Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Riffing on Antoine Grégoire's L'apprentissage du langage, Merleau-Ponty suggests that "perhaps certain aspects of the adult's interior language, which is often not formulated, are no more than a continuation of the babbling" (Consciousness and the Acquisition of Languagep. 16). Babbling, Merleau-Ponty tells us, involves a rich mixture of phonemes that are not found in the language spoken around the child, and is "therefore a polymorphic language, which is spontaneous with respect to its environment" (p. 11). Is it proper to speak of phonemes in the context of infantile babbling, where the connection between sound and meaning is obscure if it exists at all? Is it proper to speak of language at all? I think so. I think the polymorphic play of vocalizations is an aspect of language. Is it especially evident in the phenomenon of inner speech? On this point, I am reminded of Cavarero's animosity towards the idea of inner speech as a model for language, and I reckon there is a danger here of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In my mind there does seem to be an aspect of inner speech that resembles infantile babbling.

(Lámatyávë, by the way, is an Elvish word for "individual pleasure in the sounds and forms of words." Tolkien sees this as a rather mature sensibility about language.)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:09 AM.


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