Publication 5637

Maturana H. R. & Varela F. J. (1992) Linguistic domains and human consciousness. Chapter 9 in: The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding. Revised Edition. Shambhala, Boston: 205–235.
Excerpt: We saw in the last chapter that when two or more organisms interact recurrently, they generate a social coupling. In that coupling they are reciprocally involved in attaining their respective poieses. Behaviors that take place in these domains of social coupling, as we said, are communicative and they can be inborn or acquired. Both instinctive and learned behavior can appear to an observer as coordinations of action, and both can be described by an observer in semantic terms as if what determines the course of the interaction were the meaning and not the dynamics of structural coupling of the interacting organisms. These two kinds of communicative behavior differ, however, in the structures that make them possible. Innate behaviors depend on structures that arise in the development of the organism independently of its particular ontogeny. Acquired communicative behaviors depend on the particular ontogeny of the organism and are contingent on its peculiar history of social interactions. In this latter case, the observer can easily make a semantic description, claiming that the meaning of the different communicative behaviors arises in the ontogeny of the participant organisms, contin-gent on their particular history of coexistence. We call such learned communicative behavior a linguistic domain, because such behaviors constitute the basis for language, but they are not yet identical with it.
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