DLG Position Statement


Language transforms human action and perception. In evolution it gave us unique capacities for co-action. This distributed view challenges the assumption that language-behaviour depends on a language faculty. In such approaches, the ‘use’ of language is assumed to centre on what an individual or brain allegedly knows. Debate thus pits theories that posit disembodied cognitivism against ones which, rejecting formalism, invoke cognitive embodiment. While one group focus on manipulating and processing forms, the other traces linguistic knowledge to an embodied mind. In both cases a single brain or person is the locus of linguistic control. The distributed language group reject all forms of cognitive centralism.

Language is distributed. Given radical heterogeneity, it spreads across bodies in time, and space. It is merely constrained by the ‘languages’ which the centralist invokes to explain acts of utterance and interpretations. Thus we prioritise dialogue and how humans behave. What we do based in biomechanical co-ordination. This is first-order language or languaging. During embodied communication and cognition, context is used to constrain bodily co-ordination. Once skilled with first-order language, utterances and interpretations can be used to link experience, events and expectations. Bodies, circumstances and codifications interact while drawing on a history of speech and writing. Verbal patterns are thus viewed as second-order cultural entities. While they resemble material artefacts, their valued constraints depend on historically-derived norms.

By exploring linguistic heterogeneity, we aim to transform the language sciences. We ask how language integrates dynamics that use biological, lived and historical time. Equally, we ask how human expression regulates the actions that promote functional reorganization of the brain. In a biocultural world, we hypothesise, languaging enables biological individuals (babies) to self-organize as persons.