Abstract: Current linguistics is biased towards considering as object of scientific study only verbal language, i.e., ordinary language whose basic entities are words, sentences, and texts. By having this focus, the crucial non-verbal semiotic contributions from acts of bodily communication are left out of consideration. On the face of it, this is a strange situation, because, phenomenologically, when observing a communicating dyad, what appears to the senses is a multimodal semiotic display–the interactants produce acts of total communication, the linguistic part of which has in fact to be disentangled from the integral semiotic behavior. That a human being should in the first place be conceptualized as a ‘talking head’, rather than a ‘communicating body’, stems from at least four historically interrelated fountains: ancient Greek philosophy with its emphasis on logos as meaning both rational mind and verbal language/speech as well as with its rejection of rhetoric (including body language); Cartesian dualistic rationalism where the body was the animal, mechanistic part of a human being, unworthy for the Geisteswissenschaften; Saussure’s formal structuralism with its defocusing of the individual’s performance, parole, and its high focus on societal langue; and Chomskyan linguistics with its neglect of actual, also bodily, performance, and its total focus on an ideal mental grammatical computational competence. With the recent philosophy (‘in the flesh’) of the ‘embodied mind’, time has now come for integrating the (linguistic) head with the (other part of the communicating) body and seeing communication as total communication of the whole body. This means that the communicating mind is no longer restricted to its ‘rational’ aspects but has to be conceived full-scale as integrating also all kinds of ‘irrational’ factors, like emotions and motivations. Another, no less important, implication of the above is that an individual’s ‘language faculty’ is to be understood rather as a faculty of total communication–verbal and non-verbal semiotic behavior is an integrated, multi-modal whole of total communication performed by whole human organisms. Cybersemiotics offers itself here as the meta-theoretical, transdisciplinary framework within which this new paradigm of total communication can be developed.
Keywords: Cybersemiotics; Peircean(bio-) semiotics; autopoiesis; cybernetics; functional linguistics; biolinguistics; pragmatics; InterPragmatics; verbal communication; bodily communication; gesture; total communication; communicative competence
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Thomsen, O.N. From Talking Heads to Communicating Bodies: Cybersemiotics and Total Communication. Entropy 2010, 12, 390-419.
Thomsen ON. From Talking Heads to Communicating Bodies: Cybersemiotics and Total Communication. Entropy. 2010; 12(3):390-419.
Thomsen, Ole Nedergaard. 2010. "From Talking Heads to Communicating Bodies: Cybersemiotics and Total Communication." Entropy 12, no. 3: 390-419.