Professor Noam Chomsky many thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to be interviewed by the arts movement Intentism.
If the externalization of language to the sensorymotor system for communication is a second aspect of language, (the first being a computational system of the mind/brain), do we need to trace a linguistic 'fossil record' for evidence, or do we begin from observing the nature of language today? How can we empirically demonstrate it?
A linguistic “fossil record” would provide direct evidence, but it does not exist, and will not, though there is relevant evidence bearing on the apparently rather sudden emergence of what paleoanthropologists call “the human capacity, presumably related to emergence of language. Therefore, we are largely restricted to indirect evidence from the nature of language today – which appears to be as it has been since our ancestors left Africa some 50,000 years ago. These sources of evidence do seem to me to provide evidence on the secondary character of externalization, as I and others have discussed elsewhere.
Several Intentists worry that to assume language is primarily for communication can be used to endorse Barthes theory of the 'death of the author.' If the listener needs to agree with the interlocutor for his or her language to succeed in its communicatory purpose, a listener interpreting the language differently would void it of meaning. This then places the listener as judicator. Many Intentists would instead argue against this not only because language is an evolution of tools to make sense of the world, but that since language is a human gesture it still must have meaning even if is known solely by its author. How does the dogmatism held by many who maintain language as primarily for communication hinder research in other areas?
I doubt that any conclusions can be drawn about the ideas of Barthes. There are issues raised by Wittgenstein’s “private language” argument, but my own feeling is that they do not undermine the conclusions about the secondary character of externalization, nor do I see how they seriously question that when I write “It is snowing right now” (as it is) then it means what I intend whether anyone reads it or not, or whether they understand it if they do read it. Admittedly, there is a lot more to the issue than that, but I think observations like these are at least a good start, rather like Dr. Johnson’s attempted refutation of Berkeley, or Moore’s “this is a hand.”
Professor Noam Chomsky on behalf on Intentism, many thanks for your time.