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Linguistics, semiotics and cognition. Some notes on the book Signifier. Essai sur la mise en signification


What is particularly striking about Robert Nicolaï’s new book is the extraordinary richness of its theoretical background. For, the analysis of the Author covers several research fields belonging both to “human” and “cognitive” sciences: from linguistics to ethnometodology, from semiotics to sociology until experimental psychology and theoretical biology. In order to have some idea of such a disciplinary variety, it is sufficient to describe the general structure of the essay. It is divided into ten chapters, each of which is devoted to a particular subject. More precisely, chapter 1 (27-33) concerns processes of knowledge construction and its articulations in the theoretical framework of linguistic analysis. chapter 2 (35-53) deepens and extends the previous subject by discussing three different, but related, approaches to the description of the evolution of the languages. Chapters 3 and 4 (55-84) examine the epistemological role played by metaphors in the formal modelization of phenomena. Chapters Five and Six (89-116) focus on the relationship between objects and points of view in the process of scientific modelization with particular reference to the analysis of interlinguistic contacts. Chapters 7 and 8 (117-42) discuss respectively the form of some constraints on the process of knowledge construction and the modalities of perception of phenomena. Finally, chapters Nine and Ten (145-91) thematize the process of how meaning is produced (that is to say, la mise en signification) under several and distinct aspects. Furthermore, we remember an introductory chapter (9-22) and a conclusory one (193- 209) which give a comprehensive account of the genealogy and the aims of the book.