be, well, a little too larval. Most infants eventually do learn to speak, and it's difficult to imagine this happening without any glimmers of consciousnesss whatsoever.

Deleuze has much to say about learning, but I wonder about the strategy of placing everything and the kitchen sink in the realm of the unconscious. When all is said and done, what does consciousness mean to Deleuze?

Labels: , , , , , , ,

posted by Fido the Yak at 3:56 PM.


Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page