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3. National languages as visions of the world: the theories of psycholinguistics



a) The conative function

The interpretation of language is a function of recognition. It was Noam Chomsky who theorized on the innate character of linguistic structures in the human consciousness. The corollary to his theory is the absolute 'permeability' of linguistic codes, predicated on the basis of a conative intention that underpins sign language. Any sign, be it written, visual, audible, is a sign of expression. Given the universality of these signs, in terms of meaning, one need only extract ¾ as it were ¾ the quintessence of their historical and cultural concretions to develop a fundamental grammar that will serve as an interface not only between national languages but also between different linguistic codes. According to Jacques Derrida, communication is a conative act tending to disunite, whereby the ego seeks to break down the 'monumental' nature of language. For Michel Foucault it is an act of transgression, an attempt ('conation') to shift the boundaries of what is permissible. For Roland Barthes, it is an erotic impulse of which the appeal passes through seductiveness, an effect of the aesthetic aura that words generate around themselves. In his Dialectical Reason Sartre reworks the phenomenology of Husserl and the ideas of Heidegger on Being as a state of consciousness defined by the parameter of 'time' in a philosophy of language where the written sign is a 'projection of interior experience', a theatrical strategy whereby words lodge themselves in the conscious according to social rituals, to the spaces through which all individuals carry on their relationships with the world at large. The poetry of Mallarmé, with his programmatic blank page, marks the limit of this breakdown from semantic density to aphasia

Many will be familiar with Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, in which an inconsequential occurrence is related in ninety nine different ways, adopting different standpoints, parodies of style, uses of metaphor and sensorial visions, also the coded languages of music and mathematics. According to Wittgenstein, language attests only to its own self ¾ a theory which here celebrates its own carnivalesque demise. Queneau, himself a mathematician, addresses all of the problems concerning the relationship between expression and meaning discussed up to this point, and distils them into pure narrative pleasure.