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Philosophy of Language

Dialectics of Internal and External: Structure and Speech Contamination

Janna V. Gorbyleva
Tomsk State University, Russia

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ABSTRACT: The central topic of this paper is the analysis of the dialectical interdependency of internal and external in the theory of language as a symbolic system. Referring to and analyzing the philosophic legacy of W. von Humboldt, B. Russell, L. Wittgenstein, F. de Saussure and G. Spet, the author concludes that the dialectics of internal and external is not an accidental and episodic phenomenon of language. It rather is an intrinsic, ontological trait apart from which an adequate cognition of the essence of language is impossible. Taking the internal form as a logical structure, it is possible to view it as something "higher and fundamental" in language, something that is attainable more by intuition than by research. The internal intellectual base of this grammatical stability lies in the sphere of purely logical forms. If internal word formulations are related to and governed by the spirit, then the external forms in fact conceal an inner grammatical and syntactic edifice. The laws of external speech functioning are manifested, for example, in bilingualism, which may be viewed either as a social phenomenon related to individual thinking and classificatory abilities or as an evidence of the existence of common verbal structures in human consciousness. The author proposes to transfer such linguistic terms as "bilingualism" and "contamination" into a different context as a way of seeking new topical domains within the linguistic philosophy and the philosophy of language. The empiricism of specific language functioning in the form of bilingual language contamination brings us back to the assumption of the existence of uniform internal metalanguage structures of verbal thinking.

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The Internal Form as a Language Structure

Ever since Bertrand Russell, analytical philosophy has searched for an inner logical form of the sentence that could be true with respect to the world. Obviously, the superficial external grammatical form of sentences that we comprehend is a weak expression of the true form of corresponding facts. "Poor grammar" introduced many errors in traditional metaphysics disallowing distinctions available exclusively in the new logic. There is a need for a "philosophical grammar" — a grammar, because we speak about the form of the sentences, and philosophical because it should address not only the external but also the internal grammatical structures and reflect their interactions and transmutations thus revealing forms and elements that create the reality of true sentences.

A new meaning of philosophy began with Wittgenstein's Tractatus. Here language acquires an ontological stance and philosophy becomes the philosophy of language. In order to reflect reality, a sentence should have something in common with it, that is, a logical form. But a visible logical form cannot be the real language form. Language transforms thoughts and thus the goal of philosophy is in the "logical clarification of thoughts." (1)

Analytical philosophy imposed clear guidelines in the definition of the problem of critical demarcation with the language of the traditional metaphysics, which is solely oriented to the external manifestations without taking into account the authentic criteria of linguistic verification. These criteria were uniquely capable to ontologize the language thus bringing it closer to the genuine language of science, which is inseparable from the language of the logical analysis. It is in the depths of the analytical tradition that the question about the relationship between the internal logical form of the language and its specific metaphysical expression is formulated as the latter introduces multiple errors and is responsible for "disguising and obscuring thoughts." (2)

While interpreting the views of Wilhelm Humboldt, Gustav Spet formulates the idea that the internal form of the language originates in certain spirituality whose aim is to elevate the articulated sound to the expression of thought. "The language is an involuntary outflow of the spirit itself." (3) The language is before all an organ of the inner being, which, in addition to its communicative, ethnic, physiological and psychological functions, has also a profound, inner, and immanent nature. The internal with respect to the external acts as primary, subconscious and deep. Humboldt writes, "The language is an organ of being, not only an organ, but the internal being in itself which gradually attains the inner cognition and becomes self-aware."

More sharply and precisely the differences between the internal and the external are formulated in the Course of General Linguistics by Ferdinand de Saussure. These differences emerge from the antagonism of language and speech as represented by antitheses of the preessential and accomplished, the general and specific, and manifested in the contraposition of external, accidental speech factors and some immanent core which remains unchanged and is not influenced by a variety of random events. Thus, the external becomes associated with those language attributes that are derived from ethnology, history of civilizations, individual psychology, and is determined by the randomness of specific speech acts. On the other hand, the internal shall be understood within the context of unalterable intra-language structures or inner governing principles. At the end of his book, Saussure reaches his main conclusion: "The only and authentic object of the linguistics is language considered in itself and for itself," (4) or, as Hegel would have said, as a self-contained and self-sufficient essence.

The internal, as an object of research, has always attracted structurally oriented thought by its relationship with the language rather than the speech. Switching the focus from the superficial qualities to the internal immanent system attributes, one employs the Saussurian "language-speech" opposition where the language is given priority over speech. From then on, the researcher's attentive look moves inward — to what was used to be hidden behind the obviousness of the visible sides of reality — to the true structures including structures of the subconscious. However, only the 20th century with its respect of structuralism and favorable attitude toward taxonomic models of reality was able to represent this seemingly spontaneously occurring "irrational experience" as some regular dependency that follows certain rules and is organized according to the same laws that govern natural languages.

Structure implies the existence of relationships inside a whole that is not a simple and arbitrary composition of different elements. On the contrary, structure implies that the elements are interdependent and each of them may exist only in relation with others. Structure, in the eyes of structuralists, is not simply a design of some object, viewed as a set of relations between its different parts and elements and available to direct observation. It is rather the entirety of hidden relationships that can be cognized only using the "force of abstraction" along the reasoning path from events to the essence. The higher level of abstraction deals only with those attributes of the elements that are dependent on their position within the system, on their relationships with other elements. The formal structure that emerges as a result of this approach, can be further investigated using the methods of formal logic and mathematics. This allows one to develop deductively theories of greater scientific importance and precision as compared with theories built using the inductive method, as well as to lay foundation for the search of universalities and broad typological generalizations.

Thus, while Humboldt concentrates on the internal form of the language, Wittgenstein and Russell search for a symbolic language that would conform with the logical grammar and Saussure defines the opposition of the internal and the external in terms of the opposition between the language and the speech. On the other hand, structuralists, including Spet, try to discover the logical structure of the internal form of the word.

Internal forms act as spiritual laws to create words-notions. In the works of the spirit, this represents something stable and uniform that is directed toward the expression of thought via articulated sound. The language is not a completed action, ergon, but a persistent reality, energeia, "eternally repeating work of the spirit to make articulated sound suitable for the expression of thought." (5)

Considering the internal form as a logical structure, it is possible to stabilize it as "something higher and fundamental" in language that can be accessed not exactly by research but rather by intuition. The internal intellectual foundation of this grammatical constancy lies in the sphere of purely logical forms. Internal forms are in essence objective laws and algorithms of the realization of meaning. These forms are immersed in cultural being and organize it from the inside. Logic is a science about the forms that structure spiritual being and transfer the laws to reason. These structures are more profound and have a nature different from that of "superficial" grammatical forms. Thus, logical meaning is universal, ontological and objective. The internal form is directly related with verbal logical construction and acts as a law to create notions. The laws of observation, thinking and feeling, are ways or forms within which the spiritual activity "coins sounds." The forms of the narrative account are forms of the external perception whereas the forms of comprehension are internal logical forms. Language reflects not objects but their notions thus appropriating things and bringing them to us.

Therefore, the most profound inner governing principles are hidden from external empirical outlook. The emergence of structuralism and analytical philosophy is responsible for the radical transformation of many humanities, i.e. their transition from the empirical and descriptive to the analytical and theoretical level. This transition requires a drastic change in thinking style, the acquisition and application of rigid formal mathematical methods, the redefinition of the very subject of study, its reanalysis, constructivization and idealization.

The Dialectics of Internal and External

The presence of the internal form always requires the reciprocal existence of its antipode, the external form, as well as their dialectical codependency. The synthesis or deduction leads us to the internal whereas by analysis and induction we return to the multiplicity of the real world of external words, things, languages and objects.

As historically determined, cultural relationships between the external and the internal are ambivalent: on one hand, the external has the internal as its base and primary foundation, while the internal always actualizes through externalization. On the other hand, the dialectics of the internal and the external demonstrates that the external always limits the internal showing only its part or side. At the same time, having enriched itself through certain innovation, the external returns to its static state from which only conditional exit is achievable. The available sound inventory is indeed incapable of creating languages worthy of spirit.

In the Humboltonian content of the language form one can discern the transcendence of boundaries of language itself. The content is dynamic and has its nature in the sound outfitted in a concrete language fabric — a certain embodiment of the form. The word crystallizes the path the language takes expressing a thought in a notion. The language assigns concrete being to objects by naming them. The language exists before man but the word is pronounced by man and for man and then returns back to him in an act of communication. The man's ability to speak and to understand speech is an evidence of the possession of elemental internal language forms as potential spiritual capacities. This involves him in a language continuum that is congruent and fused in co-being with others. The thought finds a way outward through the articulation of the sound. The double-faced unity of the word is composed of the sound and the notion.

The closeness of notions dictates acoustic similarities in unrelated languages, which hint at the governing principles of thinking and the pre-verbal nature of thinking. Analogous thoughts require analogous forms in sounds and words. Language does not tolerate voluntarism since the new is created based on existing laws in accordance with the internal language spirit. The speech-external of Saussure and the Humboldt's sound form are aimed at the differentiation, dissection and division of the languages outlining the variability of the unique spirit. The internal language forms of Humboldt or Spet's logical structures represent the return to the pre-dissected state.

As is true of every system, language can be folded and unfolded, contracted and expanded. The folded state represents a whole that is stripped of multiplicity and contents that obscure its true universal essence. This universality serves as a prism through which the historically and socially variable component converges into a structured and invariant form. At this point the singular is replaced by the common, the subjective becomes trans-subjective, and the conscious turns into super-conscious.

If internal word forms are related with and submit to the spirit, then the external forms conceal a grammatical and syntactic edifice. Thought is realized in grammatical forms that tie it into a corset of syntactic functions. Thought is freer and richer than words. However, during the actualization process, this richness is determined by the richness or scarcity of grammatical forms. Language is essentially a mediated freedom, the freedom of the thinking continuum realized in the variety of linguistic forms and means.

Where is the measure of the relationship between the mind and reason, on one side, and the voluntarism of the language coat, on the other? Apparently, such a measure can be found in the words themselves as they attempt to synthesize feelings and thoughts.

The process of morphological and syntactical externalization welcomes ties with logical forms and through them, with meaning. Spet's thought of an ideal morphology, as a means of transferring logical relationships and meanings, resonates well with the ideas of the analytical philosophy.

In conclusion, the syntactical, morphological and stylistic pertain to the external forms of the word. The internal form pretends to be an absolute form of some sort, a form of forms, the highest and terminal in the system and the structure of the forms in the logical verbal domain. Their dialectics dwells in the so-called language feeling we are familiar with from personal experience, and which allows correct formulation as well as appropriateness and suitability of usage.

The Bilingualism as a Means of Language Contamination

The internal logical structure represents only a model of reality, not reality itself. The ideal morphology for the language of logic, which has been a dream of many philosophers and linguists, exists only in projects. Languages have both an internal structure, which is related with thought, and an external structure, which reflects pronunciation and orthography. We envision that all languages have a common intrinsic internal structure or forestructure differing only in the external look of sentences.

Social linguistics defines the phenomenon of bilingualism as the command of two languages. (6) By superimposing in our consciousness particular features of a foreign language on the overall order of our native language, we produce the interference of two language systems, that is, the partial fusion or contamination or mixing of languages, which leads to speech errors. However, these errors are not random and chaotic but rather occur in some orderly fashion. Speech errors of small children may be a good example. Nobody would call such errors purely arbitrary and reject a possibility of finding governing principles to be used subsequently for their classification.

There is an opportunity for a new branch of the philosophical grammar — Bilinguistics — which will study and classify potential contamination errors taking into account their genesis and causality. Bilinguistics will employ the hidden interference potential to cognize the essence of the language in terms of the characteristics of the thinking process in the presence of the individually subjective experience.

For building material, this concept will use "pure" linguistics, but in such a way so as not to exclude the psychological aspect of language assimilation and functioning. Already Sigmund Freud noted that the speech errors and slips of tongue are not at all accidental, but represent the expression of the deeper logic of the thought. Actually, we are returning to the idea of some pre-existing language that is beforehand implicitly inherent to each individual in all multiplicity of its forms. Without this, it would have been impossible to comprehend speech or to learn to speak. Thus, following the idea of Humboldt, if the entire language and all of its relationships were not already built-in, we could not understand a single word. While daring to assert, man possesses certain innate universal classification capabilities, which can be "tuned" either to a particular language or to a bilingual situation.

The interaction of languages in the consciousness of a bilingual person is similar to the interpersonal interaction in a socium. In other words, the body of a bilingual carries several co-existing "egos" which argue with each other, strive to dominate each other, evaluate themselves through the prism of the other, and even are hostile to each other. This is due to the fact that the two languages cannot be functionally identical to the bilingual. The tendency to an at least implicit domination of one language over the other is well-pronounced leading to a shifting of the psychological equilibrium of the languages in the bilingual's mind.

Biligualism can be thought of as a social factor related to individual thinking and classificatory capabilities, or as an evidence of the existence of common verbal structures in human consciousness. It is characterized either by the autonomy of the two languages, or by the occurrence of language contamination, i.e. the upgrade of the second language to the communicative power of the first one in the consciousness of the bilingual, the rapprochement of the two language systems, their partial and even practically complete coalescence. The opposite is also true as demonstrated by the resorting in the use of the first language to the means of the second one. This may be due to various reasons: seemingly greater compactness of constructs, inertia, or the subconscious equation of the two languages, on the structural level, with a subsequent perception of them as one. In the latter case, we can observe morphological syntactical speech structures of the two languages partially coinciding in the mind of bilinguals and, to some degree, becoming the sole structure.

Previous linguistic theory rigidly postulated the dichotomy of the two principal methods, synthetic and analytical, regarding the expression of grammatical meanings. The synthetic method is present where grammatical denotation is united with the word itself and grammatical meanings are imported "into the word" using endings, suffixes, prefixes and root interchanges. The analytical approach is manifest when the grammatical meaning is expressed outside of the limits of the word, separately from the word — by prepositions, unions, articles, auxiliary verbs and other service words, as well as by the order of words and the general intonation of the sentence. Linguistics has always emphasized a cardinal division between these language systems. However, an attempt to discover in analytical languages just a differently expressed presence of synthetic forms, is not, in our opinion, devoid of perspective. Indeed, for languages of the Indo-European family the syntheticism as a type of language organization is primordial in time and content diversity. Therefore, the evolution of language systems to their contemporary state could not completely erase the principles of a more ancient language organization, but only instill them with a new expression.

Again, we encounter head-on the idea of the pre-existence of the uniform verbal structures that were partially studied within the lines of "transformational grammar." In these studies, the attention focus is shifted from the building of vast, extremely sophisticated and heterogeneous systems of rules for particular languages to the development of a unified grammatical theory, which allows us to predict the dependencies between rules as the means of realization. The empiricism of the concrete language functioning in the form of the bilingual language contamination brings us back to the assumption of the existence of internal metalanguage structures of verbal thinking.

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(1) Wittgenstein L., Philosophical Works, Moscow, "Gnosis," 1994, p. 24

(2) Ibid, p.18

(3) Spet G., "The Internal Form of the Word," Moscow, 1927, p.11

(4) Saussure de, F., Philological Works, Moscow, "Progress", 1977, p. 269

(5) Spet G., "The Form of the Word," Moscow, 1927, p.13

(6) In relation to this, see an excellent work "Social Linguistics," by N. B. Mechnikova, 2nd edition, Moscow, "Aspect-Press," 1996, pp. 101-116

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