Total Integrative Evolutionary Communication: Towards a Cybersemiotic Discourse Pragmatics

Ole Nedergaard Thomsen, Søren Brier


In this paper we outline a cybersemiotic foundation for the trend of pragmatics-based functional linguistics, Functional Discourse Grammar. Cybersemiotics is a substantial inter- and transdisciplinary semiotic theory which integrates, on the one hand, second-order cybernetics and autopoiesis theory and, on the other, Peircean biosemiotics. According to Cybersemiotics, language is primarily a creative process of total integrative evolutionary communication. It comprises three evolutionary stages: (1) biological reflexive languaging (the reflexive foundation of social coordination), (2) instinctual-motivational-emotional sign plays (a level which is shared with other animals and is the domain of ethology), and (3) premeditated, intentional symbol-based language games (specifically human unitary thinking-speaking-gesturing, the domain of pragmatics-based functional linguistics). In this inclusive hierarchy language games subsume the other stages, and thus human evolutionary communication is primarily a symbolic-conventional practice. It is intertwined with the practice of living, that is, with different life forms, including other forms of semiotic behavior. Together they form a coherent biological and socio-cultural practice. The basic “molecule” of the cybersemiotic model of human communication is a dyad between two linguistic cyborgs, alias natural language users. Single human communicators are thus “atoms”. They are hybrids between nature and nurture, manipulating all sorts of artificiality (e.g. pen and ink writing, digital-electronic texting, mobile telephonic amplification). A conventional practice, language occurs in three phases: as discourse process, product, and pattern. As discourse pattern it is deontological-directive (rather than epistemic-declarative) and functions as a finalistic guideline for the communicative processes of single individuals. Thus, rather than being the speech community’s invariant langue, a discourse pattern is a single individual’s communicative competence. Accordingly, shared communicational norms and conventions of the speech community are emergent and not determinant.

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