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The Logos of the Living WorldMerleau-Ponty, Animals, and Language$
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Louise Westling

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255658

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255658.001.0001

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Language Is Everywhere

Language Is Everywhere

Chapter:
(p.101) Chapter 3 Language Is Everywhere
Source:
The Logos of the Living World
Author(s):

Louise Westling

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823255658.003.0004

This chapter addresses the place of language and literature in Merleau-Ponty’s thought, setting it within the context of evolutionary continuity in animal life and communicative activities throughout the biosphere. Examining his description of the gestural origins of speech in Phenomenology of Perception and his account of infant entry into language in Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language, the chapter links his theory of the embodied quality of linguistic behavior with the cognitive and communicative activities of other animals, especially apes. It goes on to show how this work is related to Philip Lieberman’s work in the cognitive neuroscience of language evolution and behavior, and also the new interdisciplinary field of biosemiotics. Concluding with an account of Merleau-Ponty’s description of literature and the other arts as the human voicing of immanent meanings in the world, the chapter ends with a reading of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi that dramatizes the interdependency and uneasy communication among living creatures that must coexist but also kill and eat each other.

Keywords:   language as gestural, literary bond between flesh and idea, neuroscience of language, Lieberman, Life of Pi, language evolution, animal communication, biosemiotics

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