'Complexics-15' Seminar

Seminars for transdisciplinarity

The seminar fifteenth of the series Complexics, Complexics-15, was on 8th June 2017, at 17:30 h., in Sala de professors, at Josep Carner building at the Universitat de Barcelona. This seminar included the following session:

- El significado como sistema complejo [Meaning as a complex system (video)

By Alexander Andrason

Alexander Andrason is an Icelandic linguist who is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of African Languages ​​at the Stellenbosch University (Republic of South Africa).

His research includes the areas of cognitive linguistics, linguistic typology, contact linguistics, the modeling of natural languages ​​and the theory of complexity. He speaks more than twenty living languages ​​and has extensive knowledge of several ancient languages. His linguistic interests include Indo-European families (Germanic, Slavic, Romanic, Greek), Semitic (Hebrew, Arabic) and Niger-Congo (Mandé and Bantu), as well as Nilotic languages ​​(Maa) and Khoe (Tjwao). Since 2006, he has been working on the documentation and conservation of the wymysorys, an almost extinct germanic language spoken in Poland. He has also contributed to the description and visibility of minority languages ​​under investigation in Tanzania (Arusa), Zimbabwe (Tjwao) and Gambia (Mandinka).


The exhibition proposes a synchronous model of semantics of a grammatical construction (gram) that is in greater harmony with the principles of the theory of complexity than the traditional models of meaning. Crucially, instead of being static, simple, delimited and isolated, the meaning of a gram is represented as dynamic, intricate, diffused and located. To illustrate his model, the author analyzes the verbal system of the Mandinka variety (Niger-Congo) spoken in Gambia.

The author demonstrates that the synchronous meaning of a gram in time can be represented as a three-dimensional network - a wave. In this network, the qualitative range of meaning (the semantic potential of the gram) is a two-dimensional surface - a map of multiple branches of interconnected senses. The connection between the senses reflects the diachronic processes that underlie the development of the meaning of the gram and the cognitive mechanisms that allow it. The third vertical dimension encapsulates the quantitative aspect of the meaning, or the prototype range of the senses. The correlation of the horizontal surface with the vertical axis provides a wave. This representation retains the dynamics of a gram in the level of synchronous analysis, also showing that the meaning, although internally intricate and diffuse, is consistent. This cohesion is granted by the family resemblance that relates the components of the map.

The analysis shows that the treatment of the verbal meaning in terms of the approach "a form, a meaning" (that is, invariant or abstract meaning) and "on-line" modulation, and the understanding of the linguistic system in terms of binaryism and statism constitute unsustainable positions.

Resultat d'imatges de cusc-ub