The language of co-operation: Critical perspectives

2.6 Dialogue and the co-construction of knowledge
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
3:50 PM, Thursday 31 Aug 2017 (30 minutes)
 Peter E Jones (Department of Humanities (Sheffield Hallam University, UK), the first presenter discusses “The Language of Co-operation: Critical Perspectives”. As he points, most scholars would agree that language is fundamental to cooperative social activity in human communities. Yet, there are deep divisions, both theoretical and philosophical, between linguistic traditions, resulting in quite different perspectives on the role of language in co-operation and on the nature of co-operation itself. This paper surveys the current field of language study and examines the implications of particular traditions for our understanding of co-operation. Four broad currents of language research are identified:  A ‘classical model’ in which language is an autonomous system of forms and meanings and communication as transmission of mental content via a shared code.  An ‘instrumental’ tradition in which language is a culturally-forged tool for sharing information between individuals.  An ‘intentionalist’ current in which the ‘classical model’ is supplemented by pragmatic principles based on Grice’s intention-based ‘Co-operative Principle’.; communication is seen as itself a co-operative enterprise relying on ‘mind reading’ processes guided by mutual intersubjectivity and shared intentionality.  An ‘activity’ current, emerging from critical responses to the ‘classical model’ of language as well as to ‘internalist’ models of the human mind. The paper argues that a crucial turning point in understanding the role of linguistic communication in cooperative activity was the realization that communication is itself a cooperative practice, meaning that ‘the cooperation of several individuals, no matter under what conditions, in what manner and to what end’ becomes the fundamental touchstone of language and communication research.
Sheffield Hallam University
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