A Heterosemiotic Theory of Language

You can download Professor Ruthrof’s entire course in PDF format here.

Lecture Overview

Lecture 1: Introduction – Metasemantics and Imaginability

Argues the foundations of natural language from the perspective of a semantics of imaginability in contrast to those of formal sign systems and the motivation for the mathematization of language.

Lecture 2: A Critique of Dominant Paradigms

Discusses radical arbitrariness; formal sense; interpreted calculus; ideality; intensional theories, behaviourist approaches; syntactic and sentential paradigms; recursivity; truth-conditions; neural concepts; hyperintensional semantics. Claim: natural language is not a symbolic system.

Lecture 3: Semantics of Imaginability

Definition; Vorstellung as mental variation of perception; iconicity: lexical and syntactic; nonverbal mental events; repair work on ‘language as use’ by reinserting imaginability in Wittgenstein’s description.

Lecture 4: Redefinitions

Offers re-definitions of the linguistic sign; motivated signified; concept as social regulation according to directionality, quality, quantity; degree of schematization; meaning as aboutness; meaning as indirectly public; applications of meaning: reference, ostension, etc.

Lecture 5: The Heterosemiotic Character of Language

Investigates the mental ingredients of meaning; Aristotle’s De Anima; cognitive science; sources of nonverbal signs: radiation (visual, thermal); pressure (tactile, aural); molecular (olfactory; gustatory); the homogenization of heterosemiotic signs in concepts and language.

Lecture 6: The Event of Comprehension and the Linguistic ‘Encoding’ of Vorstellung

Suggests that at the moment of comprehension of ‘toe’ we cannot think ‘democracy’; asks why are meanings are neither private not public? Wittgenstein’s Abrichtung; the social dimension: signifiers and their combinations; grammaticality; the mental dimension: Vorstellung as intersubjective rather than private; habitual use; interpretive use.

Lecture 7: Iconic Schematism

Suggests a way of reconciling resemblance relations with concepts; Locke’s paradox: how to reconcile private ideas with public discourse; A Kantian’s solution: schemata; Peirce’s ‘hypoicon’; concepts as prototypes; iconic schematizations as a condition of ‘conceptual blending’; and degrees of schematization.

Lecture 8: Conclusion, Sufficient Semiosis

Features of social control of pragmatics: grammaticality; predicability; register; pronunciation; linguistic communication; sufficient semiosis instead of truth-conditions; the speech community as semiotic community.

Contact

Horst Ruthrof
Emeritus Professor English and Philosophy Murdoch University
Perth, Western Australia
h.ruthrof@murdoch.edu.au

  1. Complete Lecture Series (PDF)

Horst Ruthrof's Bio

The published work of Professor Horst Ruthrof has grown out of an early dissatisfaction with our dominant paradigms of meaning in linguistics and the philosophy of language. Teaching both English literature and philosophy, he has been aiming throughout his academic career for a reconciliation of the richest forms of meaning making in natural language contexts with the principles of semantics. The tools he brought to this task he gathered from the works of Locke, Kant, Husserl, Ingarden, Schutz, Peirce and post-Peircean semiotics, as well as from analytical philosophy from Frege to Quine and hyperintensional semantics. His books include The Reader’s Construction of Narrative (Routledge 1981); Pandora and Occam: On the Limits of Language and Literature (IUP 1992); Semantics and the Body: Meaning from Frege to the Postmodern (1997); and The Body in Language (Cassell 2000). His recent papers pursue the idea of a semantics of imaginability. They include ‘Metasemantics and Imaginability’ (2012); ‘Vygotsky’s “Thought” in Linguistic Meaning’ (2012); ‘Husserl’s Semantics: Mending Husserl with Husserl’ (2012); ‘Sprache und Wahrnehmung’ (2012); ‘From Kant’s Monogram to Conceptual Blending’ (2011); ‘Language, Vorstellung, and Meaning as Use’ (2011); ‘Semantic of Imaginability – 13 Theses’ (2011). ‘How to Get the Body Back into Language’ (2010); ‘Linguistic Arbitrariness and the “Nebulous” World of Vorstellung in Saussure’ (2010). He is currently completing work of a new book provisionally entitled Language and Imaginability. As Emeritus Professor of English and Philosophy Horst Ruthrof continues his research association with Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, where he has taught since its inauguration in 1974.