“The wise poem knows its father/And treats him not amiss;/But language is its mother/To burn where it would rather/Choose that and by-pass this. . .These are some of the concluding lines in I. A. Richards’s “Lighting Fires in Snow” from his New and Selected Poems (1978, p. 12). Together, title and text convey the analogy between lighting a fire in snow and creating a poem, undoubtedly two difficult tasks. Through the image of burning, the two contexts coincide in reference to what fires do automatically when lit and to the way in which language has the power to “brand” consciousness with the contents of its creation. Signitive activity becomes imprinted on the mind and forms a repertoire of semantic availability, if only in one language--here English--which makes the poem come alive.
I heard Richards recite this poem at Cambridge, England, in January of 1978, shortly before this grand old man of letters died. Although Richards’s contribution to the theory of metaphor will be treated later, I could not resist commencing with the above lines, much as they are a fragment from a contextual whole. Supporting a critical exposition with a literary sample might seem risky, but the reader will be eased by this means more gently into a difficult topic. Also, the appeal of this quotation lies in the maternal, indeed matriarchal, image of language. In this little family of the poem, language as “mother” overrides the implied role of the author as father where the “progeny” of the poem is concerned.
What can it mean to characterize language as mother? My answer partially foreshadows the Picture of Language and its semiotic signs, of which the sign in most “degenerate” order is the “M-base.” This locus turns out to be the form at its most “material” ground; the germinal source of language no speaker can by pass once language has not chosen to by-pass the content, as the poem has it. The M-base cannot be circumvented because in it is rooted what Ruth N. Anshen (1971, p. 3) has called the “procreative power of language” through which the “corporealization” of a speaker’s intent becomes actualized.
Richards, then, is this poem’s father who abides by the entities his Mother..more precisely, mother tongue..saw fit to “choose” for him. With linguistic material, the nature of language in a language commences and remains inescapable for the nativism on which fluency in a mother tongue depends. Native speakers cannot escape from the procreative forces of language. Now, poems in terms of structural entities do not turn up again for quite a while in this study, in detail not until the textual analyses take over in the applied part. For the present, the task is to find the very ground of language, since this is always missed by tradition’s immediate focus on the lexicon. In that ground lies also the word “ontology” whose etymological root is Greek “ousia”; it denotes “being, substance, essence” (Fobes, 1966, p. 287). All three readings have relevance for the type of existence language calls its own. Fundamentally, the being of language is entirely functional, is in substance sustained by its own activity, which solidifies into semantic redundance.
As Heidegger (1959, p. 33) had put it (with reiteration), speakers “converse” while language “coerces” them. My role as translator here certainly let me sense what he means: the inimitable German wordplay between “sprechen” and “entsprechen,” denoting “to speak” and “to parallel” or “match,” simply could not be conveyed directly without losing the pointe in the gist of the sense. Instead, I forged my own alliterative pair in relatively close connotation. A small instance here proves how language in a different tongue also “directs” me differently when attempting to corporealize Heidegger’s thought, because another repertoire is involved. Availability, confined to only one language, simply leaves speakers no other choice. Rebellion is hardly possible if speakers desire to continue as members of their speech community. Only language itself in the particular language may pick and choose or by-pass coinages in the way the poem conveys. To be sure, speakers are collectively behind that language but barred from breaking the intersubjective consensus on their own--if they still intend to “own” their language. Together speakers preserve the power of language. How forceful that power is will be seen in the detailed discussion of translation problems as these surface in the textual analyses.
Yet tradition makes much of untranslatability in metaphor, also an emphasis which comes about with the neglect of the obverse and reverse sides my introduction brought up. If meaning is properly understood in all its apparent unruly complexity, problems of translation may arise at any point. No one would call Heidegger’s wordplay outright “metaphor” even if his language on the whole is more colorful than the sober writings of most philosophers. Sometimes the most innocuous syntactic vestiges such as the relative pronoun, for instance, may block a translation. The “meta” prefix, which was seen (in the introduction) to initiate the metaphysical domain, characterizes language with or without metaphor as a substratum existing “beyond” empirical nature (or “physis”) through its unique, volitional origin.
A comic figure to pinpoint that origin was used by none other than the eminent Martin Luther as he painstakingly tried to ply the German vernacular in his translation of New Testament Greek. The amusing word is “muzzle”--German “Maul”--(Leipzig/Wien, n.d., p. 176). Luther advocated looking into that muzzle in order to get at the German language used by housewives and their offspring romping in the gutters of back streets. The very fact that the German word does not have an English synonym proves further the curious linguistic proclivity of conversing and coercing. “Maul” is a term used only for the buccal orifice of a carnivorous animal. The missing term in English does not mean that creatures in the countries of those speakers have more refined palates, only that this linguistic perspective was not culled from those creatures and validated as a term. An apt coinage for the neglected mouths of common folk in Luther’s era, this muzzle comes to life, down to brown teeth and exhalation of a breath less than sweet; one envisions this venerable translator peering into it like a dentist to extract not decayed teeth but vibrant, current lingo.
The muzzle, then, is a type of metonym for an idiolect used collectively among speakers and, essentially, one “place” where language arises. Out of the same muzzle sprang also Luther’s own epithet “Esel,” meaning “ass” or “donkey,” which he liked to hurl at his papal adversaries (ibid.). A metaphor or meaning? Well, considering that “Esel” actually is used as an invective for a human fool more frequently than as a reference to the donkey as animal, it has obviously become literalized. That is, the German language has standardized the donkey as semantic staple for a human fool, and this stabilization takes precedence in frequent contextualization over said animal. In the empirical world, “Mother Nature” keeps human and equine species categorically apart; language, the Mother, has flattened the donkey into natural coinage which thus evolves as a norm to the point of superseding the animal designation.
Urban settings would hardly call for donkeys since these do not roam streets outside of zoos. Many German speakers had an input into the word’s normalization as well as its continued transmission through a collective muzzle. Yet once stabilized, the coinage genuinely forces native speakers into acceptance; they cannot escape it without sacrificing linguistic competence. In my own wordplay which takes off loosely from Heidegger, German speakers become “coerced” into being “conversant” with this flattened commonplace if they want to “converse” fluently in what is “common” to their mother tongue.
Accordingly for better or worse, the fool in this German invective is one solidified import which stays present to the mind, to linguistic consciousness of a language, and here I am trading on the formulation cited from Peirce in the introduction. The language may not reflect the traits of the animal accurately, but it has still legitimized this import as part of speaker performance. Participants in something like the Ingendahl Experiment certainly could not achieve a consensus in assessing semantic reference versus metaphorical transference on the basis of the lexicon if they subjected this idiom to simple measures of overt deviance. All they would be guilty of is the ontological category-mistake which looks to logical cross-sorting of classes--between human and equine species here--that have no direct bearing on language. Non-Aristotelian semantics, however, must base all powers of standardizing on language and not logic. Only from linguistic competence can contents be deployed and internalized in their specific contextualization. Most witty puns leave speakers aware of apparent type-trespassing, much as that cognizance comes from nonlinguistic classes. Then the normalizing process weakens momentarily and in this attenuation has other forms of programming intrude, yet never at the genuine expense of the competence needed exclusively for wielding language.
As noted in the introduction, semantic competence is not touched by a mere sensation of lexical incompatibility. Otherwise the language could not even come together. Before, I spoke of this sensation as a “collision” or “conflict” between two forms of programming, and since only one of the two is indigenous to language, the other can have no impact on language. The programming which lets native speakers realize that their “Esel” is odd in reference to humans has no effect on speaker expertise and thus does not touch functionally the semantic entities involved; the programming which has made “Esel” current in that usage alone controls speech in the particular language, creating a commonplace with literally a locus “common” to that inventory.
To be sure, a nice transparency is in evidence here: donkeys are none too bright. Neo-Aristotelians in their own ontological cross-sorting depart from this fact: stupidity becomes the analogy which bridges the anomaly between human and equine beings. Neat! If the transparency is so easy to motivate, then why does English “ass” match the German “Esel” and then split into yet another content with the “donkey?” The semantic divisions thus do not necessarily parallel those of nature’s species. Hence absurd consequences might result from this type of motivation, suggesting a more or less “accurate” signation. Approbation or its opposite is then based on an extralinguistic vantage point, here the selection of the most stupid creature on earth, perhaps, in its most uniform and/or transparent designation. From there, one might get into disagreement about such a rating, even after consulting the most expert zoologists. At this point, the controversy has moved far away from the domain of language and its priority, which is plainly the effective manipulation of speech and not the measuring of zoological versus human traits. Fortunately, non-Aristotelian semantics could never get into such difficulties. Linguists assign an asterisk (*) to unmarked meanings, but concentration must always go on what there is and thus parallel the need of speakers to deal with the availability language holds out to them as first priority.
The last issue involving the zoo brings me to a crucial distinction that Saussure’s Course (1966, pp. 79-100) introduced as diachronic and synchronic planes. Diachronic evolutionary stages are the concern of the etymologist, philologist, and so on; synchronic language states alone govern speaker competence. That is why non-Aristotelian semantics stresses the synchronic plane. Here is a typical case where appropriate introspection into the role of native speakers should help critics distinguish the expertise which goes into the wielding of words from etymological and other such “professional” concerns. Yet the two critics, Bréal and Ullmann, who were cited in the introduction for wanting to establish semantics as a science of meaning, failed in their goal primarily because of an excessive diachronic orientation.
Bréal’s interest in diachronics is a subject reserved for the historical adjunct; Ullmann’s will be illustrated here. In one of those cases of unfortunate critical regression, Ullmann’s chapter on “Transparent and Opaque Words” (1970, pp. 80-115) tries to improve on Saussurean theory through diachronic motivation while intending to prove there are exceptions to “arbitrary” states in language Saussure apparently had overlooked. Saussure was right not to heed such exceptions. To claim otherwise, as Ullmann does, forces the critic into that skepticism mentioned before which justifies everything found in language from without. Since all language is volitional in provenance, its essence ipso facto must be arbitrary, even if the term itself suggests somewhat unfortunately a type of contingency like the throwing of dice. Saussure will be shown to have given a perfectly satisfactory explanation of linguistic arbitrariness. But to rectify Ullmann’s point first, whether isomorphic fragments reflect contact with an extralinguistic reality is not at issue and indeed remains as superfluous for the solidified states of synchronic planes as lexical deviance for determining the traditional metaphor.
Saussure did better by language than Ullmann, particularly where he asserted in the Course (1966, pp. 69, 73) that the linguistic arbitrary state possessed “no natural connection with the signified,” adding that arbitrariness “of the sign is really what protects language from any attempt to modify it.” The very protection to which Saussure refers makes it obvious that, qua language, the arbitrary state has become absolute . The natural donkey is out in the empirical world; no one can make or break it. Yet the “Esel” acquires validity only through collective signitive consciousness outside of which there is-nothing, or only that asterisk shown above for the unmarked meaning. Were it otherwise, there would be no point in coining the meaning at all. Human attention endorses signation for authorial intent and simultaneously endows a semantic entity with being. That is also why I keep emphasizing that sense cannot be split from reference. If anything, that relation is the “natural” one, to trade on Saussure, though not in accordance with the nature existing in the empirical animal kingdom. Fascinating as diachronic transparencies are, their limits must be recognized, whereas Ullmann makes far too much of them, for a critic purporting to aim at the essence of meaning and not just its origin.
Ultimately, the donkey term could still serve German speakers for designating the human fool if the animal were the wisest on earth and the human so designated the most foolish, leaving the connection (what Ullmann calls) “opaque.” Those acquiring a language do not delve into zoology, hanging labels on finished, formed creatures. What they do is to cope with forms their language holds for them in order to express themselves; they find words for their authorial intent and subsequently assimilate this along with the contents wielded. Through that interiorization, the mind becomes signitively indented, a process to be illustrated with the aid of diagrams later in the study. For the present, my point is that undue stress on the stupidity of the donkey as a direct source for the import of “Esel” would have language picture merely that other maternal figure known commonly as “Mother Nature.” Instead, language normalizes its creations, here the invective in German “Esel,” until speakers remain conscious of this negative value in the animal image. Otherwise they might hurl the word at the wrong person and face serious consequences. Luther, in his own political climate, was obviously more fortunate.
I shall switch now from “donkey” to “dog.” These two “English animals” loosely resemble one another in semantic (M) material, enhanced by the “d” alliteration. But my choice was not so much guided by the need to pun. Rather, I am partially recapitulating since the introduction seized on a canine hybrid, and that was the human “underdog” which I brought up while discussing political jargon with the Ingendahl Experiment. Again, the form of the word, sonorous or visual, has language project itself uniquely, since no live canine quadruped could look like the three letters composing English “dog.” How unique this form is native speakers of English can be made to realize with this canine’s “tail end” (in yet another amusing pun), which goes even beyond the “meta “nature of natural beings into the supernatural sphere. For English “dog” is-the other side of “god!”
Is this palindrome of sonorous-visual reversal sheer accidence within an arbitrary state of being? No, this curious linkage is also an entity the collective will of the English speech community has opted to keep suspended, if not in deliberate blasphemy. One may thus posit that no isomorphic transparency accounts for the formation of this palindrome. Etymology no doubt caused the origination of “god” as much as “dog” if hardly their planned association. But such roots are a part of a diachronic investigation. At the synchronic level, content is now confined to authorial intent of any possible manipulation which has the “right” to trade on the palindrome just because it is an extant linguistic connection, reinforcing mnemonic ties and, with these, positive-privative relations language has marked in a language for serving speakers. Basically, of course, English remains neutral with respect-to the disrespect, one might pun. That is exactly the point: inadvertently or not, English has created this profanity and the palindrome now awaits the wit of comedians, advertisers, poets, or politicians in a way no other language can match. This palindrome will become something of a mascot for my study, to be reinvoked in certain relevant explanations. Speakers of English, even the greatest religious fanatics, must abide by it if they want to converse effectively. They may not pun with the palindrome directly, or even have it uppermost in their consciousness every waking moment. Yet the palindrome hovers in the background of possible invocation, with full signitive knowledge of what the words mean, how they sound and look when spoken or written, separately and together. There is no escaping that important knowledge, since one such gap would impair the link in the chain of vital positive-privative values which make up the English inventory of vocables in the “semasiological” differentiation of its internalized dictionary. That is the only way in which meanings exist as semantic vehicles bearing reference-not so much in relation to a this or that as to one another. And no other language shares that differentiation equally, even though the contents in one such system expand further from repeated exteriorization among interlocutory partners who are familiar with all their language-bound nuances.
To be sure, an added nuance of respect surfaces with the mandatory English capitalization of “God.” Those who understand meaning do not interpret this simply as a blanket rule of spelling but realize simultaneously that a vital signitive value is involved, to what extent my textual analyses will reveal later. Here, the capitalization potentially breaks up the proximity between the reversed forms of the palindrome; the capital letter at the onset of “God” distances the word from “dog,” although that may not be the case with a polytheistic or mythological “god”-who in fact will turn up in the Aristotelian exposition of metaphor. Now, German also capitalizes its cognate, “Gott,” but this is mandatory for all German nouns. Consequently the signitive value of “respect” accorded an English “God” becomes attenuated by the set syntactic rule. Nor does German possess the disrespectful sounding palindrome, redeeming itself on that score (if one must put it that way): its dog is “Hund.”
English, of course, also possesses a “hound,” which spills over into the verb “(to) hound (someone)” and other potential uses. So again, English meaning diverges into yet another series of synchronic connectives inimitable in any other language. A dog and hound in classification of real beings present a genus-to-species relation, since the hound is a particular breed of dog. Aristotle’s “epiphora” as transference in action will make much of such relations in the operation of metaphor. That focus, exactly, constitutes an ontological category-mistake, in this case by confusing categories of the real canine with those of language. Speakers of English must know first how to get from the noun “hound” to the identical-looking verb or other such extant homonyms which nevertheless go their own signitive way as they lend meaning to a speaker’s meaning. For that exclusive purpose all semantic entities were forged and keep being sustained.
Admittedly, there is a nice transparency which shows off the “underdog” with some insight into diachronic contact: dominance rites among real canines force a lesser dog to submit to the superior one in a humble posture of cowering “under” the dominant one. Humans in disadvantageous situations appear to fall right into a parallel predicament, as in the political context described. But then one may wonder also why cats, often the “underdogs” when it comes to city ordinances not safeguarding their protection, do not deserve the same prefix in similar motivation. Yet “*undercat” remains starred because language has not seen fit to mark the word. Strictly speaking, the word is thus not a vocable of English, although certain punning in contextualization with the “underdog,” for instance, may remove the asterisk as a construable neologism for a given context, especially since the individual segments are already validated meanings.
The ultimate point is that even obvious transparencies remain “arbitrary” with respect to their presence in language, particularly in the signitive relations that they form with other such entities of a given language. What matters is not the realism in linguistic contact with extralinguistic realms but only the ability to “know” meanings for their intrinsic semantic values at every level of their being, from sound to written, visual sign. If one must go to motivation, why does the dog frequently become an invective, actually in both English and German, when this creature is called in real life “man’s best friend?” The German “Hund” is a mean fellow, and so is the “dog” of a colleague with whom one must work but can barely stand.
From a mass media array selected at random, I present the following examples. The St. Paul Dispatch (April 5, 1979) speaks about some solar panels, installed in Washington, D. C., in order to save oil, as an “economic dog” taking “the heat”; they were “under fire,” one might add, for producing heat that was insufficient or too costly. Next, the Minneapolis Tribune (January 22, 1980) displayed a picture of a Great Dane at a canine exhibition that was so “doggone tired” he (or “it”) took a “cat nap.” The same paper (July 23, 1980) carried yet another “dog” story of sorts, this one involving a human, a shoe manufacturer in charge of a footwear firm called “Hush Puppies,” of which he was the “top dog” -the opposite on the scale of dominance (if one must motivate this transparency) to my former “underdog.” In addition to this “dog” riding high, one may add what in black language should come off as “top cat,” hence a type of antonym to the “*undercat” above. No one should interfere singly with the asterisk without damaging that very “ordinance” language has created, here in a language like English, whether or not cats by city ordinances are the more fitting “underdogs” than dogs.
As for the inefficient “canine” heating panels above, they were called “dogs” because they did not “work” properly. This paraphrase is intended as a reminder of the example in the introduction, where I indicated how “normal” the idiomatic usage of “work” had become for the context of machines, releasing the curious nine-to-five job adaptation only in the transferral to a foreign language, hence with bilingual insight. The point there was to underscore the vagaries of lexical deviance that tradition foists on language in quest of a “metaphor”; the point here is that what language itself foists on speakers normalizes fast once that imprint (like the “burn” mark in the Richards poem) has been left on the minds of speakers.
Not unjustifiably, Heidegger (1949, p. 5) called language the “house of being” (Haus des Seins) within which speakers of their language reside. Heidegger has thinkers and poets-“die Denkenden und Dichtenden”--become the guards of this dwelling. Exactly how they do so, this philosopher demonstrates simultaneously through the very “D” alliteration of which he avails himself to exhibit the poet within him while expressing himself as thinker. That is to say, the poet and philosopher within him not only feel comfortable in that house but remain keenly aware of the edifice language has built for them at every level of use, determining how what he says emerges. Again, my translation forces me to tamper with the original “how” because the words for English poets and thinkers do not yield Heidegger’s alliteration and the planned impact this leaves in the original, derived from the intersubjective validation a collective German “muzzle” upholds.
My next example turns that muzzle into a beak. For critics have noted that the “rooster crows ‘cockadoodledoo’ in English, ‘corico’ in French and ‘kikeriki’ in German.” That is how Leo Spitzer (1971, p. 201) put it in his essay, and to these variations may be added the Spanish “coquelico” offered in Roger Brown’s work (1958, pp. 117, 134 ff.). The example, no matter in which of these languages, crops up frequently. I gave Spitzer’s formulation because in a comical vein the bird seems to be crowing in all these languages as though possessing multilingual skills. Or do English, French, German, and Spanish birds compete in a situation equaling a veritable Tower of Babel?
In a curious way, all and none of the above suggestions apply. Now, to begin this discussion systematically, all the linguistic sounds together exemplify language as universal stratum; all cries partake of that linguistic essence which separates them from the real birds and their cries. What these critics find interesting, of course, is the fact that, despite the apparent onomatopoeia, the sounds have evolved so differently. Brown goes somewhat awry in his emphasis on a “representational” motivation, which remains a futile effort, as the very differences in the cries indicate. Still, Brown sees fit to defend the representational inadequacies of the English linguistic sound by contending that it approximates this bird cry better than the “chirp of the robin or the meow of the cat” (ibid., p. 134).
Brown does not realize that his defense is literally “immaterial” to native competence, whose only task is to cope with the material a language has proffered. To be sure, when one stays simultaneously aware of the two cries, the real and the linguistic, the latter comes off as a “metaphor,” a poor surrogate of the real thing “transferred” into a particular linguistic sound. Reference, however, begins with cognizance of word material, where this enters the positive-privative network of relations in a language, down to the nouns and verbs which yield meanings from “cock” as well as “doodle.” No reader of English here has to be told what these signify; if they did, they would not possess native competence of vital metalinguistic connections which preserve the “nature” of (“Mother”) language.
So the “ground” for these words is not the one trodden by the rooster in emitting its sound but instead constitutes the material which composes the regulative base of the forms, shown nicely in the standard switch from English, French, or Spanish “c” to German “k.” That is to say, language coerces speakers of these languages to adapt sound to visual sign in the manner the particular language ordains for any literate person. Those conditions are far more important than any approximation of the real thing. Language makes that known too in these languages: their alphabetic repertoire of sounds surely could reach closer mimicry of the real bird sound, in which case the words would resemble one another far more readily than they do here. But those concerns are not the ones of language; they are superseded by the sheer importance of validation, since that is the foundation of the linguistic sphere if speakers are to cope with wielding their linguistic repertoire instead of remaining mere bird imitators.
Certainly, linguistic bird sounds are somewhat limited in range of application, but their full value is tied to the network of sounds and signs owned at every level by one language, as already indicated with the English “doodle.” To repeat, these are the synchronic connections which, qua language, matter before any original contact of diachronic stages, much as the very existence of such a bird sound once justified the subsequent coinage, onomatopoetic or not. Ontologically, I am saying, there is no longer any connection between the real and the linguistic cry or cries illustrated here. The priority goes to all the features that competent speakers must know for the disposition of the words involved because this is where reference begins and ends in language. From that availability alone does Heidegger’s house of being arise, making speakers feel at home no matter how “unreal” the bird sound is in comparison to the real thing.
By sheer coincidence, I managed to locate a rooster cry in the following cartoon from the Minneapolis Tribune (June 15, 1980). Here, then, is the English speaker “at home,” in that Heideggerian “house.”
The cartoon shows five panels, two of which contain the “Cock-A Doodle-Do” word, this time hyphenated. This modified spelling seems to contradict what I emphasized before about the strict regulative base of language. Were the word not an onomatopoetic vestige, such an option would not be admissible. For the cartoon, the fact that no normal contextualization is in effect is made plain by the unusual diagonal rendering of this bird cry, in contrast to the standard horizontal sequence of the final message, the response to the crowing, one might say. Ontologically, this onomatopoetic word constitutes the median between the bruitistic elements of the first and third panels and the complete contextualization of contents in the final panel. The bruitistic components also evade any normal sequence; the “Z” letters are vertical in order, resembling in that respect an “Oriental” sequence, while the “AAAARGH” parallels the diagonal dimension of the crowing.
In any case, the bruitism conveys respectively the involuntary noise resulting from gentle snoring during sleep and the voluntary reaction of dismay to the crowing, which in turn suggests the rude awakening of sleep beyond the bird cry. The fact that such a cry is generally associated with early morning remains what is commonly termed “encyclopedic” knowledge, hence information not necessarily intrinsic to linguistic competence. Any competence in language must begin with language in use, and that emanates from construal, here the orthographic and distinct rendering of these sounds carried mutely by the visual sign. Moreover, speaker competence still becomes controlled by wholly degenerate semantic stages, such as the “Z” material presents by imitating the real noise of snoring. Thus, had this cartoon been for Germans, the equivalent sound repertoire for the sibilant would have come across visually as an “S” since this language has “Z” pronounced hard (unvoiced), as “/ts/” in a phonetic transcription. Still, these orthographic sounds do not render a validated word as contained by the rooster cry and the final message. That is why these bruitistic elements exemplify linguistic material at the most degenerate material level.
The actual bird, of course, is not drawn in. But even if it appeared (in the message perhaps) as a validated English word, it would not be present in all its glorious feathers, its colors and contours. Skeptics of language see this “abstract” quality a disadvantage. These critics are inclined to lean excessively on the “arbitrary” state of language because they assess its nature in accordance with its representational value for empirical nature, a vantage point I have taken to task already above by citing Saussure. Those cognizant of the power of words, on the other hand, concentrate on these and realize that even if the bird as such is missing in graphic detail, unable to “sound off” in the actual crowing, the distinctive and unique being of language has taken over anyway with the communication of this cartoon wherever any words appear. The concrete situational setting present in graphic detail certainly offers much constitutive support to the verbal meaning here, as would ostensive usage in a real setting. Any linguistic meaning nevertheless becomes construed only from the words. Were the bird drawn in and also included verbally, its two appearances as graphic picture and orthographic sign would have nothing in common. Also, should a word like “rooster” degenerate to the level of the bruitistic letters discussed, all its avian significance would evaporate and leave behind no part of the bird, a condition that is not applicable to a drawing.
Obvious as these conditions are, those seizing on the lexicon for idiosyncrasies of semantic functioning do not pay enough attention to details at the level of form where coercive signation begins with language in a language. To make certain this does not happen here, I offer one more related avian example, namely the “cuckoo,” whose regulative German base changes the word to “Kuckuck,” again with a phonetic c-for-k transcription and mandatory capitalization of nouns. No native speaker needs to be reminded of what the word designates-yet another bird. However, something peculiar has happened: in both languages this word signifies the animal through the sound it makes. Another onomatopoetic vestige is involved, one these two languages seem to approximate more closely in sound and sight than in the rooster cries that saw German supplant the English back vowels “/o/a/” with the front vowels “/i/e/.” Both languages also take equal liberties with the cuckoo by naming the animal through its sound. Is this a transgression in the order of a category-mistake spelling “metaphor” or ordinary “meaning?” I affirm the latter since, beyond this diachronic transparency of the switch from creature to cry, synchronic validation has normalized the word, forcing speakers in either language to accept the switch as commonplace.
How many readers here would have been conscious of this abnormality had I not drawn their attention to the switch from the animal to its sound or brought this out in punning? Only in such instances does the irregularity override momentarily the ingrained sensation of normalcy. However, while the two languages seem to run the same quirky parallel course here, my next example destroys that (always false) belief. In the process, other ramifications of this “cuckoo” surface in the second cartoon from the Minneapolis Tribune (May 18, 1979).
First there is the famous cuckoo clock, recognized in graphic shape by speakers of any language. Then it chimes in the form of an English sound, and out comes the word “cuckoo”; the boldface projects its semicircular “C,” horseshoe contours of “U,” and ringed “O” in duplicate. A walking human figure, a king, hears this sound and, none too flattered, delivers his final message in the last panel. In that respect this cartoon concludes in a similar manner to the former cartoon, though the message is addressed at some underling here as interlocutory partner.
What upset the king? Well, any competent native speaker of English gleans the connotation of the inept “fool” in the word “cuckoo,” an import not that remote from the German donkey, now encapsulated in this animal image as lexical item. German “Kuckuck,” on the other hand, could not penetrate to this implicit level, even if its form looks and sounds so similar to “cuckoo” and matches the basic avian signation. Now, is there any available transparency to trade on? Are cuckoos crazy or stupid, any more so than donkeys? Who cares? In yet another transference from human to animal-though by avian rather than equine species-sound has appropriated bird, and bird the human of a foolish disposition. There is no need to worry about the transparencies or opacities that made or did not make the original contact with the coinage. Priority should go to the cognizance that semantic redundance, residing solely within the normalizing powers of language, has managed to override all apparent jumps of blatant category mistakes and made these common for English. Those surveyors who forget their expertise as speakers and get stuck in the wrong categories base their alleged jumps on some lexical “metaphor”; those who concentrate on the coercive regulating prowess of language, the Mother, point simply to a normalized meaning as a vocabulary staple.
As native speaker the king in the cartoon does not wonder how the bird got to be verbalized by its sound and from there moved to encompass a human trait. All he hears is the insult in the word, much as the clock communicates it quite unconsciously. Beyond this cartoon figure and his inanimate time-telling object, however, lurks the ultimate interlocutory partnership between the cartoonists named and their reading public, for whose benefit the cartoon was created. So chime and human affront convey their message, not only to the cartoon figure but to the newspaper readers as native competent speakers of English. I put it that way just because a similar sounding and looking German “Kuckuck” would fall flat (with or without wings). This difference stresses once more the point reiterated several times; reference does not pertain to words as stand-ins for things in the world, here this bird. Rather, reference also affirms the signitive connectives of related values one word harbors in relation to the next. No such fool resides in the “Kuckuck,” my bilingual competence tells me. Accordingly, despite any possible paraphrasing, the cartoon would lose its sting or pointe. Of course, the Germans or, more precisely, the Swiss Germans, first invented the cuckoo clock, in the way of added encyclopedic knowledge. But only English “invented” this invective, and there it is, no longer to be circumvented by any of its fluent speakers.
All the above examples manifest the language-bound nature of meanings: they are really bound to the “wagging” of that mother tongue, from the first bisyllabic gurgles of a young speaker to the full metalinguistic control of the oppositional values that a German donkey-fool versus an English cuckoo-fool exhibits. The real “Mother” of that “tongue” has the human mother pass on its natural foundation to the child; that is what makes language a primordial maternal figure, capable of connecting two interlocutory partners. From the first mnemonic sounds that young speakers emit in self-expression arises a simultaneous need for communicating what they wish to say. All such articulation, furthermore, can be generated only through the reference of a speaker’s meaning in the transaction with transference.
My concrete maternal example in terms of mother-child interaction may make it not surprising to learn that the word for “language” in languages with generic gender for nonpersons often comes in the feminine: German “die Sprache,” French “la langue,” and Spanish “la lengua.” Certainly, such motivation has its limits, especially since abstract nouns as a whole often appear in the feminine. Indeed, gender is an interesting phenomenon insofar as it straddles diachronic transparency and synchronic opacity. Ernst Cassirer (1972, pp. 273-274), for instance, discusses findings of the great nineteenth-century philologist Jakob Grimm, who proved how rudimentary personification led to gender formation as humans personalized their immediate environment in an effort to interpret its meaningfulness. Cassirer, of course, is equally interested in showing what he calls generally “mimetic” origins, more specifically how any imitative onomatopoeia or direct transparency became superseded by the mediation of active symbolic-semiotic synthesis, about which my next chapter will have more to say. In other words, Cassirer stressed tacitly the synchronic states that originate with language, in this case irrespective of isomorphic sexualization. Indeed, because gender has become so opaque, students of a foreign language have difficulty memorizing it.
If one may sympathize with students of a target language, one should marvel at the intrinsic power of language to uphold norms that seem flagrant irregularities by any other standard. Native speakers feel at home in the synchronic states of their gender system, no matter how odd. They certainly do not motivate gender in accordance with empirical distribution of the sexes in order to make themselves understood. Rather, only the correct use that language has established can lead to any understanding here. Although later chapters deal with poetic texts, let me indicate here briefly what gender may accomplish for literary language. One of my analyses (Gumpel, 1971, pp. 293-294) showed how a nineteenth-century German poem (by Eichendorff) evoked a nocturnal vanishing horizon through the image of a kiss between the masculine sky (or heaven) and the feminine earth. These nouns were cast already in their respective gender which then became resuscitated in esthetic form (see also Stankiewicz, 1961, pp. 21-22).
Gender is thus one of the most important linguistic phenomena to make evident where diachronic and synchronic planes cross and where they should be kept apart. Although my last example may leave the impression that poetic language returns to original diachronic contacts, that assumption would be wrong. All complex exteriorization of language stays grounded in synchronic states that become palpated, in a manner of speaking, for maximal realization by full speaker competence. In the loose determination of traditional semantics, moreover, the above personification of sky and earth could well spell yet another “metaphor” of lexical deviance. What this description cannot do is to attach any vital function to mere lexical appearances, since the findings are then left literally “use-less.”
Curiously, not only the word for language but also the word for “metaphor” becomes cast consistently in the feminine by modern languages. Thus it came as no surprise to the German side of my bilingual competence to find a German critic (Nieraad, 1977, p. 52) refer to “Lady Metaphor.” What amazed him was not the femininity but the survival of this sprightly female, whose existence covers more than two thousand years. What astounded me was the gender, but only on the English side of my bilingual competence. My other side, programmed by German gender, accepts the validity of this personification much as English preserves a neuter “it” for the word. That is a typical case of the power governing legitimation in language, specifically gender, to the point of guiding my awareness even in areas of critical theory.
The critic who had transformed “metaphor” into a female used “Dame” for her, a word which, without the capitalization, exists also as a lexical item of English. But even if my choice of “Lady” in the translation sounds rather quaint-especially in view of the disrepute into which this sexist designation has fallen of late--the English “dame” could not replace it. No competent reader here needs to be told of the current negative connotations in this lexical item. Of course, the British meaning of “Dame” signifies a title that commands respect when capitalized like the German word. But this nuance is not meant in the German critic’s use. I have pointed out already on several occasions how tricky translation becomes at every level. This example illustrates once more how explicit contents in two languages may coincide as much as their implicit contents diverge, and the only reason, it will turn out subsequently, is that reference in the transaction of transference has been deployed differently by the speakers who make up that speech community-built on norms Germans have accepted as their Heideggerian “house.”
That categorical norms as such do not exist anywhere is the argument presented by Nietzsche, that great iconoclastic German thinker, specifically in an essay on metaphor which deals with “truth” or “lie” in the “extramoral sense.” Though the essay is much quoted, its implications seem to get lost. This is evident even in the English translation (in Shibles, 1972) for Nietzsche’s “Lüge,” a term that clearly refers to a “lie,” yet becomes designated as “falsity.” Since the lie is extramoral and thus a metaphysical predicament, something like falseness obviously applies. However, that an element of “conspiracy” may lurk behind this very situation is better revealed in the word that Nietzsche himself, after all, had deliberately selected.
The immediate relevance of this essay to my discussion is that it alludes also to metaphor (and not only language) as a “mother” and in an afterthought even calls metaphor the “grandmother” of every concept (Salzburg, n.d., p. 1085). Nietzsche realized only too well that all truth is “anthropomorphic”; reality itself remains a mere transmission or “transference”-“Uebertragung”-filtered through human faculties, since no one grasps a “thing-in-itself” (ibid., pp. 1082, 1084, 1086-1087). Now, this German term for “transference” turns out to be the very word used in Teutonic designations of metaphor, signifying literally a “carry-over.” The thing-in-itself, of course, scholars will recognize as the Kantian “Ding an sich” from the First Critique (Cassirer ed., 1913, III, pp. 212-224). It is the ontological concept of “noumenal,” or transcendentally real proportions that no human within empirical reality, the “phenomenal” or transcendentally ideal sphere, manages to reach. “Ideal” here becomes synonymous with the immanent faculties of the mind, whose “ideas” are nevertheless incapable of penetrating to an extramental state of being as “real reality.”
What I am trying to prove with Nietzsche, then, is that everything becomes “metaphor” when gauged from a wrong vantage point. In comparison to such an elusive real world, all of empirical reality undergoes the “shift” of metaphor as a world translated through the mind, whether rationally or not; in comparison to this world, language as a universal stratum becomes the next metaphor in line, since the goals of signation rather than direct perception and cognition produce yet another shift, away from the empirical domain. What neo-Aristotelians thus interpret as lexical deviance within a vast metaphor becomes only yet another metaphor, since every realm here named is deviant or anthropomorphic through a different activity of consciousness. The traditional metaphor then ends up attenuated further. By what metaphorical domain is it to be assessed? No wonder the Ingendahl Experiment dissolved in a lack of consensus. With all these ontological metaphors, one is reminded of the game which consists of boxes within boxes. Metaphor as lexical deviance is the tiny, innermost box; metaphor characterizing all of language presents a shift which separates language from the extralinguistic, empirical reality; this reality in turn constitutes a metaphorical shift when compared to an extramental state of being, even if no one knows what the transcendent thing-in-itself really is, except that it definitely cannot become an object of knowledge.
Put paradoxically, Nietzsche’s extramoral tenet verifies that there is no truth in the world of human experience, and what there is outside of it will never be known. The extramoral lie is all-pervasive, its “metaphorical” base truly inescapable ubiquity. Moreover, despite his seeming pessimism, Nietzsche typically ends on a more positive if defiant note: why not affirm art, which is no more or less a lie than any other part of reality? In a similar vein, I insist that the traditional view of metaphor only makes more conspicuous what is a foregone conclusion, namely that language as a whole, due to its very “meta physical” being, is metaphor anyway. No wonder the traditional principle is so hard to isolate; the omnipresence of metaphor appears too boundless to dwell on it. Instead, speakers accept as familiar what language the Mother ordains they are to have, even if wordplay and related usage disrupts familiarity with some content momentarily, as may apply to native speakers here being shown how “god” of all things (or divine beings) becomes the tail end of “dog.”
Even the astute thinker Nietzsche, however, falls prey to one major neo-Aristotelian default that has been so hard to live down, and that concerns his lack of understanding that there must be an indigenous linguistic, not just a logical, concept of language. Nietzsche uses the German “Begriff’ as the only concept and thus treats the term as if it straddled logic and language-exactly what I said should not be done, if the ontological category-mistake is to be eradicated once and for all. Thus Nietzsche says (pp. 1083, 1085 ff.) that language through this “Begriff” effects “equalization of the unequal” (Gleichsetzen des Nichtgleichen). Against the “Begriff” he has pitted the “Bild” or esthetic image which essentially becomes a metonym for poetry and art. This image, he observes (pp. 1086-1088, 1091), does not partake of monolithic equalization but instead manages to combine “the strangest” (das Fremdeste) and to separate “the closest” (das Nächste).
What non-Aristotelian semantics will prove time and again is that language as such, even before it waxes metaphorical or poetic, possesses these “esthetic” capacities Nietzsche attributes only to the image of art. My introduction already touched on this issue; language, like art, is the most basic expressive medium, exteriorizing entities according to autotelic directives whose provenance is the act of meaning. Whimsical from the outside, meanings are vital from the intrinsic vantage point, where they become absolute through intersubjective validation among interlocutory partners. Hence any meaning is the product of both equalizing and unequalizing powers; language severs here what in logic belongs together and combines over there what stays rationally inimical. So even when language equalizes, it does so in accordance with its intrinsic instead of logical goals. The German donkey-fool and the English cuckoo-fool illustrated these powers in part, always reserved for a particular language. Once normalized, words have also become equalized into acceptable commonplaces for all speakers of that language. In thrusting the species together, as shown by these “odd couples,” language does indeed combine what Nietzsche called “the strangest,” hence the most uncombinable entities in other spheres. So, in Nietzsche’s division, the concept of language partakes as much of the esthetic “Bild” as the equalizing “Begriff.”
Nietzsche, however, uses the example of a leaf to prove that his “Begriff,” the rational concept, subsumes the manifold zigzag concretions of this natural object in empirical reality under one flattened, epistemological qualifier. There is no doubt that this logical concept relies on an abstracting process, as will be pointed out again when I differentiate it from the linguistic concept with the aid of Cassirer. Let me illustrate the synthesizing powers of linguistic concepts in their dynamic breadth with my third cartoon, again from the Minneapolis Tribune (October 3, 1979, p. 8B).
Below (p. 28) is a young speaker whose metalinguistic awareness of English contiguities is about to solidify: his shaping competence of intrinsic semantic associations tells him that a leaf “leaves” and, curiously from any nonlinguistic vantage point, that many leaves “leave.” From there, he gleans the possible connections between their seasonal departure and the verb “leave,” made explicit in the past tense (or past participle) “left.” Every native speaker reading the cartoon will be able to follow the wordplay which surfaces accordingly. The connections reside in language and await cognizance through this type of punning. Behind this child, of course, is the cartoonist. The child looks almost too young for this sophisticated association, although such awareness can be reached, if fitfully, at a relatively early age. Later, I shall discuss in more detail when and how such metalinguistic conceptualization takes root. At this point, the cartoon is presented for the benefit of adult readers-mine or those of the cartoonist-who get the point(e).
Now for some of the ontological implications. First, the concretion of the leaves in their empirical zigzag is depicted in the graphic detail of the drawing, if somewhat modestly. Any logical classification of this varied detail may well equalize the manifold zigzag by subsuming it as characteristic of the species leaf under the genus plant. Since my bilingual competence is not affected by that categorization, it must lie outside of language and not in either of the two languages I have acquired. Conversely, the wordplay above between the noun for the plant, “leaf” “leaves,” and the verb for an activity, “leave”/“left,” can be appreciated only through knowing a specific language, English. While German has terms for the plant and the activity, this language cannot engender the intersecting nuances of the cartoon because these, in a manner of speaking, belong to the signitive “zigzag” of one language.
As for Dennis, he is reacting to a diverse programming that is only partially linguistic as he perceives the leaves in all their presentational immediacy. Still reacting mainly to an ostensive level of use, his perception of words is geared to their related sounds. But for the more sophisticated readers of the cartoon, the visual levels of words are equally conspicuous. Either way, native competence is guided by the sound that is heard or the sign that is visually perceived while reading, but never by viewing the real leaves in their graphic depiction in this cartoon. Alone the word leads speakers to the coercive and yet procreative power of linguistic reference. This power has neither being nor meaning outside of the language its speakers, here this young boy, wield, even as he commits a type of ontological category-mistake by type-trespassing from empirical conditions such as the transitory state of leaves into a semantic association. The critics of metaphor will often evolve as no less naive, mainly because they underestimate those unequalizing powers that pertain not only to such purposive states as Nietzsche had defined for his esthetic “Bild” but also to language.
Etymologists and related professionals certainly may use their expertise in order to substantiate the connecting root between the object designated “leaf” and the activity to “leave.” However, even advanced speaker competence does not need to go further than this child to fathom the diachronic past of semantic stages. Wielding the word correctly does not depend on such awareness. The cartoonist certainly knew how the words of his choice were to be plied in order to please all those speakers who, like myself, got the pointe.
The graphic and orthographic zigzag have nothing in common in actual appearance, and thus speakers, beyond the perceivers they are, must have their minds locked into the forms of language, which is where each language begins. If these appear unfounded to the point of being “mendacious” in Nietzsche’s extramoral sense, so is the concrete counterpart since that, too, depends on some human faculty, if not the capacity of speech. No Kantian “things-in-themselves” pervade this cartoon for human awareness.
Yet there is “truth” in terms of human effectiveness of passing on the message, even if linguistic validation forced speakers into accepting such “odd couples” as the German donkey fool, the English cuckoo-fool and/or the dog god palindrome. Furthermore, lop the “g” off “dog” and the verb “do” arises; lop the “d” of “god” and the verb “go” arises. Coincidental from some vantage point, these associations have been ingrained in those fluent in English. The fact that the words are legitimized makes them come “true.” Conversely, “*og” and “*od” remain “untrue” insofar as they possess no meaning. Truth here, however, is positive; speakers focus only on what language, the Mother, has made available for speech since from that repertoire alone the “thought” arises that is indigenous to native competence.
The next task for non Aristotelian semantics is to identify language in concept and domain. Methodologically, that is the only approach: there is simply no way of arriving at a semantic principle like metaphor before defining at least cursorily what meaning is in conceptualization and essence. By the end of this chapter, the ontological placement of language will have been completed in rather concrete fashion as, with the aid of diagrams, language is separated in a circle from the extralinguistic domains. After the ontological isolation, the detailed Picture of Language takes over, probing every facet of meaning, from its most “degenerate” ground “up” to full generation, for which part the semiotics of Peirce is needed. The immediate discussion, however, explores fundamentals mainly with the aid of Cassirer and Ingarden, including to a limited extent their most relevant intellectual precursors.
In the last chapter Nietzsche was seen to posit a rational equalizing “Begriff” and an esthetic “Bild” of unique combinatory proclivity. The concept indigenous to language should go somewhere between these two extremes since it possesses equalizing powers along with unique synthesizing prowess. The amusing concoctions used for prior illustrations are really nothing more than redundant norms native speakers have assimilated in the languages involved, from the “fool” that came with English “cuckoo” to the German equivalent for a word meaning “donkey.” The analogies embodied in these animals for designating a human simpleton are nowhere extant in empirical reality but still exist differently in the words of a language. While animal imagery still leaves colorful traces, contents such as the (former) “working” machines are so flattened in English for rendering gadgets which work that only bilingual consciousness arouses any awareness of a figure of speech suggesting a nine-to-five job.
Diverting as those illustrations were, the time has come to probe these phenomena more theoretically. Cassirer’s ideas implement this investigation by stressing indigenous concept formation in language, although he is still insufficiently recognized for this important contribution. The historical link is Cassirer’s dual approach: as philosopher of language, he inherited as much neo Humboldtian as neo Kantian roots, while the Humboldtian legacy in turn traded on the insights of the preceding “energetic” tradition, as that evolved from seventeenth-century British neo-Platonism. The value of these historical connections lies primarily in exhibiting concern for language as unique bearer of meaning, long before Bréal had actually coined his “semantics” to delineate a scientific approach to this field of study which, sadly, never materialized.
Cassirer’s voluminous Philosophie der symbolischen Formen appeared in 1923, according to the foreword in the first volume on language. With so many English cognates in the title, translation becomes unnecessary. The term “symbolism,” of course, has been subjected to various construals; for Cassirer it embodies active intervention on the part of human consciousness in the task of effecting semiotic synthesis. This interpretation is not far removed from the one given the etymology of “symbol” -by such philosophers as Heidegger and Peirce (1952, pp. 9-10; 1960, pp 167-168, par. 2.297). something is being thrust together through “convention” or “contract.” Such a confluence, indeed, obtains for Cassirer’s idea of the symbolic “form” upheld by intersubjective “contract,” as all conventional systems are.
The symbolic forms encompass language, mythical thought, and aspects of empirical science. The order itself, by beginning with language and myth, permits Cassirer (1972, p. 11) to claim that Kant’s “Critique of Reason” needed extending to a “Critique of Culture.” Moreover, what unites all symbolic functions is spontaneity in the mode of synthesis; what separates their products is “modality,” a Kantian precept, albeit extended to meet the cultural reorientation cited. Modality emphasizes constitution over sheer content (1972, 1, pp. 29 ff.; 1969, II, p. 78, passim). To illustrate with one of my former examples, God as word, concrete object of worship, or abstract supernatural being in a sense becomes diffracted into multiple deities, essentially into different objects of consciousness, by fulfilling a disparate function. Only the word “God” bears that linguistic modality which in one language such as English gives rise to the palindrome discussed before, in conjunction with the canine “dog”--specifically (and humorously) the English creature’s other side. As for the knowledge of immortal transcendence in the case of a deity as supernatural concept, this rests paradoxically in the knowledge that such a state of being eludes all investigation as object of knowledge-out side of. those clever ontological arguments once posited by medieval Scholastics.
The linguistic modality, of course, will be of major interest here, leaving Cassirer’s first volume on language of primary concern. Indeed, critics like him aid non-Aristotelian semantics in warding off those contemporaries who back up their awareness of language by logic, as befits the error in the ontological category-mistake. There will be sufficient evidence to indicate how neo-Aristotelians posit ontological arguments for the existence of language that resemble in basic intent the medieval endeavor. Yet despite Cassirer’s early “cultural” avowal in this volume, even he ends (1972, 1, p. 280) by recapitulating steps taken in linguistic development that seem based mainly on “Critical” cognitive hierarchies: he moves from intuition, the Kantian “Anschauung,” to conceptual thought, and concludes with logical judgment. With that “logical” epitome at his conclusion, the author’s original cultural aspirations become somewhat attenuated, causing my analysis at that point to switch over to Ingarden’s theory.
Despite some of these reservations about the ultimate ending of Cassirer’s first volume, it does have much to offer in the area of language, particularly its chapter IV (1972.1, pp. 249-279) that deals with language as very expression (Ausdruck) of conceptual thought. Early in this chapter (pp. 250-251), Cassirer presents the amusing analogy of critics who search for glasses that are already on their nose. He is talking about the way in which critics look for concepts in language they possess already outside of language, mainly through the deductive (but not signitive) process applied to logic. “Abstraktion,” he says, is the origin of logical subsumption, whereas concepts of language arise from “Selektion” and “Induktion” (pp. 260-261, 269). Again, these Latinized terms need no translation; the last two stress the intrinsic nature of a linguistic concept since it has to be embodied in the choice made during linguistic activity. Products of logic and language therefore go their separate ways.
The failure to realize the distinctions Cassirer makes here has plagued neo-Aristotelian approaches to metaphor through the ages, with the contemporary scene being no exception. This problem, indeed, is endemic in the ontological category-mistake, which mostly turns out to be the only unwanted consistency for an otherwise inconconsistent handling of metaphor in language. Ironically, this ontological mistake seeks erroneously nonexistent “mistakes” in lexical incompatibility by really imposing mistaken, preformed, or logical categories on meanings which thus do not belong to language in the first place. The English word “cuckoo” permitted and actually sustained the connotation of the human “fool.” This linkage arose inductively from concepts and categories indigenous to, and selectively derived from, wielding words in this language. Real cuckoos or fools, on the other hand, that are perceived and cognized outside of words break into human and avian species through the abstracting process of which Cassirer spoke. Indeed, a real bird precedes the human mammal historically, although from an aspect of evolutionary or religious hierarchies-in the order of the Great Chain of Being-this animal may well be the “lower” species compared to humans. The point is, however, that words stay equal in semantic essence, no matter what their specific lexical denomination.
The two English meanings of my example have been thrust together; they have firmed and solidified into synchronic values, to become invested with a positive-privative relation which all entities of one linguistic corpus share, curiously, in their very difference. Linguistic competence is guided alone by those relations, where simple surface deviance has no place. The resulting network of disjunctive relations is far too huge for such a criterion. To speak of “words” in the above examples, furthermore, seems somewhat inappropriate since the “fool” was treated mostly as an implicit semantic value, as a connotation within another word, the “cuckoo.” What exactly constitutes relations of this nature is something which requires more coverage than this introductory chapter can offer. But the topic will not be neglected since so many defaults characterizing traditional semantics are connected to it. In yet another modest introspective endeavor, let me stress for now that my very need here to exteriorize “fool” into a separate denotation rather than keeping it a connotation causes vital changes in essence.
For the present both word meanings, “cuckoo” and “fool,” suffice to illustrate that semantic contents remain exclusively functional; their use is their being; their existence “directs” speakers toward fluency in future performance. Yet when neo Aristotelians cry “metaphor,” they really type-cross language with logic by merely sensing categories in conflict with what other forms of programming have engendered, not language in a language. So this assumed encroachment actually does not disturb competent signifying. Since the “-mistake” in the category-mistake implies a negative truth factor, it is not surprising to find this issue surfacing with almost every detection of metaphor as lexical deviance, and Cassirer helps me to combat some of those unwarranted notions.
Without delving into such metaphysical problems as Nietzsche’s all-encompassing extramoral lie, Cassirer discusses truth early in the volume on language by ridding it of the static old verities known as reality and truth-twinned in the German alliteration of “Wirklichkeit” and “Wahrheit” (1972, I, p. 48). Instead, Cassirer regards truth as sheer evidence of spontaneous activity on the part of the human spirit (Geist). The affirmation of truth as disclosure of function also endorses tacitly the modalities noted, and Cassirer’s symbolic forms bear the imprint of that activity.
In language, therefore, a “true” content is a validated functional entity endowed with “sense” for serving linguistic activity; an “untrue” content, such as the starred “*undercat,” stays literally “non-sense”: except for a limited deployment as neologism, it bears no functional potential and is not even an “it” as a word of English, despite a combination of letters. The “*undercat” thus contrasts with the unstarred English “cuckoo” as respective “untrue” versus “true” meaning, as existing in limbo versus residing in a language. For the “cuckoo” is extant, replete with full semantic-syntactic codes which certainly do not even embody “nonsense” when designating a human “fool.” This word possesses a lexical core and a concomitant implicit periphery duly imprinted on signitive consciousness from past usage and then shared among native speakers of the language in potential readiness for the next recall by authorial intent.
Under those conditions, to repeat, truth prevails, yet never as an instance of verisimilitude conforming with states in empirical reality. How could it be otherwise? Even the plain “cuckoo” that conveniently stands in for the bird so named violates slavish representation since it does not name the animal directly but rather its sound. Fortunately, speakers are not encumbered by such discrepancies in diachronic inception; their role is wielding words competently in an acquired reference through a linguistic sound sufficiently ingrained to override awareness of any onomatopoetic vestige, here a creature’s sound in reference to the creature itself. At that point, a speaker has gained the capacity for interlocutory partnership, permitting the entity that is the “cuckoo” to exist intersubjectively among speakers, if only in one language at a time. Yet anyone who insists on a “transposition” here, which goes from bird sound to semantic name for a bird, may convert even this ordinary meaning, “cuckoo,” into a “metaphor” and claim violated categories by such flimsy standards as neo Aristotelians apply. Ultimately, where would such a naive realism of conforming to facts end when categories stay that superficial? There would be no determinant for effectively separating the true from the false, the straight from the deviant, and thus any meaning from a supposed metaphor. Gauged by wrong norms, the ontological category-mistake thus spawns much confusion.
In essence, Cassirer’s idea of truth as functional disclosure also touches on the original Greek word for truth, the “aleytheia”--literalized as “unhiddenness of being” (Unverborgenheit des Seienden) by Heidegger, in lectures on the origin of art (1952, p. 25). Something new unfolds with spontaneous mental activity in that very symbolic confluence elucidated above. While the “cuckoo”/”fool” example may seem a blatant case of a combination wrought from diverse concepts, a confluence is always in effect when conventional media, adopted through human assent, force their members to “convene” by accepting what is offered. The purposive foundation of language is thus missed when a narrow perspective seizes on the wrong categories in presumed category-mistakes. Then a skepticism inadvertently arises by seeking the aid of logic rather than language if only for the want of a better solution. Certainly, the explicit lexicon becomes an easy target for surface verisimilitude and is pursued for that reason. Since persons who are not necessarily critics of language can cull deviance from a seemingly “odd” content in a given context, no special expertise is needed; anyone may label a human “fool” expressed through “cuckoo” a “metaphor.”
If the acknowledged experts of language, however, do not transcend such conspicuous phenomena as a more or less figurative style based on some taxonomy of contents, their expertise has to be sorely affected. Then they do not rise above the level of the ordinary perceivers of warm red who never learned to grasp a physicist’s scientific or “cool” alternative--in reference to Calder’s example from my introduction. Then meaning and metaphor become anyone’s game of lexical anomaly in the sphere of language. Stylistic phenomena, to be sure, justifiably interest the scholar of literature. But noting what, descriptively, language carries does not lead to assessing how it is put together, and that problem a theoretician of language has to address. Otherwise “truth” turns into “lie” by locating only a “metaphor” of loose verbalization. As shown, a meaning judged on surface appearance quickly changes into a dubious metaphor. And, as was seen with Nietzsche’s peculiar brand of metaphysics, any extralinguistic (empirical) object equals a metaphorical “lie” as a state of being that is barred from an extramental sphere because it has to be observed filtered, through human faculties.
A study of metaphor thus succeeds only after meaning has been apprehended first as its obverse side, leading finally to a distinguishable reverse which bears bona fide idiosyncrasies. The linguistic validation of “cuckoo” for rendering a “fool” may well seem false when compared to epistemological concepts which separate avian and human species, but for language in one language the linkage embodies plain semantic “truth.” Extending this conception of truth to Heidegger’s notion of unhiddenness was not entirely fortuitous either since, as indicated, it appeared in the context of art-whose purposive autotelism resembles that of language. Indeed, the issue of the essence governing art and language is endemic in the tradition Cassirer inherited as well. While purposive indenting by language upon the mind will be probed later in utmost detail, the major ideas that influenced Cassirer and were recognized by him in the volume on language take precedence in this discussion. As already stated, Humboldt (1767-1835) constitutes one important link in Cassirer’s focus on linguistic concept formation. Humboldt in turn came out of the energetic tradition which endorsed intuitive rather than rational faculties, an emphasis then continued in the era of nineteenth-century Romanticism. That entailed the programmatic attempt to harmonize two domains closest as human self-expression-language and art rather than language and logic!
This radical”estheticization” of language, as it may be termed, was thus based on identities of autotelic spontaneity, without the language necessarily having to be literary. Added to the trend was the “Critical” strain embodied in Kantian and ultimately Idealist philosophy, a connection to be inferred from Cassirer’s (1972, 1, p. 102) calling Kant the “Critic of Cognition” and Humboldt the parallel “Critic of Language.” Cassirer’s own “cultural” orientation founded on both Kant and Humboldt is central to this Critical link. Language became in essence the fourth constitutive domain after Kant’s nature, art, and moral freedom (with Cassirer’s myth readily subsumed under art). A very explicit link between Cassirer and Humboldt when moving chronologically backward is the frequent allusion to “linguistic imagination,” German “Sprachphantasie,” in Cassirer’s crucial chapter on linguistic concept formation (1972, I, pp. 275, 279). Similarly Humboldt’s work on the Variations of Human Speech, published posthumously in 1836 (1963, pp. 284, 469-470), cites “Phantasie” or “Einbildungskraft” to project the imagination as the catalyst of speech (pp.473-475). Speech in “variations” (Verschiedenheiten) is indeed the result of an inspirational drive that erupts as the vernacular among the many speech communities harboring their respective mother tongues.
One is tempted to resort once more to Luther’s vulgar “muzzle” which the speakers of each of these languages own and share collectively. No less diverting than Luther’s inelegant organ was the beak objectifying similar “variations” through the ways roosters crowed in the languages presented. Diffracted by these languages, the bird cry became a series of cries with their onomatopoetic ring subordinated to the regulative power of the particular language. For the priority is adapting sound to sign, often quite disparately in the languages offered. These cries may never come together again as one rooster cry because each now belongs to a different linguistic inventory, an affiliation that must take priority. Because of this priority, (epistemo)logical categories in genus and species denominations, which neo-Aristotelians foist on incompatible lexical meaning in metaphor, needs to be discarded from the start as linguistically “use-less.”
Humboldt’s Variations, of course, stress human exchange in decidedly verbal applications, as is made explicit by the titular reference to “speech,” in German actually “Sprachbau,” where the suffix “-bau” literalizes into “building” and thus serves as a loose reminder of Heidegger’s house wherein native speakers feel at home enough to overcome all the apparent oddities that neo-Aristotelian categoricians detect in metaphor. With Humboldt’s marked emphasis on speech, gone is also the universal monolith Latin had represented in written form throughout the Middle Ages and beyond as an artificial uniformity (Crystal, 1971, pp. 54-55 ff.). Instead, the Variations project what remains crucial to non-Aristotelian semantics: the great need to affirm meaning on its own ground, within one language, instead of exploring contents as though they rested in universal concepts and categories equal to all languages, which would bar all genuine diversity. Equally important is the way in which Humboldt anticipates Cassirer on linguistic concept formation as he reiterates (1963, pp. 191, 223, 426) that language constitutes the very “Organ” of thought, a tenet this study will have much cause to reinvoke. Small wonder, then, that Cassirer, who regarded Humboldt as the “Critic” incarnate of “Language,” consciously identifies with this forebear when taking up linguistic cognition.
Cassirer (1972, I, pp. 85-98) additionally pinpoints ideas that are historically relevant to the wider “energetic” tradition. They hark back to the emanation theories of Shaftesbury and Harris, thus to seventeenth-century British neo-Platonism, and the effect these had upon the language theory of Herder (1774-1803), the German Enlightenment thinker who nevertheless opposed undue Enlightenment emphasis on reason. Instead, Herder emphasized the compelling force of genius as an inspirational faculty at work in human endeavors such as language. This shift in focus made possible the transition from an “energetic” theory of art to one of language, notes Cassirer (1972, 1, p. 88; also 1965, pp. 312-317 ff.). Certainly, Herder’s indigenous “Volksgeist” seems only one remove from Humboldt’s “Sprachgeist” which spawned the linguistic “variations” (see Schaff, 1974, pp. 20-25).
Although in its focusing on intuitional capacities the energetic trend is non-Aristotelian in my understanding of this term, the etymology of “energetic” manifests Aristotelian roots, specifically the Nicomachean Ethics (1975, 1098a, pp. 32-33). In this work, Aristotle differentiated “ergon” from “energeia,” hence “function” from “active exercise,” the latter marking free activity of the “soul.” But a context of ethics could hardly befit language directly, and Greek “energeia” has a wide enough application to possess connotations that subsequent discussions of Aristotle’s Rhetoric will disclose as traits of (Homeric) animation.
What left Humboldt the heir of the energetic tradition as derived from Herder et al is no doubt his famous statement in the Variations (1963, p. 418) that language never constituted static “ergon” but dynamic “energeia”-ceaseless regenerative activity. Throughout the rest of the Variations Humboldt underscores emanation in the regenerative force that a linguistic spirit embodies through its unique powers of synthesis (1963, pp. 386, 389, 391 393, 473-475). Because of my limited space, only two other famous Humboldtian statements will be offered in brief reference to their impact on the energetic tradition, which encompasses Cassirer’s philosophy, as he himself seemed to have realized. The citations will be identified as the Humboldtian “image” and “interposition” statements.
In the image statement, Humboldt claims that a word is never a mere duplicate of an object as such (an sich) but constitutes an object formed from the “image” or “Bild” of the linguistic “soul” or “Seele” (1963, pp. 223, 433). Here the inchoate nature of linguistic content is affirmed, while Humboldt’s premise of language as organ of thought, which follows closely upon this statement, seizes on the indigenous essence of the linguistic concept. Humboldt is saying that linguistic reference is never sheer representation of other preformed objects “as such,” thus anticipating Cassirer’s “form,” molded as that is by symbolic synthesis. On the surface, too, Nietzsche’s esthetic “Bild” seems to return: as product of the “soul,” the word remains a purposive whole and not a surrogate for “objects as such,” sartorially covering these in linguistic form.
Returning to my earlier example, Humboldt’s object as such would be a real cuckoo as also its cognition as avian species. The English word “cuckoo,” however, gives rise to Humboldt’s image, has been impressed upon the mind through a particular language in use. Even if once culled from the bird’s sound in order to name the bird, the word is a distinctive entity having its place in this language. From a purely rational perspective it may seem irrational to make a direct connection between an animal and its sound to identify one by the other, but as semantic vehicle the word remains efficient. The “soul” as the faculty engendering the image has also been secularized despite its religious overtones and thus merely conveys the intuitive base which the energetic tradition always stressed. Herder for one envisaged in “soul” the seat of intrinsic forces or “energies,” say experts such as Schnebli Schwegler (1965, p. 91), who deal with his Treatment (Abhandlung) of the Origin of Language. Since Herder wrote this work to refute the divine origin of language, a view still rampant in his day, he was obviously not sanctifying the term. In fact, to stress the decidedly anthropomorphic origin of language, Herder relied on organological descriptions: at one point (1959, p. 77) he discusses the “drive,” German “Dringnis” or “Drang,” which is as much entailed in the force of linguistic exteriorization as it is in the birth of an infant (see Adler, 1968, pp. 122-130; Clark, 1969, pp. 130-132; Berlin, 1976, pp. 167-168).
All these terms-imagination, genius, energy, and now soul-were to describe intuitive faculties in the liberation of language from logic. Not surprisingly, therefore, Humboldt’s statement on the linguistic image turns up in Cassirer (1972, I, p. 256) and is cited to affirm that no synonymy exists among languages. What the energetic tradition as a whole grasped only too well was the “natural artifice” that constitutes the very nature of a so-called natural language in all its metaphysical self determination. Indeed, artifice is a form of “art,” as Humboldt’s reference to “image” or “Bild” suggests, and by the time of nineteenth-century Romanticism, the issue was no longer to compare language with art but actually to treat it as art in essence. Unlike most of the eigtheenth-century Romantics, these successors displayed a keen interest in the literary rather than visual art genres. They called literature “Poesie,” but never ceased to concentrate on language as the powerful medium that generated it.
Of the two Schlegel brothers, for instance, both of whom analyzed the role of language as literary substratum, A. W. Schlegel sounds almost like Humboldt and or Cassirer when observing in his 1801 “Lectures” (Vorlesungen) that language was never a mere product of nature but remained the imprint of an active human spirit (1963, p. 226). My recent study on experimental Concrete Poetry (Gumpel, 1976, pp. 141-144 ff.) credits this period of Romanticism with anticipating what modern experimentalism later practiced in conscious linguistic manipulation, simply because the disposition of language in all its natural artifice became so well understood during this time.
Next in popularity to the image statement is Humboldt’s concept of interposition. This statement focuses on linguistic independence or active intervention at the point of inception. Just as the single sound interposes itself between object and person, notes Humboldt in the Variations (p. 434), so does the entire language interpose itself between persons and their nature, influencing them inwardly and outwardly. Indeed, Humboldt’s style here is so complex in abounding with prenoun inserts and embedded clauses English does not tolerate that those who translate his statement should become immediately aware of that originally willful intervention, especially if untoward sexism is to be avoided by adhering to plural designations for humans. Basically, Humboldt is separating all the “natures” that do not belong directly to language: “inner” sentiments and “outer” sensation, or “inner” feeling and “outer” perceiving are all faculties which, in themselves, do not necessarily coincide in the linguistic sound. Rooster cries can be heard, the birds in question seen, reactions to either experienced, but, ultimately, that sound which expresses “cock-a-doodle-doo” comes between these experiences, intervening on behalf of the unique and yet diverse (or varied) stratum language represents.
In the interposition context, Humboldt mentions a “world-view” and has been misunderstood on that score too; he does not mean the type of “Weltanschauung” linguistic anthropologists often associate with language (see Helbig, pp. 122-127, 130-132, 140-142). That is to say, language does not reflect a view of the cuckoo as human fool or even as a bird sound taken over by the name. The only “views” are the values language has ordained in (unstarred) words. That is not to preclude sporadic vestiges of Weltanschauung. The fact that Greek words, for example, predominate in philosophy obviously can be traced to a well developed ancient culture, as made evident by the very term “philosophy,” the “love of wisdom”--or even the energeia which bore the etymological root of the term “energetic.” But again, all such information is ancillary and not primary to the synchronic state of linguistic competence owned by speakers. For example, the “dog”/“god” palindrome cannot be interpreted as testimony of special Anglo-Saxon irreverence. But form the words did, and whatever the diachronic cause, the overt link now exists as potential for inimitable punning.
What Humboldt’s “world view” reinforces is essentially the “word-view” (my neologism) of his “image” precept. In that respect these Humboldtian concepts parallel the disclosure tenets of self-evident truth which came up in discussions of Heidegger and Cassirer. Again, whatever sense it makes outside the sense contained in “cuckoo” to name the bird after its sound, a linguistic perspective has solidified into a signitive value and become ordained as such. Nothing enters language by osmosis. But everything that has entered continues under its own momentum of self-determination. Through renewed articulation language quite literally reasserts itself as determinant of its freely forged determinables, forcing a speech community into perpetuating inimitable sounds that have been adapted further to written signs.
Since Humboldt’s interposition precept obviously embodies unique synthesis, it also appeared early in Cassirer’s volume on language (1972, pp. 25-26), where the latter discusses how human consciousness steps between ego (Ich) and world in order to forge its combinations. A work, moreover, which by virtue of its very title fills the gap historically between the theories of Humboldt and Cassirer in following one thinker and foreshadowing the other is Language as Art -Sprache als Kunst-published in two volumes in 1871 and 1873 and recently duplicated as facsimile (1961). Its author, Gustav Gerber (1820-1901), has not been sufficiently recognized either for his important contribution. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century Gerber’s title, too, still makes explicit the Romantic identification of language with the essence of art. And the “Critical” connection is also there, since Gerber (1871, I, p. 279) suggests inadequacies in Kantian philosophy by advocating that the Critique of Reason should have incorporated a “Critique of Language” because all mental activity ultimately has its empirical existence in language. Indeed, through language, speakers first interpret reality as a human universe. Here I should reiterate that Kantian “reason,” German “Vernunft,” is not confined to the rational sphere. When not “theoretical,” reason may extend to either the “practical” domain of morals or the esthetic “judgment” of art, where concepts of logical judgment, calied “categories” after Aristotle, have no validity (Kant, 1914, Cassirer ed., V, i-9, pp. 270-285).
Gerber (1871, I, pp. 160, 193) also goes on to stress the alogical, intuitive foundation of language which affiliates him with the entire energetic tradition. Nearly all the important Humboldtian statements return in Gerber, as well as the vital terms here discussed-the “Phantasie” for the imagination, the soul, and the image as “Bild,” all of them operating in their unimpeded “freedom” (1871, 1, pp. 30, 170-175 ff., 200). “Linguistic art” (Sprachkunst) is invoked repeatedly by Gerber to stress how “life-acts” form and transform their products in language (1871, 1, pp. 30, 72, 74, 103, 111-114, passim). The first linguistic root, notes Gerber (p. 125), already attested to “creative art” (schöpferische Kunst) because it embodied the first mature “soul-act.” Such acts endowing language with life may remind those familiar with Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (1963, p. 11) of the “form of life” or more literally the “life-form” (from “Lebensform”) introduced with the “language-game” as “Sprachspiel.”
However, Wittgenstein’s pragmatism precludes any direct association between him and Gerber. Instead. Gerber makes frequent reference to the “esthetic” synthesizing powers of combining and severing which go on continuously in the formation of linguistic products, activities that reappear verbatim throughout Cassirer’s exposition of language. And Gerber (1871, 1, p. 175) anticipates this successor further when describing how a linguistic sound evolves as “Symbol” for the speakers who “enter” a sphere of “art” when they form sound to express themselves through it linguistically. Also, in quoting Humboldt’s energetic premise Gerber alludes to “enthusiasm” (Begeisterung), a term both thinkers took from Shaftesburian neo-Platonism (Humboldt, 1963, p. 475, Gerber, 1871, 1, p. 180).
A typically Teutonic emanation precept is “Hervorbringen” or “Hervorbringung,” which literalizes into a “bringing to the fore”; one of those words can be found in almost any thesis of the proponents marking the energetic tradition. (Humboldt, p. 226, passim; Gerber, pp. 114, 130, 175, 190-193, passim.) The Romantic connection is not far behind, either, this time made evident in the transcendental or “aesthetic idealism” of Schelling (1775-1854). (See Windelband, II, 1958, pp. 600, 607; Schelling, 1858, III, pp. 607, 622). While Humboldt visualized language as the “Organ” from which all thought emanated, Schelling (ibid., pp. 619, 627 ff.) let art itself become the “Organon” or “documentation” of philosophy, since it presented a realm liberated from natural causality and thus a “freedom” whose provenance was solely human creativity. Such a premise certainly complements the various disclosure theories discussed.
Outside of exceptions such as Gerber, however, Humboldtian influence gradually became modified to suit the new Comparatist trends. Indeed, in the Variations (1963, p. 485) Humboldt himself seems to endorse this development since he praises the “insight” of the Comparatist proponent, Franz Bopp (1791-1867). Also, Romantics such as Friedrich Schlegel and Jakob Grimm revealed their Comparatist interests when they turned out their respective treatises on Indic languages (1808) and comparative grammar (1818). Comparatism certainly seized on “variations” among languages, if primarily for the benefit of their identifiable roots, tracing back “recorded” to “reconstructed” parent languages (Waterman, 1976, pp. 13-24 ff.). Yet by emphasizing evolution, most Comparatists retained a strong diachronic rather than synchronic perspective, planes Humboldtian theory had not confused. Even Saussure (1857-1913), the modern spokesman for separating these planes, had himself started along that path in his Comparatist study of Indo-European vowels of 1878. Indeed, for that achievement he was called from Geneva to Paris by Bréal, the critic who also gave the modern world the discipline of semantics as elucidated. Bréal in fact translated Bopp’s Comparatist endeavors from German into French (Leroy, 1967, pp. 34 ff.). Yet Bréal’s Comparatist affiliation should explain also what caused him to fail in his goal of establishing a theory of scientific semantics. On the other hand, Saussure (1966, pp. 65-70, 79-100) went on to distinguish effectively the diachronic and synchronic planes, as well as the arbitrary yet vital nature of the latter, although his Course, like Humboldt’s Variations, was published posthumously (by his students) in 1916.
The late nineteenth century then witnessed the appearance of neo-Grammarian positivism, with its rigorous description of sound laws. The German “Junggrammatiker” looked to their leader Leskien; his treatise, Soundlaws Know No Exception of 1876, indicates the focus well enough. One favorable neo-Grammarian “exception” to the rule was Hermann Paul’s Principles of Linguistic Theory, which first appeared in 1880 and was reprinted four times by 1920. Even in wording there is that slight reminder of the energetic past: like Herder, Paul describes language as possessing an inner “drive” (1975, p. 94) when exteriorized. More importantly, Paul also distinguished “usual” from “occasional” meaning (pp. 74-88), a dichotomy which in some respects anticipated Saussure’s langue and parole, say critics (Ivic, 1971, p. 53). In other words, Paul glimpsed how reference traded on redundance, the “usual” component, since no new speech may result from individual speakers without sharing a sediment antecedently. Any conventionally based medium of expression guarantees its members acquired staples which make possible their potential expansion.
While neo-Grammarian positivism on the whole went in quest of definitive soundlaws, Comparatism turned psycholinguistic at about the same time: the Comparative Psychology of Wundt’s Völkerpsychologie around 1900 stayed popular long enough to still influence Chomsky’s precursor, Bloomfield. The latter’s Language of 1933 (pp. 18, 386) does credit Humboldt with having initiated “general linguistics” but on the whole makes more of Wundt. In any case, Chomsky, who chronologically followed Bloomfieldian descriptive linguistics, took his predecessors to task for their “structuralist” mode of segmentation. While proclaiming his own Humboldtian roots, Chomsky displayed a strong reaction against everything psycholinguistic and/or “empiricist” in orientation.
At best, however, Chomsky remains a pseudo-Humboldtian who deserves credit mainly for opposing undue description in his own time and for recognizing the value of this German precursor. Indeed, Chomsky’s Cartesian Linguistics of 1966 (pp. 19, 20-21, 70) did not neglect to cite the three Humboldtian statements-in German even!--which were included here, the passages on ergon and energeia, on the image and soul, and on intervention. Yet his very allusion to “Rationalist Thought” in the work’s subtitle indicates a stance inimical to the energetic tradition out of which Humboldtian language theory came. Ultimately, the fact that Chomsky opposed superficial trends of his era does not ipso facto convert him into the successor to Humboldt he deemed himself to be.
Consequently, no one besides Chomsky (ibid., p. 27) should be surprised that Humboldt did not “construct particular generative grammars” with an inbuilt “universal schema to which the particular grammar conforms,” as he notes with regret. How could Humboldt’s intuitive energetic approach to language adopt such set conformity, particularly when a few pages hence Chomsky (p. 35) posits a “universal deep structure . . . common to all languages?” That kind of universalism would annihilate the “variations” on which Humboldt had concentrated. Chomsky’s monolith robs language of its true “mind,” to trade on the title of his later work, Language and Mind (1972), which manifests the two side by side, held apart by a conjunction. His works generally reflect the same stance: a mind rooted in transformations which do not belong to language proper. Rather, Chomsky keeps language the vassal of logic. While trying to restore depth to the investigation of language, he invokes his own “ontological argument for the existence of language” through a universal logic.
Chomsky’s rationalism constitutes instead an anachronistic “Cartesius Redivivus” (Esper, 1968, pp. 219 ff.). He certainly does not hide the fact in the works cited that he returns to the Cartesian age, chiefly to endorse seventeenth-century Port Royal grammar, the Grammaire générale et raisonnée of 1660 by Lancelot and Arnauld because of its focus on universal logic (1966, p.31 ff.; 1972, pp. 16-17, passim; also 1965, pp. 6-7). Subsequent discussions should reveal further what problems this orientation causes for any investigation of meaning involving metaphor. From a historical perspective, there exists a definite ironic reversal: instead of fostering a Humboldtian connection as Chomsky intended, he actually sealed its doom by the very impact his Cartesian focus had on the middle of this century.
The same is not entirely true of some trends in the early decades of the twentieth century before Chomsky; they bore signs of combating the then current positivism. A case in point was the work of 1904 by Vossler, proponent of the neo-Idealist school based in Munich; it had pitted against positivism a new Romantic type of esthetic idealism that probed the intuitive depths of language (Helbig, 1970, pp. 22-26, Ivić, 1971, pp. 81 88). Subsequent decades then witnessed other German “neo-Romantic” trends pertaining to “Content-Related (inhaltsbezogene) Grammarians” and “Field-Theory” proponents. These schools tried to keep Humbold’s ideas alive, mostly by replacing neo-Grammarian “sound-related” detail with “content-related” semantic spheres (Helbig, 1970, pp. 119 148, 152-154; Schaff, 1974, pp. 26-28). One recent critic (Jost, 1960, pp. 124-127) actually offers tables to show how closely these neo-Humboldtians adhered to their mentor.
Yet none of these developments-including the functional tagmemics of Pike and followers this side of the Atlantic-could resist tranformationalist pressure. Although interest in generative grammar is supposed to have abated of late, nothing substantive has taken its place. In view of the impending year 2000, one gets the impression of heading for the kind of fin-de-siecle stalemate that afflicted the turn of the last century in art. Language theory seems to have run the gamut of every field and every professional area from philosophy to psychology and poetics without that discipline forming which Bréal had dimly envisioned in his coinage of “semantics.” In the final analysis even Cassirer (1972, 1, p. 280), with whom this chapter began, does not take semantics far enough: after treating so painstakingly the spontaneous inductive nature of language, he concludes perversely with “logical relations” as though these were the ultimate realization of linguistic prowess. Cassirer thus came close to undoing the “cultural” expansion he had emphasized at the outset of his volume on language.
With the limits of Cassirer’s contribution thus described, as well as the Humboldtian tradition his theory embodied, the analysis turns to the phenomenological semantics of Ingarden. Of course, Ingarden will stay important for many of this work’s subsequent chapters, particularly discussions of aspects dealing with the (semiotic) Picture of Language. In the immediate setting, however, he serves my ultimate ontological separation of language by the means of the promised circles.
The greater portion of Ingarden’s semantic theory appeared in Das literarische Kunstwerk of 1931 (though I will refer to the third edition of 1965). Originally written in German, the work was translated into English in 1973 as The Literary Work of Art. Ingarden’s other important work, Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, also appeared in this translation in 1973; it came out first in 1936 under the Polish title, O poznawaniu dziela literackiego, with the German translation, Vom Erkennen des literarischen Kunstwerks, published in 1968. The dates of the relatively late English translations say something about deferred Anglo-Saxon interest. In one of the posthumous publications containing some of Ingarden’s separate writings translated into German from the Polish, the editor, Fieguth (1976, p. XI), points out that Ingarden’s style was abstruse in even his mother tongue. Fieguth’s volume (pp. 135-140 ff.) also includes polemical passages, essentially arguments between Ingarden and his Marxist compatriots. In a bitter rebuttal against those who opposed the schism he allegedly created between language and the concrete reality (and related issues), Ingarden alludes sarcastically to his own “heresy,” a term that should serve as a reminder of the closeness between religious and political dogmatisms.
In the end, at least, Marxist objection should prove wholly unfounded, since Ingarden describes meticulously how language makes repeated contacts with the extralinguistic world. Ultimately, he could only make a case for this contact because he gave language its self-identity. By specifying the bounds of language he could delineate where other domains took over and/or touched on the semantic sphere, which is the very problem neo-Aristotelians never solved while probing metaphor. Since Ingarden approached ontology with full logical consistency for the sole purpose of keeping logic out of language while showing also under what conditions it may enter language, the long awaited science of meaning that Bréal and Ullmann, among others, had sought without success finally reached fruition. So while some critics compare Chomsky’s work on syntax to a “Copernican revolution” (Esper, 1968, p. 220), it is really Ingarden who deserves that accolade in the area of semantics. Indeed, so narrow was Chomsky’s perception of syntax that, it will turn out, he himself did not know where syntax bordered on semantics, a problem which cannot even arise with lngarden’s dynamic semantic unit(y).
But first, Ingarden actually dared to name the essence of language, calling it “ontic heteronomy,” in German “Seins-Heteronomie” (also without a hyphen, or as the adjective “seinsheteronom”; 1965, pp. 104, 120, 127, 131, 141, 172, passim). Leaning on his mentor Husserl, Ingarden describes how in language as ontic heteronomy everything is freely “contributed” (gestifted), thus has to originate (entstehen, 1965, pp. 106 107) in contents that become spontaneously “created” or “drafted” (entworfen, geschaffen). The very phrasing here evokes the inspirational faculties at work in purposive domains such as art. Thus Ingarden tacitly perpetuated what the Romantics were seen to have espoused.
Moreover, what causes meanings to be heteronomous is their sole dependence on linguistic activity, a point Ingarden never fails to stress (pp. 66, 69, 75, 127, 129, 131, passim). Cassirer’s linguistic modality thus also emerges in a new setting. But Ingarden becomes more specific: he traces linguistic activity to binary functions termed “Meinen” and “Vermeinen” (pp. 104, 121-123, passim). “Meinen” corresponds to the act of meaning entailed in authorial intent, the will of speakers; “Vermeinen” refers to significafion or embodiment of the act by selected explicit and implicit meanings, whose basic denominations speakers share as interlocutory partners. When thus selected, meanings corporealize and embody a speaker’s act of meaning, resulting in a unified sense which harbors what a speaker “meant” to say. In the type of intellectual (Fichtean) introspection my study has advocated from the start, that is also what happens to my writing: authorial intent selected every single word on this page; my meaning becomes conveyed through these chosen meanings. On the surface, the words resemble any discrete vocable in its usual explicit and implicit denominations, but at depth each entity is teleologically bound to, and regulated by, my authorial will, releasing accordingly the connotations relevant only to the whole sentence.
The sentence is thus a holistic constitutive unit(y) that Ingarden designates “pure-intentional sentence (or syntactic) correlate” (1965, pp. 110-121, 133, 138, passim). “Correlation” essentially pinpoints the correlative functions of the two tasks, the “Meinen” and “Vermeinen” that span the length and breadth of such a unit(y). Their resulting interaction brings the reference contributed by individual meanings to bear on the transference these undergo through the act of meaning as they materialize (explicitly) and engender (implicitly) the act of meaning. Again, my sentences here are no exception to the rule; no new generation of meaning by chosen meanings can occur without a transaction between reference and transference: syntactic entrants shift to release a unified sense relevant to and derived from (my) authorial intent.
In this syntactic semantic processing, the constituents become what Ingarden (1965, p. 122-124, 127-129) calls “targets” for an act’s “intending.” Meanings are accordingly “pure-intentional objects,” or (loosely speaking) dynamic “mental” entities. Their pure-intentional base keeps meanings sufficiently elastic to retain self-identity while simultaneously undergoing the shift described. In their dependence on signitive acts for every semantic constitution, meanings possess only what their acts intend, be that the “fool” in the “cuckoo” or the German donkey. Referential priority goes to “naming” the acts of speakers and not extralinguistic things or concepts. That is the “natural” task of meanings-rather than hanging labels on antecedent existents for which they serve as mere stand-ins, as the current view of linguistic reference tacitly maintains. In their very dependence on signation, meanings must be confined to the collective acts precipitated (potentially) by one speech community, a numeric qualifier caught in the “hetero “ prefix of “heteronomy.” For that reason precisely this study has stressed repeatedly the need to concentrate on language in a language; plurality of use stays confined to one language and ultimately erupts in all the (Humboldtian) variations of different and self-contained languages.
While pure-intentionality is current in phenomenology, ontic heteronomy is Ingarden’s addition to assure that these “mental” objects belong solely to signitive acts. Opposed to ontic heteronomy he has pitted ontic autonomy; it comes either in “real” (corporeal) dimensions or “ideal” abstractions (1965, pp. XIV XV, 99, 103, 106-107, passim). Illustration may be best at this point: a dog and cuckoo, for example, are perceived as corporeal creatures and thus belong to the autonomous-real state; they are conceived as respective canine and avian species in logical subsumption under the genus animal and in that respect become autonomous-ideal entities. Ingarden devised just those basic ontological distinctions which help him offset language from other domains. Accordingly, “autonomy” here signifies mainly not being dependent on acts of meaning, thus not on language in a language.
That is always the test, as stated. Logical acts are thus precluded categorically, as is all direct perception of entities which are not (word) meanings. Of course, the semantic entities are “autonomous,” more properly autotelic, when regarded in their intrinsic, purposive state of being. But without human intervention meanings cannot exist, even if language interposes itself in full self-determination, “coercing” speakers to uphold collectively what has found inception in a language. Conversely, empirical nature may be a part of the human environment but it can also flourish (better?) without being submitted to the perception of humans.
The collision between forms of programming mentioned before as the cause for the traditional metaphor now can be diagnosed. It occurs when ontic autonomy momentarily obtrudes upon ontic heteronomy, forcing categories of the former into cognizance while dealing with the latter. However, since there is no “dealing” with language except on its own ground, ontic heteronomy cannot be dislodged. The language “works,” to resort to my former pun, mainly because autonomy and heteronomy are too disparate in acquisition, thus leaving a mere sense impression behind, but never “non-sense” in language. Even in my bilingual state, I cannot cross over within ontic heteronomy to the other language but must rely on my content acquisition of each, and thus on the contextualization through signitive acts I have assimilated with these contents. This is accomplished by a functional transference occurring within one language at a time--as I express my meaning through the meanings each language holds available. In this very processing, language in a language normalizes constituents within me, forging redundance for some “dead” metaphors that are actually just odd meanings flattened through a frequency of application in related contexts.
Unfortunately, even Ingarden’s otherwise clear-cut ontological division into heteronomy and autonomy contains one vulnerable principle. That is his “idealer Begriff” or “ideal concept” (1965, pp. 88 89, 386-390), introduced by him in an attempt to give additional ballast to what he deemed to be the volatile quality of ontic heteronomy. Whatever his reasons, the ideal concept alone by name conflicts with the ontological division he otherwise upheld so consistently, since the ideal throughout his work remains identified with ontic autonomy, and thus should not become any part of ontic heteronomy. To avoid confusion, therefore, Ingarden’s ideal concept will be discarded in favor of Cassirer’s linguistic concept, whose role of imprinting will be detailed meticulously. Since Ingarden’s oversight seems to be mainly one of nomenclature rather than essence, the modification does not erode his theory in general.
It may be necessary also to stress early that Ingarden’s autonomous-real and autonomous-ideal states do not reach the Kantian transcendental proportions. The “real” in ontic autonomy does not equal Kant’s extramental or transcendentally real noumenon but designates only an extralinguistic state. Since Ingarden’s ontological divide governs bounds of language, it stays immanent to Kant’s phenomenal domain, where the latter’s transcendentally ideal sphere is lodged. Even when thus corrected, however, any direct transition from one thinker to the other remains oversimplified. Thus to thrust in language with Kant’s phenomenal sphere is inadequate for reasons that should emerge when levels of time and space regarding literary works are examined later in this study.
But if not in nomenclature, then in precept, Ingarden’s phenomenology fits historically into the wider Critical tradition, which, as perpetuated in philosophical Idealism throughout the nineteenth century, stressed the constitutive role of consciousness for human experience. Ingarden aided the development of that perspective by focusing on signitiue consciousness as the catalyst of language made effective through acts of meaning, a theory that culminates in the disclosure tenets discussed. Simultaneously, Ingarden’s ontic autonomy takes care not only of corporeal or “real” entities but of the “ideal” counterparts embodied in Cassirer’s deductive “abstraction” or Nietzsche’s equalizing “Begriff.” The autonomous ideal thus partakes of the very categories that the ontological category-mistake culls from lexical deviance where ontic heteronomy should prevail, whose entities are pure-intentional “objects” signitively derived, hence not from logical acts of deduction but from dynamic acts of meaning. These elastic entities are indeed inductive, as Cassirer stressed; they are the result of language as the “Organ” of thought, and they constitute the “Organon” of exclusive linguistic productivity.
Indeed, Humboldt almost expressed the gist of Ingarden’s tenet when in the Variations (1963, p. 226) he observed that to the extent that language remained independent (selbstständig) it embodied an “Object” and to the extent it remained dependent (abhängig) on speech, a “Subjekt.” The “subjective” dependence here constitutes the signitive act, and what it “objectifies,” the heteronomous, pure-intentional object. Paradoxically, signitive acts are only independent because meanings depend on them for their origination. The great paradoxes Kant formulated in the Third Critique (Cassirer, ed., V, 1914, pp. 290, 312) for the sphere of art may thus be relevant: “free law,” “purposiveness without purpose,” and “conformity to law without law” are three antithetical phrases that may be used to convey any autotelic, purposive mode of existence. The same applies to the Kantian “Everyman” reiterated throughout the Critique (ibid., pp. 280-281, 288, 308, 310). In less anthropomorphic (and sexist?) terms, this concept stands for the intersubjective base through which all persons, and here speakers -every “man” or “human”--of a speech community uphold values as the only possible means for an “objectivity” in an intrinsic foundation that subsists “without interest” and “without (logical) concept” (Kant, ibid., pp. 271-280, 280-288, 318). Though seemingly odd in wording, Kant’s phrasing emphasizes that, beyond their own disclosure, purposive foundations are released from goals, rational or pragmatic, that remain extrinsic to their being.
Below, ontic heteronomy and autonomy become separated in circles to reveal the ultimate “truth” of their disparate natures, fulfilling the promise of this chapter. The corporeal roundness of circular shapes befits continuity and distinctiveness with a touch of global proportion made concrete. Those circular shapes mirror effectively the autonomous-real by “speaking” alike to all individuals, irrespective of linguistic variations. Thus, in their way, the circles project once more the ontological distinction which separates non-verbal contours from those of words, which also come with this diagram. In the way of a warning, the circles foreshadow the adjunct, where they feature in misjudged counterfactuality surrounding discussions on metaphor.
Ontic heteronomy is the left circle, suggesting “first” in the sequence because language as “linguistic reality” stays the primary universe for humans, as Cassirer, Gerber, and others stressed also, before Ingarden. Putting language first also fits better into Ingarden’s plan insofar as ontic autonomy, which may be subsumed under the qualifier of “autonomous-objective reality,” is posited mainly as counter-reality to ontic heteronomy and thus in traits most basic to that distinction. The extralinguistic reality remains otherwise ramified enough to induce numerous divisions, including also some for the visual arts, since these, despite their purposive state, are not confined to the perception of words. Ingarden’s sparse ontological division thus outlines the criteria of fundamentals so sorely needed in any investigation of meaning and metaphor, a problem the pervasive “syncretism” in the adjunct should make abundantly clear.
So with this minimal division language and its counterpart(s) become sufficiently separated to obviate the ontological category-mistake: language of the left circle resides in heterogeneous acts of meaning that surface only with one language. Regarded from the aspect of the right circle, ontic heteronomy appears “arbitrary”; regarded from within its own circle, ontic heteronomy becomes absolute if native speaker competence is to govern satisfactory performance. Regarded from the right circle, ontic heteronomy contains violated categories which precipitate “metaphors”; viewed from within their own circle, these metaphors turn out simply to be normalized meanings in a given language, if odd on their (lexical) surface. Ingarden (1965, p. 123) stresses that acts of meaning “transcend” other acts of consciousness; he makes plain that these other acts cannot interfere with signation. As pure-intentional “objects,” of course, meanings also transcend their acts; they become their legitimate, and thus validated (unstarred) products, even as they attain no being without those acts.
Now, despite their disparity, the circles also overlap on the diagram. What the overlap does not stand for is that collision between two forms of programming brought on with a sensation of metaphor, since that experience is of no essence. Rather, the overlap marks a particular use of language, irrespective of content-cuckoos, donkeys, or whatever. It announces the contact language makes with the extralinguistic reality in the separate attachment of a reality-nexus, a process called adequation by Ingarden in order to designate a juxtaposition of two referents, a heteronomous-pure and autonomous-objective one. Adequation is of enormous importance and will thus be treated in the minutest detail: it is a functional way of making language “literal” as well “logical” by permitting the entry of truth conditions that indeed give rise to propositions. Adequation is also the cause of idiom formation through semantic redundance and, most importantly, becomes the primary functional distinguisher between literal and literary use without resorting to a “prosaic” or “poetic” (odd) lexical surface. Ultimately, adequation is Ingarden’s best defense against unwarranted charges of an elitism, since it necessitates contact between language and the objective reality.
Through the presence or absence of adequation, three structures are to be posited, two non-adequated ones for fictional and poetic literary genres and one adequated alternative which, as already suggested, represents the everyday or literal application of language. The term “structure” in non-Aristotelian semantics refers mainly to a nonlexical orientation. My interpretation certainly includes the basic idea of wholeness and transformation through self-regulation critics generally associate with structure (Piaget, in Hawkes, 1977, p. 16). This structural division, however, should also make evident where Cassirer’s logical judgment, which had concluded the latter’s work, remained insufficient, since now it can be seen to exemplify only one of three applications in language, specifically the last of the three structures listed here. Beyond the value of the immediate context, furthermore, this structural division will permit the development of a non-Aristotelian, structural metaphor from one of the non-adequated uses. Since the precise locus of this metaphor involves the complete Picture of Language, the discussion moves next to this semiotic schema, now that the essence of language has been identified and differentiated.