Turtles All the Way Up

With the collapse of the computational model of mind, organic coding offers an alternative. First, it traces language to turtles or the natural artefacts that manufacture human judgements. More specifically, human brains prompt us to make strategic use of semantic syntheses (and felt relations). Organic coding unites many phenomena. Above, I have applied it to interactional attitudes, sentence construal, motivation systems, and the rise of self. Even if these do not use adaptors, the model throws new light on the analogue-digital process of first-order language. Indeed, it is this hybridity which allows sense making to exploit language dynamics. This is an alternative to centralism. If language is distributed, we need not picture utterances as sets of forms whose rules allow them to run through input/output devices.

In spite of parallels with Morse, language is not a constructed code. Precisely because it is not centralised, its semantics has no need for external agents. Rather, dialogical capacities set off strategic signalling that, as in all organic codes, shows context-sensitivity. Lacking invertability, digital aspects of language result from both semantic compression and a history of cultural selection. While based in Dennett's (1991b) work, the link with organic coding enables the claim to be pursued with respect to both neural and behavioural evidence. First, a simple signal ('gravy') can synthesise variable felt responses. Second, in experimental conditions, construing a sentence can depend on integrating wordings, expression and a previous hearing. Brains settle on - not established meanings - but percepts that fill in cultural display. Third, IMF can be seen as underpining interaction, relationships, and the dynamics that eventually come under the control of verbal constraints. Babies are thus transformed into human subjects by using processes that, at very least, resemble organic coding. Far from relying on invariants associated with external agents, human beings are transformed outside-in. Since we are biological creatures - and in spite of the language stance - language diverges from constructed codes. As part of strategic and motivated behaviour, it uses the same organic processes as cells, brains, and interacting human bodies.

Organic coding speaks for giving cognitive dynamics a central role in language. This, of course, is consistent with the distributed view of Love, Kravchenko, Ross, and others. Indeed, by switching one's focus from forms to expression, sense making is seen to depend on how brains motivate response to coaction. Far from drawing on apriori symbols (or signs), we rely on bodies that become language-ready. Given digital semantics, hybrid language comes to play the modelling role emphasised by Sebeok (2001). Far from depending on dichotomies of internal system and external use, language exploits a meshwork of heterogeneous processes and practices. Both dialogically and in monologue, we rely on integrating expression with wordings. Language is analogue and digital because adaptive signals regulate an individual's world. Indeed, it is precisely this hybridity that impacts on the IMF in ways that give us shared descriptions and an ability to identify (what we take to be) counterfactuals. Language thus has a major role in making us human subjects. Semantic syntheses transform human agency as we come to define what we believe (and want). While mammals use interaction to discover the world, syntheses are parasitic on other people's norms and expressions (of feelings, thoughts, and actions). Thus, by the age of 4 or 5, children can use autobiographical memory, story telling, and other cultural practices to become living subjects. Instead of adopting wordings, we become people who publicly present who we are.

Trevarthen traces human agency to sensitivity to expression. As motivation formation occurs, babies adjust to the caregiver's adjustments. Brain-side, IMF gives control over expression. Given how interaction changes, world-side, we slowly develop into persons. Using norms that motivate behaviour, the child develops uses for second-order constructs (e.g. red, words, minds). This allows linguistic reflexivity which is, I think, culture's best trick. Language used to talk about language can shape activity even among those who know nothing about what is said. By extending behaviour, in this way, we become self-conscious actors. Indeed, once 'selves' are taken for granted, we can use second-order constructs to exploit (or develop) constructed codes. Not only do individuals gain strategic advantages but, historically, social change runs in parallel to such processes. Over time, it has given us visual art, scripts, printing, mass communication and, recently, robots. Each change, of course, forces new ways of deploying language. Today, we can ask if machines could use the dynamics of organic coding. Indeed, if we can define how expression uses adaptors, robots can become a new theoretical test-bed. In principle, they could be used to test the hypothesis of turtles (or artefacts) all the way up.

Applied to language, the organic process model suggests that first-order linguistic events - human biomechanics - tidy our brains. By building human motivation systems, we exploit second-order models that exploit cultural practices. As in protein manufacture, IMF (like DNA) uses syntheses based in nontrivial causal spread. In language, neural events use values and patterns based in a history of cultural display. Humans show sensitivity to norms, attitudes, emotions, and expressions. Gradually, these shape motivations that drive interaction and, eventually, make us able to hear ourselves speaking. While based in affect, coaction conspires with culture to give children belief in words. Given coevolutionary processes, developmental events exploit processes that, at least, resemble organic coding. Children adopt ways of acting based in the language stance. Echoing what used to be called a hocus pocus view of linguistics (see Joos, 1957), I regard wordings as second-order constructs. The novel proposal, therefore, is that the organic process model be used to consider how these cultural constructs are used by brains, expression, and biology. As strategic signals make us into subjects who believe in wordings, we stand much to gain from taking the language stance.

Since biosemiosis drives expressive activity, brains synthesise meaning. They use coaction to integrate values with symbolic, normative, and other constraints. By using expression in motive formation, talk takes on modelling roles. Given semantic compression, we manufacture a fictional entity that construes events. This agent - self or soul - serves, among other things, to apply metaphors. Appeal to coding, I have shown, can be used to identify organic, constructed, and even imaginary processes. Finally, therefore, let me end by sounding a note of caution. Language dynamics may not, in some literal sense, function as adaptors. Semantic biology may provide no more than a model of how language influences bodies and, in development, shapes the emergence of persons. However, even on a weak reading, we can say that, as we integrate expression with segmental patterns we come up with semantic syntheses that echo experience. As is illustrated by entry into literacy, such events can transform a child's world. Historically too, the rise of grammars, dictionaries, and schools led to extensions of the language stance and, as a result, how we lead our lives. That is, I believe, beyond dispute. However Barbieri's model is used, it shows that the resulting events may depend on how we link imaginary and organic codes. By integrating wordings with multi-scalar dynamics, semantic syntheses prompt us to new forms of action. Strikingly, they push thoughts beyond the information given and, at the same time, prompt thinkers to pick out counterfactuals.

Acknowledgements This paper was made possible by colleagues in and around the Distributed Language Group. I owe special thanks to Marcello Barbieri who asked me to pursue parallels between distributed language and organic coding. Many thanks too to Joanna R^czaszek-Leonardi who reawakened interest in the experimental psycholinguistics. Last, I wish to express gratitude to Alex Kravchenko and Don Ross who have driven my interest in linguistic biomechanics, shown due scepticism, and provided invaluable feedback on early drafts of Turtles.

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