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A traditional way of looking at communication, language and speech is to say that speech is a very basic human communicative activity where language is the basic underlying tool. Ever since the time that de Saussure coined the concepts langage, langue and parole in France we have seen a strong structuralist linguistic tradition making a clear division between a special phenomenon defined by Saussure as langue, which is based on a special human ability langage and which is a highly specialized form of communication and a general communicative ability, manifesting itself in parole, the speech act (Ruthrof, 2000).

Bodily perspective. In the 1940s the French philosopher Merleau-Ponty questioned this strict division and suggested a more holistic approach to the phenomenon language, where the lived body is in the centre and where we exist within language figuratively speaking (Merleau-Ponty, 1967/1994). According to Merleau-Ponty we do not have a special language ability which works independently and is in control of our talk. Instead we create the language when we are talking and this means that the act of talking is the central one in communication or language, that is, doing is the central thing. The unity between the three concepts becomes strong in Merleau-Pontys theories and according to him language and speech are a unified communicative process. Communication and language and speech are in other words integrated parts of the same activity though not synonyms. He even looks upon the unity in the following way (Merleau-Ponty, 1967/1994):

Thus things are said and are thought by a Speech and by a Thought which we do not have but which has us.

In a slightly poetic way he actually suggests a unity where the person through the lived body is predestined to use speech and thoughts which are united to each other in such a way that it is impossible to say what is a cause and what is a result.

Our ability, urge and the activity itself make us speak and when we speak we create the content in (but not because of) speaking, that is, at the same time that we speak.

Merleau-Ponty focusses on the idea that the subject in the phenomenological lifeworld is mind AND body and of course that you have the intentionality between subject and the other parts of the lifeworld. According to Merleau-Ponty, the body is of the mind and vice-versa and both are in the phenomenological lifeworld. In other words, our bodies and minds perceive the world of phenomena constantly and at the same time (Merleau-Ponty, 1997). His perspective is often compared to the perspective of the American poet Walt Whitman who used a similar perspective in his cyclic poem Song of Myself. According to both of them, the body as a whole is really our foremost sensory organ and directly connected to or part of the mind or vice versa. The body, the mind and the identity melt together into one unity containing both aspects which might be called the Individual or simply I. However, Merleau-Ponty points out that there is no synthesis as in a traditional dialectical relation which builds upon the idea of two opposing forces merging into a synthesis which contains elements of both. Instead, according to Merleau-Ponty, the body and the mind perceive at the same time.

Now we have to be very clear about his concepts because it is easy to mistake the body for an object and then we might find ourselves working in the field of traditional medicine. Merleau-Ponty specified his corporeal ideas by calling the body the lived body, thereby saying that my body is the physical part of living me. In his phenomenological studies of lived bodies he often takes his examples from people who deviate from the so called standards or normality, among them, people with disabilities.

This idea about bodily perception originates from the medical field.

Traditionally, we talk about a set of separate senses where seeing and hearing are clearly defined, but where the relation between proprioception and tactility is more unclear. Other ideas, however, focus on the ideas of a body scheme and a body image. The scheme would be an unconscious model which the body develops as a result of simply being in the environment, which actively monitors body posture and movement. The body image then is something else, it is the intentional object of consciousness, or rather what we reflect upon when we reflect upon the body as such and its functions (Gallagher, 1998). There has been some confusion as to the exact differences between the two concepts but in Merleau-Pontys writings he defines the bodily perception as more of a result of humans having body schemes which perceive the phenomena. The image, however, is also itself a phenomenon to be perceived (Merleau-Ponty, 1967/1994).

A very recent description of the idea of the body as a whole perceptual organ comes from the American neurologist Damasio (1994/1996, p. xviii).

Merleau-Pontys very double dualistic perspective body AND mind as a whole and at the same time - is very typical of him and he has been called the most ambiguous of philosophers (Preface to Merleau-Ponty, 1967/1994). We live in the lifeworld which presents itself through many channels to us. The lifeworld is in itself ambiguous and can never be pinned down. Since our bodily reactions vary along a continuous spectrum, he also thinks that a phenomenon contains a broad spectrum of representations where it is more correct to talk about a main track when we describe a phenomenon. This means that when we speak about something being true, we have to accept that any given truth will always include some element of ambiguity, or that truth should be experienced as a continuum. This ambiguity in the end has led up to a very clear distancing from Husserl and his original scientific ambitions with his phenomenology to start a new philosophy on scientifical grounds since for MerleauPonty, it is more natural to describe the whole lifeworld, being part of it.



It also makes it clear that Merleau-Ponty cannot be called a clearly dialectic philosopher. He used the concepts good and bad ambiguity, and good and bad dialectics (Bengtsson, 1993) to point out that not all oppositions which might be defined as dialectical resulted in the synthesis. Some oppositions remained ambiguous with the original elements intact in the new combination. In some natural cases, like the relation between individual and society, the synthesis is natural and then, in his words, good.

Merleau-Ponty published a lot of texts in his relatively short life and he practiced his theories very much in a (political) context. From being a strongly convinced Communist in the 1940s and fifties he broke with the French Communist Party and his friend and co-worker Jean-Paul Sartre and developed a theory which was unfinished at his death at a relatively early age. The development points in the direction of investigations of language, signs and the ways of human communication as part of our body. He makes no clear division between speech and language as traditional linguists tend to do. Rather he seems to see speech as an act in which language is represented and even created. He also sees language as an act. We make language by speaking and language is extended into speech, so language and speech are really to be seen as a joint act, a continuum. He has similar ideas about the relation between thought and speech.

The rules for language then, contain the context which is ordinarily connected to speech. In other words, Merleau-Ponty does not treat speech and language as different parts, they are considered to be an activity in a context. Language is not the universal substructure comparable to thought. Rather it should be considered as an activity by someone, a sort of continuum also in relation to thought. We could even say, making allusions to the sociocultural school of education, that Merleau-Ponty has an interactionist view of language and speech, that they are two aspects of the same behaviour and that thought-language-speech is really a tight chain of behaviour.

When he defines language he tends to use a similar concept of language as Bergson in that he sees language as something which puts limits to your thoughts and speech, what you do when you communicate. However, he does not have the same critical view of language as Bergson, who even went so far as to say that language is the greatest limitation of expression (Bergson, 1903/1992), but sees language as an operator which also is evident from the quotation above.

He is the only well-known philosopher who has written about aphasia. This is one example of his already mentioned habit of using deviations from something which could be called standard or normal to make a point, a phenomenological free variation. When he wrote about language he used aphasia and people who had aphasia and their experiences as material for his writings.

According to him, aphasia is a disturbance of specific functions and not a loss of data nor damage to an ability. In his book The Phenomenology of the Body (1967/1997) he contends that a person with aphasia is sick and that the sickness consists of having lost the special way of using words, not the words themselves. If a word is available for someone on an automatic repetitive level, the same word might not be available when it has a specific meaning, when the aphasic person will not be able to say it. Behind the word there is an idea that escapes the speaker. He also talks about naming as an ability to place words in a category and then that ability is no longer available for the person with aphasia.

Aphasia could be seen as a disturbance in the associative function of human beings when we see his definitions. According to this view, aphasia is always to be defined as a cognitive disturbance since the associative function is defined as a cognitive function. The associative function is considered more as behaviour than as an ability, or, rather that ability and behaviour are to be seen as a unity, as a continuum. He also says that aphasia is one phenomenon, that there is one specific aphasia phenomenon and not several different aphasias.

The Australian philosopher and professor of the English language, Horst Ruthrof, has taken the problem of the relation between communication and language a step further and developed the concept corporeal semantics or linguistics, where the total physical behavior is a part of language. In other words, according to Ruthrof there seems to be no real difference between language and human communication and language manifests itself through speech as well as through gestures or any corporeal behavior (Ruthrof, 2000).



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