LCA: Linguistic borders and contextuality

From: Wilma Clark (
Date: Tue Jun 21 2005 - 13:42:09 PDT


>The claim of emergent grammar is that nothing is missing or deleted
>in the examples just considered; it is that interlocutors
>intentionally combine linguistic forms and contexts to produce
>utterances that give rise to specific local meanings (Hanks 1996:
>120). In communicating, then, ‘actors continually reach beyond
>themselves and the pre-established forms of language to create
>meanings that were not there before’ (Hanks 1996: 121).

I am very interested in these concepts of ‘emergence’,
‘intentionality’ and ‘contextuality’… and how these combine to create
meaning. I am also very interested in the idea of ‘actors’ reaching
beyond themselves… and the idea that language itself can, in certain
circumstances be viewed as ‘pre-established’.

In this sense, I understand the ‘pre-established’ element of language
to be purely structural? By ‘pre-established’, do we mean ‘accepted’
and, if so, ‘accepted’ by whom and in what contexts? Must language be
context-bound? How do we understand ‘context’? If ‘actors’ are
‘reaching beyond themselves’ to make meaning – are they, in fact,
reaching beyond language and context?

The reason I find this very interesting is that I am currently
studying meaning-making in light of Lotman’s semiosphere and his view
that actors make use of a multiplicity of contexts when making
meaning. As I understand it, his view of the semiosphere (the
universe of signs) is that the overlapping layers of ‘signs’ create a
kind of ‘melting pot’ of meanings and the the ‘actor’ or ‘agent’ is a
catalyst… whose anchor may begin at any one of multiple nodes. Hence,
in terms of ‘specific local meanings’ our understanding of language
is not only anchored in a specific context but is simultaneously
influenced by contiguous contexts which, in turn, ‘bend’ the meaning
somewhat. The question I would like to ask, then, is – does language
have ‘borders’? Bakhtin references ‘border-crossing’… but what if
blended contexts in fact merely ‘bend’ borders?

Sorry if this sounds a bit mixed up, total novice in the pot - I
guess I’m just floating ideas…Hmm, guess I need to get down to
reading the papers... as you say... busy, caught up in other things.
Sometimes I just wish the world would slow down for a moment!


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