This is an arcane paper I ran across doing a piece for my content-mill employer on Gestalt psychology’s property of invariance in perception. It intrigued me somehow, because I’ve always been fonder of the notion of tropes (a rhetorical figure of speech that consists of a play on words) than memes (an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture), even though I know there are real differences (though I harbor a perhaps irrational suspicion that these two ideas are part of differing conceptual cosmos); and I admit that the word “meme” has a negative (for me) association with Richard Dawkins, whose work I believe to range between wrong-headed and offensive. (I followed Dawkins debate with Stephen Jay Gould for a while, and found Gould to be far more convincing; but I’ll admit that I am not well-schooled in evolutionary biology or linguistics, and that I have a visceral dislike of reductionism.)
That said, we use the word meme here all the time, and even have a “meme-bar” at the top of the page. I realize – in my rational mind – that just because Dawkins gives me the creeps doesn’t mean his use of a word – coined and defined by others – is wrong.
That’s not the only thing that piqued my curiosity. This whole essay is packed with fascinating implications; and my recent preoccupation with Edward Bernays and his propaganda techniques – as well as curiosity about why these techniques don’t work on everyone – have me wondering about psychology, perception, linguistics, semiotics, et al. There are some pretty complex things that happen every moment that each of us is alive.
I haven’t read through this yet, but there are enough ideas in the first part to whet my appetite; and I just wondered if any other linguistic dilettantes wanted to join me in unpacking this paper, that roams around in that mysterious world between perception and language, experience and consciousness.
I’ll read it later today when I’m done working; but if anyone else wants to plow through it with a dictionary before I get there, by all means do and send along your thoughts.
Modeling language development has recently seen a shift towards studies of the interdependence of language and perceptual reality. Cognitive linguistics proposes that language is a cognitive phenomenon where conceptual structures stem from perception and embodiment (Hampe, 2005; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; Taylor, 1989; Skoldberg, 2002). Language is imaginatively embodied where metaphor is central to the origins of meaning (Danesi, 2004). Modeling the development of language has focused on meaning rather than syntax. This leads to the important question: how are events in the physical world transformed into semantic notions? This question confronts the aporia or discrepancy between the analog world we live in and the discrete or digital nature of language in terms of categories and symbols. To overcome this difficulty Thom proposed that we need to preserve ‘a priori forms of space and time’ by generating dynamic structures or morphologies