Abracadabra: Language, Memory, Representation


Today's Reading: Umberto Eco The Search for a Perfect Language, Introduction, Chs. one and two.

The study of language from the early greek period to the 18th century.

  • The search for origins vs. the study of perfection in a language
    • mother tongues (what did Adam speak?)
    • after babel (anxiety of decline)
    • logical languages (promise of progress)
  • The perfection of a language as a mystical reality vs. perfection of a language by humans
  • A universally spoken language vs. a perfect one
    • unviversal and perfect
    • universal and imperfect
    • non-universal and perfect
    • non-universal and imperfect
  • Magic Languages
    • Kabbalah, Hermeticism, ritual language
    • cryptography
    • shamanism
    • software?

The Study of Languages in the 19th, 20th, 21st century

  • Linguistics (natural grammars)
    • historical and comparative
      • etymology, philology, phonology
      • laboratory study
      • The Indo-European Model
    • "scientific"
      • universal grammar, biologism
      • formal languages, turing machines
      • experimental study of
  • Semiotics (sign systems generally, semantics)
    • - all things used as media of communication, from natural language to film, to advertising, to smell.
    • -Eco's system (borrowed from Hjelmslev): Expression and Content planes.
  • History of ideas, pragmatics and social context
    • Anthropology 375
  • Where do Mathematics, Logic and Memory fit?
    • must languages or sign systems be logical?
    • is a logical system perfect and/or universal?

Adam and the Confusio Linguarum

  • - Three appearances in Genesis of Language
    • Chap 2: God speaks to Adam, Adam names the animals
    • Chap 11: The tower of Babel (by Breugel)
    • Chap 10: Confusion of tongues preceding Babel?
Adam Names the

Adam Naming the animals, source unidentified.

Tower of

c. 1423. Duke of Bedford, Tower of Babel

Christopher M. Kelty
Last modified: Fri Mar 7 09:56:13 CST 2003