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languagehat  •  Link


"In his work Discours physique de la parole (Physical Discourse on Speech), he asks himself the following question: how can I, as a thinking being, be certain that the human beings who surround me are also thinking beings, and not simple automatons? The problem is considered at the end of the sixth speech on discrimination between body and soul. It is the word as a vehicle of the thought which will enable me to know the existence of other individuals who are endowed with a soul like me. In a more original way, in his work “Traité physique de la parole”( physical treatise of the word)- a variation of the previous title - he develops the notion that no motivated relation between the material sign and the expressed idea exists, as much as no real relation exists between body and soul. The word represents the opportunity for sign and meaning to meet, so far as if the soul hadn’t the use of the articulated body to produce sign, it would communicate in a much more immediate way from soul to soul, without having to go through the institution of the sign.

"The language used by human beings is therefore too complex to be explained by purely mechanical causes; I can deduce from it that the bodies I can see are also endowed with a soul. Animals may utter sounds and parrots may reproduce words, only human beings are able to communicate ideas, and that shows the presence of a rational soul. This rational soul is able to communicate directly with angels without going through the physical articulation of the sign. Le Discours, from which Molière draw the scene of the spelling lesson in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, remains the most successful work of Cordemoy. American linguists such as George Boas and Noam Chomsky rediscovered him during the sixties."

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Dec