Exploring the ‘augmented reality’ of ‘real’ texts: A Coserian perspective1
The paper examines Eugenio Coseriu’s project of a “text linguistics as a hermeneutics of sense” on the backdrop of the wider – “integral” – map for the study of language / speaking as a cultural activity. The aims and scope of this type of text linguistics, as well as its limitations and outer limits, i.e., its conceivable interfaces with other disciplines of textuality, in particular with text semiotics and poetics, are discussed from the viewpoint of a critical-constructive question: if to what extent the conceptual construction envisaged by Coseriu in the latter part of the 20th century is still meaningful, feasible and productive today. The “critical-aesthetic perspective” in the study of speaking as a creative activity proposed by Ana Agud offers clarifying interpretations on several conceptual and methodological points which I hold to be directly relevant for text linguistics; these are used in the course of the discussion in order to shed light on the notion of ‘real (genuine) text’ as the legitimate focus of text-linguistic investigations in a Coserian framework.
Eugenio Coseriu, Hermeneutics of sense, Integral linguistics, Text Analysis, Text linguistics, Textual meaning.
L'article examine le projet d'une “linguistique textuelle en tant qu'herméneutique du sens” proposée par Eugenio Coseriu, dans le cadre de sa théorie “intégrale” de l'étude du langage / de la parole en tant qu'activité culturelle. L’objet et la visée d’une telle approche des textes, ainsi que ses limitations et ses limites extérieures, c'est-à-dire ses interfaces concevables avec d'autres disciplines traitant du texte, en particulier avec la sémiotique et la poétique textuelles,
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sont soumises à un questionnement critique-constructif : si / dans quelle mesure la démarche conceptualisée par Coseriu dans la dernière partie du 20e siècle est encore significative, opérationnelle et productive aujourd'hui. La “perspective critique-esthétique” de l'étude de la parole en tant qu'activité créatrice proposée par Ana Agud offre des interprétations éclairantes sur plusieurs points conceptuels et méthodologiques que nous considérons directement pertinents pour la linguistique textuelle ; ceux-ci sont utilisés au cours de la discussion afin d'éclairer la notion de ‘texte réel (authentique)’ en tant que point de focalisation légitime des investigations textuelles-linguistiques dans un cadre cosérien.
Eugenio Coseriu, Herméneutique du sens, Linguistique intégrale, Analyse du texte, Linguistique textuelle, Sens.
1. Introduction: a thought-provoking case
1.1. In 1964, Jan Kott challenged the entrenched mindset of orthodox approaches in Shakespearean scholarship with his ground-breaking Shakespeare Our Contemporary. Published in English the following year, the book became a best-seller, attracting supporters and followers, as well as critics and opponents – a landmark in its own right, impossible to ignore, and leaving no one indifferent. In his Preface to the 1981 edition (Kott 1981: x), Peter Brook implicitly addresses the ‘opposing party’ with an intransigent appraisal: “The existence of Kott makes one suddenly aware how rare it is for a pedant or a commentator to have any experience of what he is describing.” Delineating a perspective that only arises when one acts as a practitioner of Shakespearean drama rather than as a mere observer or forensic examiner of Shakespearean issues, Brook concludes: “Shakespeare is a contemporary of Kott, Kott is a contemporary of Shakespeare […]. To the world of scholarship this is a valuable contribution – to the world of the theatre an invaluable one.”
In 1986, over two decades after the book’s initial publication, a group of theater critics, directors, actors, and academics got together in a public seminar to debate the question Is Shakespeare still our contemporary? The edited transcription of the proceedings (Elsom 1989) makes for fascinating reading, not only for researchers interested in the particulars of Shakespeare’s work but also, I dare say, for anyone who deals with the issue of textuality in general.
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Using Eugenio Coseriu’s conceptual framework, we can construe what is at stake in this debate in the following way: How can one characterize the nature of the relation between the text itself as a product (ergon) and the human subjects (interpreters, re-creators) who bring the text back to life in their respective historical moments and circumstances, by their own expressive effort and creative activity (enérgeia), but all the time attempting to retrieve, replicate, simulate or at least approximate the original strategies, techniques and procedures (dýnamis) of sense construction whose traces are imprinted in the ergon that has been handed down over the centuries in the form of the Shakespearean dramatic corpus (with its various versions and editions)?
In his Introduction, John Elsom (1989: 1-9) summarizes the diversity of the stances held by the participants in the seminar by pointing out the deliberate ambiguity of the term “contemporary” chosen by Kott, which lends itself to very different concrete interpretations: “contemporary” in a historical sense, “topical” in contemporary socio-cultural and political contexts, “immortal” or “universal” in the sense of having general human relevance beyond the boundaries of any specific time and place, and so on. Hence, the wide spectrum of answers to the seminar’s question, from acknowledging the initial impact of Kott’s approach in its own socio-political context in the 1960s and the decades that followed, still marked by the deep societal divide between the authoritarian regimes of Eastern Europe and the ‘free world’ of the West,2 to suggestions of narrowing down the focus to specific plays,3 or cautious statements that the plays cannot really be “contemporary,” but can only be ‘modernized’, adapted, or used as ‘raw material’ to address the issues of our time.4 This wide spectrum extends all the way to directly opposite positions, which argue that “Shakespeare is exciting precisely because he is not our contemporary. […] he startles us by his strangeness, not his topicality” (Elsom 1989: 4).
In fact, declares the editor in his concluding remarks to the volume, the focal question of the seminar was so formulated by the organizers in full awareness that “there could be no answer, other than the most mundane ‘No’” (Elsom 1989: 182), except in what might be called a ‘meta-textual’ key: taking Shakespeare as a subject of debate, defining or re-defining their
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own terms of analysis and angles of interpretation, ultimately finding both common ground and irreconcilable differences:
In that sense, Shakespeare was our contemporary, helping us to know more about ourselves in our efforts to understand him; and perhaps that is the only way in which any writer can ever be considered a contemporary. (Elsom 1989: 182)
1.2. Examining in detail the positions advocated by each participant in the debate, one finds, not surprisingly, that for those coming from domains such as literary history, literary criticism, cultural studies, philology, etc. the answer is situated somewhere between a resounding “NO!” to a more restrained “Maybe no…”. This is indeed the only reasonable answer for them – anything else would contradict or undermine the very foundations of the disciplines in question.
But for a text linguistics of the kind that will be explored in this contribution, a Coserian text linguistics, the answer can only be a resolute “YES!”, which embraces Elsom’s ‘meta-textual’ motivation but subsumes it to a stronger and more crucial rationale.
Two positions expressed in the 1986 seminar can serve to circumscribe it. First, Kott himself brings an important clarification to his understanding and use of the term “contemporary” in relation to Shakespeare. Emphasizing that by “contemporary,” he does not mean the atemporal, decontextualized, out of any place-and-time setting of the type some present-day directors tend to favour when staging the plays, but quite the opposite: the plays “have to be seen within some definite context, some specific time, some specific place” (in Elsom 1989: 15). And further: “The one Shakespeare who is not our contemporary is the Shakespeare of nowhere and no time” (Elsom 1989: 16). If we translate these assertions into Coserian terms, we can see that what Kott stresses here is a requirement that the plays be taken as a coherent, unshattered whole, with their authentic constitution and arrays of social, historical, and cultural evocations. Secondly, like Peter Brook in the statement quoted in the first paragraph of section 1.1., many theater directors and actors who participated in the 1986 seminar advocated the “contemporariness” of Shakespeare in the sense that a theater play does not exist as such in the form of mere words written on paper, but only emerges when enacted by real actors for a real audience – i.e., when it is lived through or experienced as a participative, intersubjective act, and fleetingly reinstated in the world as the product of that creative and re-creative activity.
The salience and much wider relevance of this debate is underpinned, no doubt, by the focus on Shakespeare: it is not merely the enduring quality of his work over centuries but also an intrinsic peculiarity of this work, best expressed by the Romanian mathematician and poet Ion Barbu, who
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argues that the essence of Shakespeare’s work goes beyond “theatre” as a literary genre. Beyond its organization, on a surface level, according to the parameters of the dramatic genre, it instantiates something closer to pure poetry, or to an absolute mode of discourse in which subjectivity and intersubjectivity, as well as experience and discourse are completely merged:
Taking matters to paradox, one could say that Shakespeare’s theatre is not spectacle, for it is not addressed to a contemplative subject. More similar, rather, to some musical experiences, to the vigils of convicts, it acts directly upon the real man, like the swerved hand of a different time line, engulfing him into its catastrophe, lasting with him: making him older.5 (Barbu 1964: 306) In this sense, Shakespeare’s body of work can be considered an epitome of text- construction at its best, a manifestation of the most salient and encompassing text-constitutive strategies and devices of the most diverse types and, therefore, a privileged testing ground for inquiries into the way discourse is created and interpreted.
1.3. In Eugenio Coseriu’s work, the discipline which takes as its proper object of study the level of text / discourse, namely “text linguistics as a hermeneutics of sense,” is foreshadowed in an early study which analyzes Ion Barbu’s poetic strategies in relation to the system and norm of the Romanian language (Coseriu 1948), and then delineated as a specific field of linguistic (1955-1956), where the functional autonomy of textual meaning (sense) in relation to language-specific significata and their associated designata is clearly posited: “[…] en todo momento, lo que efectivamente se dice es menos de lo que se expresa y se entiende” (Coseriu 1955-1956: 308, emphasis in the original). Thus, it is here that the domain of text linguistics inquiry in Coseriu “as a linguistics of sense” is first defined as autonomous but complementary to the study of language as a general human activity and the study of particular languages as historically-constituted traditions of speech – delineating what would become Coseriu’s famous triadic model of speaking as a cultural activity (cf. infra, 3.1., Table 1).
Developed over the course of the next decades and partially presented in various publications, this discipline, together with a thoroughly revised form of transphrastic grammar (the study of ‘text’ as a possible structural layer of particular languages) are outlined in Coseriu (1981), and then taken up once again, in the framework of his global theoretical edifice, in Coseriu (1988). Thus, Coseriu’s work published so far puts forward the blueprint of a vast
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project that needs to be unfolded, to be rendered more explicit and systematic from a conceptual point of view, and more concrete from a methodological point of view, and to be consistently illustrated in all of its components through applicative analyses on a diverse range of genuine texts. Numerous researchers all over the world continue to bring important contributions towards realizing Coseriu’s vision and tapping into its full potential; only a few of them can be mentioned, in the following sections, within the limitations of the present paper. It goes without saying that my own proposal in the context of this trans-continental endeavor is not a mere account of Coseriu’s tenets as they can be found in the relevant sources, but a Coserian perspective in the sense that it aims to build further on the bases of Coseriu’s framework.
A terminological note is in order. Throughout this paper, I maintain the discussion focused on the domain that Coseriu envisaged when he used the term text linguistics, not simply because this term was in fashion in the 7th and 8th decades of the 20th century, but because it is actually conceived as a branch of linguistics – the branch which deals with how the constitution of texts serves as an expression for a specific type of content, textual sense. It is therefore a domain deliberately circumscribed – and not equated with the broader and quite differently orientated fields of ‘Discourse Studies’ or ‘(Text) Semiotics’. My choice is mainly motivated by three considerations:
- a) “Text linguistics as a linguistics of sense” is conceived as entertaining close
connections with the other two main branches of linguistics in Coseriu’s triadic model, namely elocutional linguistics (the linguistics of speech in general) and idiomatic linguistics (the linguistics of particular languages).
- b) “Text linguistics as a linguistics of sense” deals with the construction of meaning in
authentic texts belonging to any type, category or genre, thus being bound, in a way,
by the requirement of taking into account the products of the activity of speaking.
- Perhaps it were more accurate to say that this discipline takes these products as a
starting point for the investigative process, as suggested by the case of Shakespeare’s
work invoked in the Introduction.
- c) “Text linguistics as a linguistics of sense” encompasses a set of disciplines situated
along an axis of epistemic ‘depth’ or ‘height’ in the treatment of one and the same
object of study (‘real’ (genuine) texts): text theory → (general) text linguistics →
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- analysis, none of which can be pursued without a constant eye on the others, and none
of which has any relevance without the others.6
2. Approximating the ‘reality’ of texts
2.1. The foremost task that a text-linguist of Coserian persuasion takes upon him / herself is the exploration of ‘real’ texts. The term ‘real’ / ‘realistic’, which represents a key word for Coseriu’s approach to language, will be circumscribed in what follows (infra, 2.2.).7 However, in order to help the reader get a preliminary, intuitive, grasp on the specific acceptation it is ascribed when referring to texts, I will propose an analogy that hopefully resonates with something we now have access to in our immediate experience: what this text linguistics deals with is the 'augmented reality‘ of real texts’.
In the realm of technical applications, augmented reality “is a system that enhances the real world by superimposing computer-generated information on top of it” (Encyclopedia of Multimedia, Furht 2006, “Augmented reality”). In the realm of text-linguistic investigation, the investigator acknowledges the existence of an object ‘text’ that is empirically real, but projects upon it a complex grid of cognitive contents (‘information’) meant to highlight and expose the inner structure of the empirical object, and also make it manageable with a view to practical (applicative) tasks.
Text linguistics as a hermeneutics of sense deals with text / discourse as a distinct level of language (Level III in Coseriu’s model), characterized by a specific competence, a specific type of content, and specific evaluations of adequacy (see infra, 3.1., Table 1). The terms ‘discourse’ and ‘text’ are used throughout this paper in the acceptation justified by the epistemic perspective that underlies this model. Thus, in most contexts, it will not be necessary to dissociate them: they are really interchangeable because they do not denote empirically distinct areas or components of speech, but simply capture a difference in the viewpoint from which the actual (or genuine) speaking activity is observed. On the other hand, where this distinction of viewpoint does become necessary, the term ‘discourse’ will point to the energetic-processual aspect, and the term ‘text’ to the aspect of result or realization of speech.
Thus, ‘discourse’ will indicate the activity of speaking at the individual level considered in its hypostasis of activity as such:
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[…] als die Tätigkeit selbst, als Sprechen und Verstehen. Diese Tätigkeit erschöpft sich nicht in der mechanischen Realisierung oder Anwendung eines schon existierenden Wissens, sondern ist enérgeia im eigentlichen Sinne, d.h. eine kreative Tätigkeit, die sich eines vorhandenen Wissens bedient, um etwas Neues zu sagen, und die neues sprachliches Wissen schaffen kann. (Coseriu 1988: 71) ‘Text’ will designate the activity of speaking at the individual level considered in its hypostasis of a product:
[…] als das Produkt, das durch die Tätigkeit geschaffen wird, d.h. als Werk oder ergon. So ist das Produkt des individuellen Sprechens, d.h. des Diskurses, der Text, der in der Erinnerung bewahrt, der aufgezeichnet oder der aufgeschrieben werden kann. (Coseriu 1988: 71)
In a Coserian perspective, text linguistics as a hermeneutics of sense is understood as being coherently interfaced with two complementary sub-disciplines from Level II: (a) a textual grammar (and textual lexicology), dealing with ‘text’ as a possible structural stratum of a particular language (Coseriu 1981: 22, with multiple examples at pp. 12-22; 1988: 168); (b) a linguistics of language use as defined in Coseriu (1994: 60-61)8. In principle, an impeccably articulated text linguistics can only be elaborated after the former two sub-disciplines of idiomatic linguistics are fully developed, and the corresponding structural layers of the languages overtly used or covertly implied in a given text are described. In practice, however, such an incremental process is not feasible within any predictable span of time, so text linguistics proceeds in parallel with those other endeavours, identifying textual phenomena, subsuming them to arrays of functions and categories of diverse types, and situating them in the proper dimension or level as coherently as possible.
2.2. What then is a ‘real’ text as an object of study for this text linguistics? Following both the spirit and the letter of Coseriu’s outlook I have proposed and illustrated in numerous publications, starting with Tămâianu (2001), that a reasonable approximation of the answer is the following:
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The ‘real’ text is the individual text, considered (a) in its actual constitution (the particular configuration of units, textual functions, evocative functions, general textual procedures etc., correlated with their semiotic means of realization (cf. infra, 3.2.) and (b) in its integrality, as an intact totality followed up to the maximal identifiable limit of the process of sense-articulation.
It will be noted that this formulation expresses an asymptotic goal – a heading we should always strive to follow, even if circumstantial limitations inevitably produce a certain degree of drift, delays or detours along the path of text-linguistic exploration. A relevant analogy for construing the functional organization of genuine texts is Coseriu’s (1983, 1991 ) proposal of an “integral typology of real languages” (1983: 274, emphasis in the original), as opposed to a typology of linguistic procedures (the “partial morpho-syntactic typology”) and to a classification of abstract linguistic types (“the global morpho-syntactic typology”). For a functional typology of ‘real’ languages, the type is defined as the functional layer in the internal organization of each language which comprises the principles that motivate in a unitary way clusters of units and devices from different areas of the respective language’s system. I have argued before that, in a similar way, the analysis of ‘real’texts can be pursued up to the point of a characterization of their typicalness at several layers or degrees of depth, by discovering unitary principles that motivate text-constitutive devices which may be heterogeneous and situated on different dimensions of sense articulation.9
Another striking formulation, which admirably epitomizes Coseriu’s solution to the issue of the ‘reality’ of linguistic phenomena, appears in a complex study devoted to a functional reconsideration of the system of voice in Japanese (Coseriu 1979). Here Coseriu insists that the functional investigation of languages does not aim to discover all the possibilities of idiomatic structuring but only “‘real’ linguistic possibilities” (“‘reale’ sprachliche Möglichkeiten”, p. 36). Thus, (idiomatic) linguistics can assume the goal of determining (listing) the “possibilities of languages”, i.e. idiomatic units and categories, correlated with their means of expression and their specific organization in each language, which will have the status of “possible universals”, but with the following important caveat:
Eine solche Operation ist allerdings nur dann sinnvoll (und machbar!), wenn es sich dabei nicht um die grundsätzlich unendlichen Möglichkeiten [...] sondern nur um “reale” sprachliche Möglichkeiten [...] handelt. D.h., die Bezeichnungstypen werden in den Sprachen “entdeckt”, sie werden als solche aufgrund ihrer Korrelata in bekannten Sprachen abgegrenzt. Unsere “Liste” darf also jeweils nur Möglichkeiten enthalten, die in bekannten Sprachen schon als realisiert festgestellt worden sind oder sich aus anderen - schon realisierten - Möglichkeiten ergeben; und sie muß andererseits offen bleiben zur Aufnahme
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weiterer Möglichkeiten, die man in anderen Sprachen feststellen könnte. (Coseriu 1979: 36; emphasis mine).
Similarly, text linguistics will also try to uncover and describe “real” textual “possibilities”, i.e., units, devices and strategies for the construction of sense as they are attested in genuine texts, and cannot allow itself to be carried away towards what might be the infinite (speculatively posited) spectrum of possibilities of expression. From this point of view, however, in contrast to idiomatic linguistics, text linguistics finds itself in a very peculiar situation, which makes this task much more intricate and strenuous. Besides the components of expressive competence proper, text-constitutive units and devices take up and focus all the types, levels and layers of linguistic competence – including the elocutional and idiomatic ones. Text linguistics, therefore, needs to take these into account as well but will do so by putting them explicitly in the horizon of their text-constitutive role.
Elocutional and idiomatic phenomena will thus be investigated exclusively as possible instruments for the construction of textual sense. In order to do so, the text-linguist approaches genuine texts that display such phenomena, but in fact can only do so by viewing them through an ‘augmented reality’ lens, projecting upon the materiality or empirical substance of those texts the various charts and grids of his conception of functional dimensions and notional categories for grasping the articulation of sense. In a Coserian perspective, these aim to reflect, raised to the level of epistemic knowledge, the dimensions and components of the speakers’ own intuitive knowledge.
2.3. When discussing the issue of the ‘reality’ of texts at the disciplinary level of a Coserian text linguistics, one has to bear in mind the philosophical and epistemological assumptions in which the outlook of Integral linguistics is grounded. Especially insightful and germane to deciphering how Coseriu’s term ‘real’ should be understood is Ana Agud’s (2021) critical discussion on how to modulate Coseriu’s principle of objectivity (‘saying things as they are’10) in a hermeneutic key, and in particular her (and Coseriu’s) solution to the conundrum of linguistic skepticism (Agud 2021: 74-76). Thus, the access key to the ‘reality’ of the investigated object lies in explicitly or implicitly comparing different idiomatic and textual traditions, coupled with a constant – critical and imaginative-constructive – awareness of categorial systems alternative to one’s own, “along with a broad knowledge of culture, including literature, art, philosophy and history” (Agud 2021: 75).
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In fact, Ana Agud has developed and laid out her own “critical-aesthetic perspective” in the study of language as a dynamic and creative activity. Based on two sources which expound this view systematically (Agud 2013 and 201711), I will highlight several conceptual and methodological points which I find to be directly relevant for text linguistics, in order to shed light on the notion of ‘real (genuine) text’ as the legitimate object of text-linguistic investigations in a Coserian framework. Though formulated and organized differently, Agud’s tenets can in fact be placed in correspondence with Coseriu’s (1992; 1999) five “principles of linguistics as a cultural science”: objectivity, humanism, tradition, anti-dogmatism and public responsibility.
Arguing that “the real acts of speaking are the first and sole object of a true science of language”, Agud (2017, §1: 2)12 proposes this as the ground tenet of a “linguistics of factuality” (Germ. “Faktizität”, Agud 2013). In the context of this outlook, an “aesthetically-oriented” text linguistics necessarily adopts a holistic approach, regarding the text as a “concrete historical whole” (Agud 2017, §5.2: 28). This way of circumscribing the object of linguistic investigation, with emphasis on the need to avoid reductionist stances and unravel all the (humanly) significant facets and elements that constitute this object, corresponds to Coseriu’s characterization of linguistics as a cultural science through the principle “objectivity” necessarily correlated with the principle of “humanism”.
One of Agud’s most original – and quite radical – proposals is the tenet that underlies the keyword by which she designates this perspective: the “aesthetic” approach or “aesthetic attitude” of the linguist towards the object of investigation. The linguist’s endeavours stem from “the hedonistic impulse to expand and enrich our own inner horizon” (Agud 2017, §2: 6), thereby being, simultaneously, committed to an “ethics of humanization”.13 The linguist’s ethical commitment to the humanistic goal of studying language and texts “in order to improve humanity”, and of exploring “the linguistic condition of human beings as the means of their becoming more human” (Agud 2017, § 5.2: 29) is, in Agud’s view, a source of legitimacy for
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practical extensions and applications of text-linguistic research in socially relevant fields, such as language education, translation, language planning, preservation of culturally important texts, etc. This tenet can be correlated with Coseriu’s principles of “humanism” and “public responsibility”, and will prove to be especially important for the type of text linguistics that is advocated here (see infra, 6).
Two important corollaries derive from the above tenets. From the focus on the real acts of speaking and the “hedonistic” attitude results the critical awareness of the role played by the linguist’s personal research interests and cultural biography not only in delineating the material he / she will study, but also, even more importantly, in shaping the conceptual grid he / she will create or adopt in order to deal with that material. Thus, while the linguist “sketches in each case his own analytic purpose, according to the questions which are or have become important and interesting for him”, he is held to remain “personally committed to his widest possible perception of the whole of speaking, as well as to the humanistic goal of studying language in order to improve humanity” (Agud 2017, § 5: 23).
In a hermeneutically-oriented text linguistics, this is something that should be emphasized as a pre-condition to preserving scientific objectivity. As such, it can be placed in a direct relation with Coseriu’s principles of “tradition” and “anti-dogmatism”. Agud (2017, §
5.1: 24) formulates it in strong terms as perhaps the most daunting methodological requirement of all: “the single linguist has to confront himself expressly and critically with all other discourses about what has been understood as language along history”.
Finally, the anti-reductionist stance advocated by Agud (2017) leads to the idea of favouring poetic (creative) texts as source material for linguistic research:
The aesthetic attitude is concerned with the real complexity of what happens whenever it [language] is spoken and with its whole individuality. It nourishes itself above all from the desire and pleasure of enjoying that complexity. For example for a linguist it is a good option to concern himself with poetry, since in poetry the complexity of speaking and the impossibility of retracing the poetical expression back into any other determined concepts becomes particularly evident. (Agud 2017, § 5.1: 24)14 This idea is fully compatible with Coseriu’s favouring literature as an object of study for Integral text linguistics (cf. Coseriu 1971/1977: 203–204; 1981: 110), because creative texts
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display the full actualization of all the expressive possibilities of language in general, and maximal
realizations of all the sense-constitutive sign relations and “evocative functions”15, whereas in other discourse modes or text types some of these relations and functions are absent or “de- actualized”:
[…] el empleo del lenguaje en la vida práctica es efectivamente un uso. También podemos decir que el empleo del lenguaje en la ciencia es un uso. Pero no, el empleo del lenguaje en la literatura, que no es un uso particular sino que representa la plena funcionalidad del lenguaje o esta actualización de sus posibilidades, de sus virtualidades. (Coseriu 1987a: 24–25)
Los textos literarios deben valer como modelos para la lingüística del texto, puesto que representan, precisamente, el tipo de textos funcionalmente más rico y porque en los restantes tipos de textos hay que especificar las ‘automatizaciones’ (‘desactualizaciones’) que intervienen en cada caso. (Coseriu 1971/1977: 204)16
3. A triad with a twist
3.1. Text linguistics as a hermeneutics of sense is defined as a discipline inside the triadic framework that lays out the general chart for studying language in Coseriu’s theory. Two triads (three levels of manifestation and three points of view) delineate nine aspects of language as a creative cultural activity, aspects which, according to Coseriu, can also be found as such in the intuitive knowledge of speakers. Thus, the ground tenet of Integral linguistics17 is that language – or, rather: speaking, “el hablar”, “das Sprechen” – is an activity of creation of meaning, based, at each level of manifestation (universal, historical, individual), on a specific competence
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(elocutional, idiomatic, expressive) and resulting in specific products, subjected to specific judgments of conformity (congruence, correctness, adequacy / appropriateness).18 Rather surprisingly, oftentimes when this matrix is quoted or used as a general map for linguistic investigation on specific topics, one crucial aspect tends to be temporarily overlooked or entirely ‘forgotten’. Although the vertical axis of the levels is indeed posited by Coseriu as one of progressive ‘determination’ or manifestation (speaking in general only ‘exists’ as manifested in historical languages, and historical languages only ‘exist’ as manifested in acts of discourse), this bi-dimensional graphic representation may prove misleading. In fact, the three levels (“Ebenen des Sprachlichen”) are not simply contiguous in a sequential way, they are not situated in a continuum in the same dimension. In the table, which is just a way of condensed representation for want of a better one,19 there exists a rift, something of the magnitude of a tectonic fault line, as I have taken the liberty to suggest graphically in
The reason is that “expressive competence” is the knowledge of how to make sense, i.e. the knowledge of strategies, devices and procedures that serve to transform the significata and
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designata of linguistic (or other types of semiotic) units into a new, second degree, signifier – a signifier for textual sense (Coseriu 1981: 48-50). This fundamental idea is expressed technically in the “principle of the double semiotic relation” in discourse. Simply put, this principle reflects the fact that the text – any text – is more than the sum of its parts, and that we are not dealing with a mere quantitative effect of accretion or ‘added value’, but with a genuine leap – the passage to a radically different semantic level that makes use of the other two for a new purpose that appears only at Level III.20 Borcilă (2021: 146) aptly describes this process:
[…] the singular achievement of Coseriu’s Integral Linguistics approach to this level of content [textual sense] resides in the vindication of central insights of contemporary hermeneutics. […] In Coseriu’s approach, ‘sense’ is conceived as primarily evolving from a ‘core act’ of semantic textual creativity, in which the signifieds of the language and their potential designations are dynamically and convergently activated in the projection of an emerging (‘possible’) world. (emphasis mine).
Thus, a Coserian text linguistics will also concern itself with Levels I and II, inasmuch as it attempts to discover in what way the units and devices pertaining to these levels (components of elocutional and idiomatic knowledge) are taken up, channeled, put to work in the horizon of sense construction, by way of procedures and strategies that are specific to Level III, i.e. through the possible procedures for the construction of sense in genuine (individual) texts.
3.2. Textual sense therefore presupposes and integrates linguistic contents from Levels II and I (significata and designata), while at the same time expanding beyond them, mainly due to the contribution of a wide spectrum of contextual knowledge manifested in the “evocative relations” of the signs which constitute the text. However, evocative relations are not the only strategies that trigger the semantic leap from Levels I and II to Level III. In developing the framework of Integral text linguistics, we need to take further steps, for which numerous suggestions can be derived from Coseriu’s textual analyses. I have proposed in several previous contributions21 an open list of elements that can be conceived, in a text- linguistic model of Coserian descent, as composing the expression of texts (Textkonstitution): ‘text-constitutive units’ and ‘text-constitutive procedures / devices’. These are dissociated according to a simple operational criterion that corresponds to the intuitive knowledge of the speakers themselves: how these elements are situated in relation to the individual text in which
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they appear. The ‘units’ are ‘pre-textual’, in the sense that their identity is established prior to the construction of the individual text; on the other hand, ‘procedures’ / ‘devices’ capture what is being done with those units in discourse, and cannot be reduced to devices, procedures or strategies from the elocutional and idiomatic levels.
Each genuine text displays its own specific organization of text-constitutive units and articulation of text-constitutive procedures, so, as a matter of principle, a generally-valid hierarchy of these units25 and procedures cannot exist. This view is fully confirmed by the experience of text analysis, and is also aptly reflected in one of the main tenets of Agud’s (2017, § 5.2: 28) critical-aesthetic perspective:
If in a text one word, one idiom, one morpheme or even one phoneme proves to be relevant or even decisive for its unique sense, and why so, this can only be investigated by looking at the text as a concrete historical whole. (emphasis in the original)
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3.3. That is why text linguistics as a hermeneutics of sense cannot set aside ‘real’ (genuine) texts in their completeness and individuality at any moment of the investigative process. Recalling the three disciplines of textuality situated at different epistemic depths mentioned in section 1.3. – text theory, (general) text linguistics and text analysis –, we must emphasize that text analysis is not only the starting point, but also the arrival point of all text-linguistic investigation. In my view, what Coseriu achieves is an epistemic rehabilitation of the individual (i.e. of genuine discourse activity).
The ‘real’ text is the starting point because it is understood as being more than itself as an empirical or material object: it is both the locus of all the ‘higher’ dimensions (the historical and the universal), and the point of focalization for all the components of expressive competence, including the pre-textual units, traditional models for expressing discourse functions, fragments of previous texts etc. The ‘real’ text is the arrival point because the results of text-linguistic investigation are valuable inasmuch as they can be put to use not only for ‘ulterior’ applicative purposes such as translation or foreign language teaching, but first and foremost for shedding light on other texts, thus helping not only ‘specialists’ (linguists, critics, language planners, educators etc.), but also the speakers themselves, as text creators and interpreters, to enhance their knowledge – in this case expressive knowledge.26 Incidentally, I believe this is also the underlying reason why Coseriu’s own text analyses focus on clarifying and justifying the construction of sense in ‘real’ texts, and not on – say – surveying diverse “discourse traditions”. Kabatek (2018: 92-93) points out that although Coseriu is aware of the existence of traditional discursive forms and does take them into account in his text linguistics, he does not attribute them an essential place in his outlook on human language. The explanation suggested by Kabatek is that for Coseriu creativity rather than the repetition of texts or textual forms is brought into the foreground as the fundamental characteristic of speaking as enérgeia. While this is undoubtedly true, a more direct reason, in my opinion, is the fact that Coseriu defines the domain of text linguistics as the realm of sense, through the prism of the principle of the double semiotic articulation. Hence, the need to focus primarily on genuine texts, considered in their individuality (as opposed to mere examples of a class, category or type) and in their integrality (as opposed to broken apart into pieces, or, to use a Humboldtian phrase, “dismembered and dissected”27). An illustration is in order.
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4. How ‘contemporary’ is a contemporary text?
4.1. Let us examine two segments from the work of the same author, Iain M. Banks. Ex. (1) is excerpted from a short story entitled Road of Skulls, and Ex. (2) from the novel Against a Dark Background. In both cases the emphasis is mine, for the purpose of highlighting the textual elements that will be discussed below.
As a creative global text (Œuvre) in the SF tradition, as expected, we find that a dominant text-constitutive procedure is the suspension (Aufhebung) of incongruence with the
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natural, cultural and historical contexts (procedure type B (c) in my list above, 3.2.). However, we also find evocative relations with these contexts (procedure type B (a)), and a peculiar connection between these two procedures, on the basis of which we will be able to identify an overarching principle of sense construction that subsumes several concrete expressive devices.
First, the lexical innovations “horse-thing” and “trunk-space” are units of expression built by suspending incongruence with the natural context. They signal that the empirical world of the text is different from ‘our’ normal ordinary experience, and therefore needs new lexical conceptualizations: one for an entity that is analogous to a horse though it is not a horse, and the other for an entity that is analogous to a tree trunk where birds rest, but is not actually a tree.
From a linguistic-idiomatic point of view, these lexical units are created by extending the norm of the English language to cases where similar forms do not exist as such in common usage. Thus, compound nouns formed by juxtaposing a concrete noun with its highest hypernym or generic term are not forbidden by any systemic rule of English, but this type of word-formation procedure is not very productive either. In current colloquial usage, examples of “N＋thing” can be heard in contexts where the speaker notices an entity for which the language probably has a word, but he / she cannot remember it or does not know it. For instance, one can say “See that bird-thing over there?” referring to a bird or perhaps a bird-like creature whose actual name one does not know or cannot remember. This type of usage creates a bridge to deciphering the lexical innovations from Banks’ text. The “horse-thing” from Ex. (1) is very close to the casesactually present in the English norm, but the slightly odd features of the animal, such as the flap-eared appearance, suggest that it is not really a horse. The “trunk-space” in Ex. (2) results from extending the application of the compound-formation rule beyond the existing norm, which does not present analogous compounds with the hypernym “space”. The systemic rule is treated as if it were fully and freely productive – it is ‘revived’.28 Thus, these discursive lexical creations are formed by suspending one level of incorrectness (the deviation from the current norm), while remaining in accordance with the rules of the system and with the typological principles of the English language.
Consequently, in this case, two types of suspension (sublation) – one of incongruence and one of (partial) incorrectness – are articulated according to a superordinate sense-constitutive
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principle that might be approximated as ‘infinitesimal29 displacement’: keep the textual element close enough to the readers’ idiomatic and elocutional knowledge, but just a fraction of an angle deviated from it, effecting a dual projection very much like the blurred image one would get when looking through glasses with different diopter lenses which are not properly adjusted, or through binoculars which are not properly calibrated.
It will be noted that the structure of these lexical innovations also hints at a dual – infinitesimally displaced – narrative point of view: the omniscient narrator dominates both the alien world of the text, and our (the readers’) world, and his writing reveals the characters’ perception / cognition in their own (text-internal) world in such a way that we can gain access to to it through the lens of our own (text-external) experience.
Secondly, the name “Mc9” from Ex. (1) is formed by what Coseriu (1952b: 81-82) calls an “extravagant” suspension of incongruence, here an incongruence with the cultural context. This unit too manifests the same infinitesimal aura of displacement: the prefix “Mc-” formally coincides with the one found in ‘our’ world in Irish family names, and this is enough to suggest that the bearer of the name is a ‘person’ (or quasi-person / analogon of a person). However, in ‘our’ world today we do not use numbers for names, and this is enough to signal that the text’s events take place in another (possible) world or space-time.30 These two instances (the lexical innovations and the proper name) are pertinent reminders of the fact that, in a Coserian text linguistics, textual expression does not consist of mere ‘words’ or ‘sentences’ as items in a dictionary or a grammar of the language(s) used in the text. Such idiomatic units are taken up from Level II, with all their syntagmatic and paradigmatic properties in the system of the language, with all their connotations and markedness in the architecture of the language (for example the implicit contrasts with the current exemplary norm), and then subjected to text-specific constitutive procedures, in this case made to act as a point of anchorage for evocative relations and as raw material for particular forms of suspending incongruence and incorrectness.
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Finally, the simile used to depict visually the movement of the flies in Ex. (1) and the “monkey-eater” birds in Ex. (2) (“like bothersome electrons around some reluctant nucleus”, “electrons to its weighty nucleus”) is built on an evocation of the natural context: ‘our’ natural context as it is sedimented in our knowledge not only through direct experience in the empirical world, but also by the mediation of accepted and widely-adopted scientific models – in this case the graphical representation of the structure of the atom, with the electrons revolving in orbits around the nucleus. This evocation clearly situates the text on the axis of historical time (it cannot belong to – say – the 15th century) and within a cultural space (it cannot belong to – say – a traditional society from the Amazonian jungle). Simultaneously, it defines the profile of the projected reader (one who possesses the scientific knowledge referred to). But this procedure too, without needing any phenomenon of suspension (sublation), presents the same degree of ‘infinitesimal displacement’: by its use as the concrete term of a simile, the model of the atom is posited as ‘common sense’, or even as something entirely ‘commonplace’ – which may be the case for the textual world, but is not yet the case in ‘our’ world, where this model is still connotated as ‘scientific’, i.e. as a type of specialized knowledge.
Incidentally, if one or two centuries from now the ‘true’ model of the atom will prove to be of a totally different nature, and if that radically different representation will be taught in schools, spread among laypersons and finally adopted as ‘common knowledge’, the evocation on which this simile is built might be lost on some individual future readers of the text, unfamiliar with archaic scientific systems. Even so, as far as the simile exists as a text- constitutive unit, and if it is perceived as essential in the construction of sense, 23rd-century interpreters (ordinary readers and text-linguists alike) will undoubtedly try to retrieve the relevant component of elocutional knowledge by research into the archives of past scientific knowledge. Interpreting Banks’ text then is and will be no different from interpreting Shakespeare now: always contextualized, and therefore always ‘contemporary’.
4.2. To sum up, the three types of linguistic devices analyzed above (creation of innovative lexical compounds, onomastic practice, the stylistic figure of the simile) are used in Banks’ work as the semiotic expression for sense units that coalesce under an overarching principle of sense-construction that can be formulated as ‘infinitesimal displacement’. This principle indicates that the text’s dystopian world is different from ‘our’ world, the world of our ordinary experience, with its social structure, historical events, scientific knowledge, culture and values
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etc., but only barely so: the textual world is a world that might almost have been ours to live in, it is a version of our world, or perhaps a world that might, sooner or later, become ours.31 Any of these linguistic devices can, in principle, become the starting point of a ‘discourse tradition’ (DT) in Kabatek’s (2018: 94, 170) definition, or else be recognized as a new actualization of an existing DT. What is potentially an exemplary model for a textual form, strategy, genre-specific configuration etc.32 is initially identified and described in an individual text, perhaps first observed as a notable, strikingly innovative unit or device, but always necessarily connected with its sense function in that individual text. Subsequently, in the description and even in the speakers’ own knowledge some procedures or schemes can be separated, used / studied autonomously in order to find other actualizations in other individual texts. A term like ‘actualization’, however, even when specified as ‘creative’ actualization, or actualization cum modification, is misleading, because it only covers the autonomized element in its aspect of textual expression (i.e. as a component of the constitution of an initial or a prior text). It were perhaps more accurate to say that one can find and examine ‘other uses’ or other sense-functions of that DT as a building block (text-constitutive unit) of a new text. And in text linguistics as a linguistics of sense one needs to actually return to those other individual texts, to find out what sense function the DT might perform there, as this may be different in each new text.33
5. Ends and means, with an eye on the outer limits
5.1. A Coserian text linguistics will take creative texts (primarily, but not exclusively pertaining to literary genres) as a privileged object of investigation, for one methodological reason alone:
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in them can be found, in actualized form (cf. Coseriu’s emphasis on the need to focus on “‘real’ linguistic possibilities”, as discussed in section 2.2.) the most complex text-constitutive strategies and the most complex configurations of sense articulation principles. Coseriu formulates this idea with regard to evocative relations (cf. supra, 2.3.), but the statement can be safely extended to cover all the elements that pertain to the speaker’s expressive competence and are put to work in his discursive activity.
Coseriu links this functional plenitude with the idea that poetry is “absolute”, i.e. presents the full manifestation of semantic creativity, unbounded by limitations derived from the dimension of alterity, even though the latter is, nevertheless, constitutive for language in its entirety (it is an essential universal of language). A debate on philosophical grounds regarding this seeming contradiction in Coseriu’s view lies outside the scope of this paper. However, what can be pointed out within the field of text linguistics as a linguistics of sense (at the epistemic level of text theory), is that the contradiction is only apparent. A poetic text is “absolute” in the sense that its creator is a speaker who assumes, or at least aspires, to be The Speaker of the language(s) employed in his discourse, engulfing all other speakers, acting as their supreme representative, as a possessor of everything those languages can offer, and in this sense deploying in his work the maximal possibilities of those languages.34 In poetic discourse the speaker acts in the capacity of a speaker endowed with ultimate alterity, a voice of all voices, and thus his discourse lies above any limitations imposed by contingent intersubjectivity in the form of immediate ‘understandability’, or observing systemic rules and traditional norms for the sake of ‘successful communication’ etc.
I think it is important to emphasize, nevertheless, that in all of the above considerations the focus should be shifted from languages (Level II) to discourse (Level III). The functional plenitude of evocative relations highlighted by Coseriu pertains to Level III, not to Level II. More directly put, I would like to stress that creative texts are a privileged object for text linguistics, but not necessarily also for all linguistics – certainly not for the linguistics of languages, unless extremely clear boundaries are drawn. A creative text may in fact deploy and
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develop all the expressive possibilities of a particular language, but it can also deploy and exhibit all the impossibilities of a language – going beyond discursive innovations that are permitted by the system but may never be adopted to enter the norm of that language, to innovative ways of expression that go against the systemic rules and even against the typological principles of the language(s) employed in the text.35 All these phenomena are of interest for text-linguistic study, but only those of the former type are relevant for idiomatic linguistics, and their functional status must be carefully described, so that what belongs exclusively to Level III and the speaker’s expressive (textual) competence is distinguished from what actually belongs to Level II and the speaker’s idiomatic competence.36
5.2. In opposition to the way poetics deals with creative texts,37 for text linguistics the study of poetic texts is just a means to an end – the end of identifying general possibilities of sense- construction, of gaining understanding on how any text may be constituted and how sense functions in any type of text (with some exceptions, sketched below) may be generated and articulated.
Secondly, as opposed to literary criticism, text linguistics only ‘evaluates’ in terms of laying out the functional richness or paucity, the complexity or simplicity, the innovative or repetitive nature of text-constitutive units and strategies. From this angle, it seems to me that one requisite included in Agud’s critical-aesthetic perspective may not be applicable, or in any case may not be feasible within the boundaries of text linguistics. As a corollary to the ethics of humanization, Agud (2017 § 5.2: 29) states that the linguist “cannot be indifferent to a text’s being humane or inhumane, sincere or deceitful, true or manipulating”. Perhaps this requirement needs to be revised in the direction of a more humble goal38: the text-linguist may be able to identify and describe text-constitutive units and procedures that reflect such values,
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and may be able to display these in a systematized form, so that other disciplines can take them up and assess them from social, moral, or philosophical points of view.39 Although, in principle, text linguistics aims to describe and justify the construction of sense in any (type of) text, there are some objective limitations and exceptions – which might be considered foundational limits of its framework’s spectrum of applicability. Thus, text linguistics can deal with pluri-semiotic texts only if and inasmuch as they contain a linguistic component proper, which is taken as the central axis of sense-construction. It stands to reason that there can be no linguistics of purely non-linguistic texts. Constitutive (pre-textual) units from different semiotic codes can be used as raw material together with linguistic units; the list of textual procedures I proposed above (section 3.2.) is entirely applicable to them as well, and can aptly sustain the interpretation of a pluri-semiotic text.40 A well thought-out example is Pinheiro and Moreira’s (2021) work on the analysis of multimodal texts by using a model they develop on Coserian bases. In Tămâianu-Morita (2020; 2021a) the articulation of evocative relations in pluri-semiotic (multimodal) texts is analyzed and illustrated on advertisements and promotional materials of various types.
Finally, text linguistics cannot deal fully with creative scientific texts in the natural and mathematical sciences, which propose or aim at expressing truly and radically post-linguistic conceptualizations, and thus follow the constitutive rules and strategies of their own fields of cognition.41
5.3. In order to fulfill the potential of a Coserian text linguistics, many tasks lie ahead of us. First, the framework of text linguistics as a hermeneutics of sense needs to be detailed and systematized, and its operationality for text analysis needs to be enhanced. Reappraising Coseriu’s own text analyses and establishing explicit connections with the conceptual framework can be useful steps in this direction. Secondly, the two disciplines from Level II envisaged by Coseriu as preliminary and, respectively, complementary to the linguistics of
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Level III have to be developed and extensively illustrated: the “grammar of language use”, with descriptions of as many languages as possible, and “textual grammar”. This task does not start from zero, but can proceed from a re-interpretation and re-systematization of idiomatic phenomena already identified and described, but not yet clearly placed in an overall framework from these two perspectives. Thirdly, the means and ways of correlating all these (sub-) disciplines need to be explored and, again, extensively illustrated by analyses of genuine texts. While working on these tasks, we would find ourselves advancing on the road towards a text linguistics ‘with a human face’: one that rejects the status of a “pedantic”42 self-contained and self-sufficient enterprise, and strives to become relevant for the speakers themselves, for text-creators / interpreters, helping to further their understanding of how texts are articulated, thereby offering them new tools for “expanding their humanity” (as Agud’s perspective suggests). Methodologically, this implies not only close attention to the object of study and a clear recognition of its inexhaustible complexity, but also a constant critical self-awareness of the researcher in his / her double hypostasis, of speaker and linguist. Referring to linguistics on the whole, with all its conceivable sub-fields, Agud (2021: 76) explains:
The study of language has to proceed ‘from the inside’, and the only kind of ‘objective distance’ to language linguists may obtain is the degree of consciousness regarding the linguistic and cultural conditions they have acquired through learning several languages, through comparative and historical research of various different linguistic traditions, and through [his / her] own experience, reflection and observation. (emphasis in the original)
This view resonates with the way of “empathic linguistics” advocated by Kabatek (2012, 2014, 2018: 71-74). Mentioning Coseriu’s countless research notes full of “striking” linguistic phenomena, currently kept in the Coseriu Archive at Tübingen University, Kabatek (2018: 71) remarks:
[…] fenómenos llamativos en numerosas lenguas, fenómenos que concitan la atención no desde una perspectiva universal de quien mira si una categoría existe o no en las lenguas del mundo, sino de la del lingüista-hablante que en su propia actividad como hablante-oyente reconoce esos fenómenos – ‘llamativos’ evidentemente no desde la lengua misma sino desde otra lengua u otras lenguas –. La participación activa, ese adentrarse en una comunidad histórica para hacerse parte de ella, es la base del descubrimiento de la particularidad; la base de una lingüística desde la empatía. (emphasis in the original)
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In the section from which this passage is quoted, Kabatek focuses on the investigation of languages (Level II), in the context of contrasting Coseriu’s and Chomsky’s views. Kabatek therefore insists on the continuous effort required of the linguist: an effort to listen actively to genuine utterances, to look for rules and norms, to try to provide explanations, and to constantly resort to resources that can enrich his horizon of understanding. This arduous but rewarding process affords no shortcut:
Para hacer tal cosa, el hablante-lingüista necesita tiempo: el tiempo de aprendizaje de una lengua es largo e intenso, pero sin él no hay posibilidad de acercarse de verdad a una lengua desde dentro (en lugar de desde fuera). (Kabatek 2018: 72)
Kabatek (2018: 74) emphasizes that this perspective does not oppose the idea of making good use of all the advanced technical means and analytic tools now found at our disposal, but spells out a warning as to the risks of believing that pure technical means can substitute the “empathic foundations” of the linguist’s endeavor. All the above considerations are equally true for the study of texts / discourse (Level III).
A Coserian text linguistics, whose agent is the linguist as a ‘maximal’ text re-creator (interpreter) and observer, views this “critical-aesthetic” and “empathic” way as the only rational way to proceed. I use the term ‘maximal’ in order to suggest that the text-linguist’s knowledge is also ‘augmented’, because it assumes to the highest possible degree the accumulated knowledge of other speakers and other linguists, knowledge both intuitive and reflexive, that is accessible in his / her historical situation. Having reached the final point of this contribution, let me succinctly recapitulate: The empirically ‘real’ text is the one that manifests the components of the speaker’s intuitive (/technical) knowledge, always considered with its actual constitution and in its integrality.
The ‘augmented’ text is obtained by projecting upon the former the text-linguist’s knowledge, which is twofold: that of an enhanced speaker, aspiring to be maximally open and attentive to all details, plus the dimensions of his interpretive model43 with its underlying theoretical outlook and philosophical foundations.
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6. Epilogue: a vision of the future
The phrase “the augmented reality of ‘real’ texts” has been used throughout this paper as an illuminating analogy, but now more than ever it appears that the world around us is rapidly advancing in a direction that may overthrow our best intentions as empathic linguists following a course which we ourselves have set according to a critical-aesthetic perspective. Quite literally and implacably, we – speaker-linguists – may be running out of time – out of that kind of time Kabatek calls attention to in the passage quoted above. Let me elaborate.A demo video from the Microsoft Inspire 2019 event44 advertises one of the most spectacular mixed reality services offered by Microsoft’s Azure AI. We witness marketing lead Julia White demonstrating how a new software enables her avatar to deliver a key-note speech in Japanese – a language that she herself does not know. Owing to high-performance AI Neural Text-to-Speech (TTS) technology, and supported by advances in machine translation capabilities from Azure Cognitive Services,45 the avatar, says White, speaks “perfect” Japanese with her own precise voice quality and inflections.
A perceptive viewer who actually knows Japanese will notice that the Japanese spoken by White’s avatar is in fact not “perfect”. Although it is extremely good – perhaps near-native – in terms of idiomatic grammar, lexical choice and even discursive composition, it presents the clear marks of ‘foreign accent’, especially unnatural intonation, pauses between attributive clauses and their superordinate nouns, when in natural Japanese these should be linked, andminute but clearly noticeable differences in the quality and length of the vowels. One can only speculate that the TTS system was programmed to generate the spoken version of the automatically translated key-note speech by using a mean projection based on the speaker’s identity: in this case, replicating the features typically found in the Japanese spoken with American ‘accent’ by (other) real human speakers. The software must then have been input the information that Julia White herself does not speak Japanese as a foreign or second language, or that she is not, for that matter, fully bilingual. The underlying assumption of such a multilingual TTS encoding protocol is that speech, no matter how good linguistically (idiomatically or even discursively), needs to be marked for
Emma Tămâianu-Morita: Exploring the ‘augmented reality’ of ‘real’ texts: A Coserian perspective - 90 -‘foreignness’.46 More directly put, we are dealing with the assumption that a foreigner cannot achieve “perfect”, native-equivalent, accent. Why does a translation and TTS software need to encode this type of socio-discursive branding, when by all reasonable standards the software should indeed produce “perfect” speech in the target language? Might it be because this is in fact social branding, with the accent merely used as an instrument for marking social and ethnic identity? Furthermore: is the choice of Japanese for this demo entirely random? Or can it all be linked with the Japanese public’s feeling that foreigners who speak the language too well are “impertinent” or “brazen”? 47 If or when such a software takes over the role of a human interpreter altogether, besides the objective risks of mistranslations passing unnoticed and causing misunderstanding or trouble in practical communication, for instance in business or academic settings, a much more disturbing danger lurks in the background: unbeknownst to them, speakers – human individuals – may be subjected to ethnic and social bias by the machine (and the human(s) behind the machine).
I readily concede that using such a technology is justified for practical convenience, even with the risks shown above, if speediness comes before all other considerations. However, only a small step away lies the trap of using it for linguistic and textual research, ‘letting the machine do your job’. Not only ordinary speakers, but also linguists may give in to the temptation of the easy way, renouncing ab initio the demanding path of actually learning languages and immersing oneself directly in diverse texts and cultures. Practical convenience can easily morph into a makeshift substitute for the genuinely human effort of comprehension. Post factum, practical convenience and speediness can also be labeled as the one and only ‘scientific’ way, on the only grounds that it is machine(/AI)-supported. Nothing could be further away from both
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“empathic linguistics” (Kabatek 2012, 2014, 2018) and the “critical-aesthetic perspective” on language and linguistics (Agud 2013, 2017, 2021).
Text-linguists working in a Coserian perspective are well placed to fend off this dystopic outcome, by making their own cognitive experience accessible to fellow speakers and fellow linguists, in order to help them to better understand / investigate and enjoy texts, and thus encourage them to slow down in the face of overspeeding technology used not for the enhancement of human cognition, but as a self-serving goal in itself. In my view, this is the deeper sense of Coseriu’s “principle of public responsibility”, one that comes before the practical applicability of linguistic research results in language teaching, designing linguisti policies, or providing scientific arguments for militant political action.
Text linguistics as a hermeneutics of sense operates on the assumption that it is still worthwhile in the long run, even for practical purposes, to learn Japanese if you want to deliver a key-note speech in that language, or, alternatively, to learn English in order to understand the key-note speech delivered by an American guest speaker, to have a human translator / interpreter decide how to exploit all the available technological resources in order to recreate a source-text in the most appropriate form for the given historical and cultural circumstances – and ultimately, beyond any immediate practical goals, that it is still worthwhile to invest time and effort into making Shakespeare (or Banks) our contemporary.
Agud, Ana (2013): “Sprache als ästhetische Praxis: Versuch einer ästhetisch-kritischen Philosophie der Sprache und der Sprachwissenschaft”, in: Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie 38.2, 91-123.
Agud, Ana (2017): “An Aesthetic Alternative for an ‘Integral’ Linguistic Theory”, First International Workshop “Critical Philosophy of Linguistics”, Salamanca University, 4-6 June of 2017.
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1 This research was supported by a grant from Kindai University (Japan) for a project in the field of text linguistics carried out as visiting scholar at the University of Seville during the academic year 2021/2022.
2 Elsom (1989: 2) poignantly explains: “[…] Shakespeare did become a contemporary, able – being dead and immortal – to comment on current events with a freedom that living writers could not hope to enjoy”.
3 An example is Martin Esslin’s argument that, due to their themes and contextual references, “some plays may be more ‘contemporary’ than others” (in Elsom 1989: 32).
4 In Alfred Emmett’s words, “bringing Shakespeare up to date” (in Elsom 1989: 173).
5 “Am putea spune, împingînd lucrurile la paradox, că teatrul lui Shakespeare nu e spectacol, întrucît nu se adresează subiectului contemplator. Apropiat mai degrabă de unele experiențe muzicale, de veghile condamnaților, el acționează direct asupra omului real, ca un braț abătut al unei alte durate, încorporîndu-l catastrofei ei, durînd împreună: îmbătrînindu-l.” (English translation mine – emphasis in the original)
6 This tripartition is modelled on the disciplines of grammar as explained in Coseriu (1955-1956: 319, 1973/1981: 244-245, 1981: 113-114). For a detailed presentation and discussion, see Tămâianu-Morita (2021b, esp. 139-141).
7 One of the earliest detailed analyses of the significance of ‘realism’ for Coseriu’s work is put forward by Copceag (1981). His view, along with other relevant sources on the issue, are discussed in Tămâianu-Morita (2022).
8 In this study, Coseriu interprets the broader theoretical significance of Tsugio Sekiguchi’s “grammar of significational forms” (imikeitai), pointing out that what the Japanese linguist was trying to achieve was a “Grammatik des Sprechens mittels einer Sprache, genauer, Grammatik der Sprachverwendung”, whose functional units are “types-of-use” (“Verwendungstypen”): “Auch sind diese Einheiten nicht einzelsprachliche ‘Bedeutungen’, und auch nicht außersprachliche ‘Bezeichnungen’, sondern, wie in der tatsächlichen Sprachverwendung, 'Bezeichnung-und-Sinn’ zugleich und unterschiedlos” (Coseriu 1994: 60).
9 A detailed discussion of this analogy and its applicability in elaborating a functional textual typology is undertaken in Tămâianu (-Morita) (2001: 49-59 and 2012a: 6-7).
10 So important is this principle for Coseriu’s outlook that it also became the title of his most extensive and comprehensive series of dialogues with his disciples (Kabatek / Murguía 1997).
11 Agud (2017) is an English version prepared by the author, on the basis of her earlier German paper (Agud 2013), for an International Workshop devoted to the theme “Critical Philosophy of Linguistics”, which she organized at Salamanca University in 2017. The quotes given here are taken from this version, and referred to not only by page number, but also by paragraph number, in order to make it easier for the interested reader to establish a correspondence with the German article.
12 In my intervention at the respective workshop (Tămâianu-Morita 2017), I suggested that this corresponds with Coseriu’s notion of ‘realism’, so a more transparent characterization from the standpoint of this convergence with Coseriu’s theory would be “a reality-oriented linguistics”.
13 The ultimate goal of linguistic research is “to help human beings to improve as such, to become more human, through the development and education of the most refined, differentiated and complex cultural perception possible in each case” (Agud 2017, § 2: 8).
14 It is not in the least surprising that the projection of such a demanding path comes from Ana Agud: a specialist in Indo-Iranian Studies, exegete and translator of the Upanishads, philosopher of language and translator of major writings in the field, translator of poetry from Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, English and German, her own experience makes her in many ways a kindred spirit of Coseriu.
15 “Evocative functions (relations)” of the sign actualized in discourse are strategies for the constitution of textual sense which engender a type of semantic plurivalence not to be seen simply as “vagueness”, but rather as “enrichment” of language (Coseriu 1981: 102). For a classification, definitions and illustrations, see Coseriu (1971 / 1977: 201-202; 1981: 68-101; 1987a: 25-29).
16 In the same sense, see Coseriu (1981: 110-111).
17 It lies outside the scope of this paper to analyze in depth the full significance of this triadic chart. Let it only be briefly mentioned that I have made the case before (Tămâianu 2001: 23-29) that the view that informs this twofold triad is quite aptly called – albeit in retrospect – ‘Integral linguistics’, and not ‘integrated’ / ‘integrative’ / ‘integrational’ etc. I am persuaded that Coseriu’s purport is not to effect a gradual addition of dimensions and components built on different foundations and subsequently rendered compatible, but rather the opposite: to unfold or unravel (untangle) analytically, from three points of view that derive from the very nature of the object under investigation, sub-domains that exist holistically in the speaker’s knowledge and manifest themselves holistically in the activity of speaking. This does not preclude taking up, as methodological tools, reformulating and exploiting notions and descriptions from other theoretical models, once the framework of Integral linguistics has been established on its own coherent terms.
18 See Coseriu (1955-1956: 285-287 1973/1981, Ch. 10, and 1988: 59, 70-75, with the table at p. 75; all translations are mine. For the evaluations of speech, see esp. Coseriu (1981: 41-43); for a subcategorization of the judgments of adequacy (Angemessenheit), see also Coseriu (1988: 179-181). An overview and discussion, with comprehensive bibliographical references, can be found in Tămâianu (-Morita) (2001: 15-60; 2012a and 2015).
19 Ideally, the representation of the double triad should be three-dimensional and dynamic. This would have been very difficult, if not impossible, in previous decades, but might become possible now, owing to advances in graphical modeling techniques.
20 See Tămâianu-Morita (2016) for a comparison between Coseriu’s outlook and four other conceptions pertinent to the problem of the double semiotic relation in discourse (É. Benveniste, Y. Ikegami, P. Charaudeau and F. Rastier).
21 Tămâianu (-Morita) 2001: 40, 125-133; 2002: 126-150; 2014.
22 For the definition of textual functions in the perspective of integral linguistics, see Coseriu (1981: 45-47, 170- 174), and the clarifications and conceptual developments proposed by Zagaevschi Cornelius (2005: 124-126).
23 For the concept of Aufhebung (sublation) in this sense, see Coseriu (1988: 122-125, 176-179).
24 According to Coseriu (1987b), these are text-constitutive parts posited as ‘missing’ and in need of ‘recovery’ by virtue of what is actually present in the expression of the text, as a necessary step before the actual interpretation of the text can begin.
25 To be sure, some types of units can be organized hierarchichally in the sub-systems and at the levels they come from. A representative example are the five types of significata. However, their organization from the idiomatic level is not automatically carried along once they assume a peculiar functional role as text-constitutive units. For the way the relation between text-constitutive units and units of textual sense can be viewed in a Coserian text linguistics, see the theoretical discussion and illustrative analyses in Tămâianu-Morita (2012b; 2014).
26 This is in fact the very basis for applicative uses, which can only be subsequently pursued, and I think this is what Coseriu’s “principle of public responsibility” is all about, if placed in conjunction with what Agud (2017: 8) calls “the ethics of humanization”.
27 Cf. Humboldt (1988 : 51). This does not deny the importance of pursuing and describing the various dimensions and forms of traditionality in the realm of discourse; rather, it indicates an emphasis on the functional perspective of sense-construction, to which elements such as traditional means and models for expressing discourse functions, fragments of previous texts repeated or evoked etc. (cf. text-constitutive units A (b) and (c) in my model) are subordinated. In the context of a discussion on the extremely heterogeneous content and loose organization of textual (expressive) competence, Coseriu unambiguously places such elements on an open list of components of this competence, stressing the wide diversity of text-building “norms”: “Das expressive Wissen ist [...] enorm verschiedenartig, und die entsprechenden Normen sind von ganz unterschiedlicher Verbindlichkeit. Sie reichen von den ganz allgemeinen Normen für die verschiedenen Arten des Sprechens über präzisere Normen für Textsorten bis hin zu den sehr präzisen Normen für die Strukturierung bestimmter traditionell fixierter Textformen” (Coseriu 1988: 159). From the individual speaker’s point of view, all of these are at his disposal as ‘building-blocks’ to be used freely in the construction of a (new) text, and it is this perspective that text linguistics as a hermeneutics of sense aims to grasp and account for as coherently as possible.
28 In his analysis of Ion Barbu’s lexical and syntactic innovations, Coseriu (1948: 49) identifies precisely this procedure of extending particular uses to other cases, which are semantically similar, but where the current norm is different. Thus, argues Coseriu, in Barbu’s work many of the most striking discursive creations are innovations only in relation to the norm, while in fact instantiating systemic potentialities of the Romanian language.
29 I use the term in its mathematical acceptation, of “involving a small change in the value of a variable that approaches zero as a limit” (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/infinitesimal); a value that tends to zero but is never zero.
30 Nevertheless, this ‘numerical’ (or digitally coded) naming style may not remain so ‘out-of-our-world’ for too long now. One of Elon Musks’s sons, born in 2020, received the first name “X Æ A-12”, nicknamed “X”, and a daughter born in 2022 was named “Exa Dark Sideræl”, nicknamed “Y”. In the case of the boy, the State of California did not accept the components “Æ” and “12” for official registration, on the grounds that according to current state law only the letters of the English alphabet can be used in proper names of human beings. Therefore, for all legal purposes, the parents resorted to the adapted form “X AE A-XII”. This change of notation does not change the heart of the matter.
31 The reader familiar with Coseriu’s text analyses will recognize here an echo of the manner in which Coseriu (1981, second Excursus to Leo Spitzer’s “integral stylistics”) formulates his interpretation about what the fundamental sense-construction principle in Kafka’s work might be: in Kafka’s case, a textual world that superficially looks completely disjunct from ours, by its absurdity and cruelty, unexplainable shifts and uncontrollable instability, ultimately proves to have been, in fact, our real world all along.
32 If one wishes to operate on the basis of Kabatek’s definition of ‘discourse traditions’, his subcategorization “from the standpoint of the text” (“desde el texto”, 2018: 220-222) can be used for organizing the textual material subjected to analysis.
33 When Kabatek (2018: 170) indicates in his definition that a DT is a form that functions as a sign or “has the value of a sign” (i.e. it correlates with a content), this can only refer to the first level of the text’s semiotic articulation (similar to the situation of idiomatic units with their significata and designata). When used in a new text, the respective form or unit becomes a 2nd-degree expression for a 2 nd-degree content (sense / function) which will not necessarily coincide with the one from other (prior) texts. For example, the three procedures analyzed in Banks’ text may be used in other texts, especially, though not exclusively, in science fiction, but they will not necessarily appear in the same configuration, nor serve as expression for the same sense-function: their role in constructing (or, with Borcilă’s term, projecting) the emerging textual world will have to be discovered anew in each given text.
34 In an early study, Coseriu (1952a: 99-100) explicitly mentions this idea in the context of explaining the difference between the norm and the system of a language, pointing out that speakers can either repeat the norm within minimal limits of expresive change, or can decide to deliberately reject or surpass it, unfolding the possibilities offered by the system: “Los grandes creadores de lengua – como Dante, Quevedo, Cervantes, Góngora, Shakespeare, Puškin – rompen conscientemente la norma [...] y, sobre todo, utilizan y realizan en el grado más alto las posibilidades del sistema: no es una paradoja, ni una frase hecha, decir que un gran poeta «ha utilizado todas las posibilidades que le ofrecía la lengua». En este sentido, podemos repetir con Humboldt y Croce que, en realidad, no aprendemos una lengua, sino que aprendemos a crear en una lengua, es decir, que aprendemos las normas que guían la creación en una lengua, aprendemos a conocer las directivas, las flechas indicadoras, del sistema y los elementos que el sistema nos proporciona como moldes para nuestra expresión inédita.”
35 This issue is extensively debated in Tămâianu-Morita (2006), starting from a detailed comparison of Coseriu’s stance with Yoshihiko Ikegami’s view that texts (including poetic texts) are semiotically homologous to, and even epitomize, the structural and cognitive peculiarities of the particular language they employ.
36 To be sure, this, in turn, has to be distinguished from what belongs to Level I and the speaker’s elocutional competence.
37 See Borcilă 1996, 1997a, 1997b.
338 One reason may be the fact that Agud’s use of the term “text linguistics” is arguably broader, and would include the perspective or analytical framework of – say – Critical Discourse Analysis, whereas what I advocate in this paper is a more restrictive delimitation of the tasks of “text linguistics”, in the line of Coseriu’s proposal that its main aim is to “establish and justify the sense of texts”: “Die Aufgabe dieser Texlinguistik besteht in der Feststellung und Rechtfertigung des Sinns der Texte. […] Den Sinn im Text zu rechtfertigen, bedeutet […] den bereits verstandenen Inhalt zu einen bestimmten Ausdruck zurückzuführen, zu zeigen, dass dem signifié des Makrozeichens im Text ein spezifischer Ausdruck entspricht.” (Coseriu 1981: 150-151)
39 Needless to say, an individual text-linguist well trained in those other disciplines can do so himself – but in a different capacity and with different analytical tools.
40 I am aware of Sonesson’s (2021, esp. 156-159) view that Integral linguistics on the whole should be subordinated to semiotics: “integral linguistics is not only about integrating different perspectives on language, but more pertinently about integrating linguistics into semiotics – and, more specifically, into Cognitive Semiotics” (Sonesson 2021: 162). While this is conceivable in principle, such an endeavor is not necessarily productive either for idiomatic linguistics or for text linguistics. Insuperable contradictions that will be found at the very foundations risk entrenching the debate in a mere battle over “words” (in the acceptation of Agud’s critical-aesthetic outlook), and never reach the level of textual analysis as a search for the sense of ‘real’ texts in connection with the text- constitutive elements that support it.
41 Text linguistics can deal with SF literary texts precisely because their text-internal world is created as ‘make- believe’, and because they only ‘pretend’ to posit radically new models of the world, while in fact these are constructed entirely by linguistic strategies.
42 In Peter Brook’s sense (cf. supra, 1.1.).
43 In the case of text linguistics, whether this model is one in which Coseriu’s triadic hierarchy of ‘the universal – the historical – the individual’ is spliced inside Level III, as suggested by Loureda (2006), or one which conceives Level III wholly from the perspective of individual texts, through the lens of the principle of the double semiotic articulation, with all pre-textual elements, regardless of their level of provenance, situated on a par, in a ‘flat’ organization, as suggested by myself, is the object of an entirely different debate, which exceeds the limits of the present paper. These two views are built from different standpoints and arguably have different aims, so they may prove not to be mutually exclusive.
44 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auJJrHgG9Mc (last accessed 16 April 2022).
45 Basic information about their XYZ-code applications can be found on the Microsoft official site (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/blog/a-holistic-representation-toward-integrative-ai/; last accessed 16 April 2022). In XYZ-code, X refers to monolingual text processing, Y to audio or visual sensory signals and Z- code to multilingual text processing.
46 This situation is fundamentally different both from dubbing (where target-language native speakers substitute the original language speakers) and from using a human interpreter (even though at present his / her activity may be assisted by various technological resources). In such cases it is clear that a different speaker acts as a substitute or a representative of the intial (source-text) speaker. With the high-fidelity avatar delivering the key-note speech in the voice of its human originator, there is only one individual speaker: the avatar is posited as being a hypostasis of the same speaker.
47 In Japanese, “namaiki”. A weaker version of the same impression is “iwakan wo kanjiru” (‘feeling uneasy’) about a foreigner’s speaking Japanese ‘too well’. Such is a characterization offen proferred in Japanese media about some American entertainers who have spent almost all their active professional lives in Japan and speak the language very well indeed. This reflects a conviction of the general Japanese public, as widespread today as it was in decades past, that Japanese is so unique and difficult that no foreigner can ever master it to perfection. Naturally, to the extent that there is some truth in this belief, the same can be said about any foreign language and any foreign culture one immerses oneself in. Conversely, given enough time, in the right circumstances, there is no objective reason why “perfect” acquisition should not be achieved.
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