Bundsgaard & Sune Steffensen
Dialectics of Ecological Morphology
or the Morphology of Dialectics
The three-dimensionality of the
1. Why Morphology?
2. Meaning in Ecolinguistics
A dialectical morpheme definition
3. Relationality in Ecolinguistics
The inter-textual function of the
The extra-textual function of the
The intra-textual function of the
4. Micro-morphology in
5. Implications of an
6. Conclusions & Invitations
dominant linguistic theory of the last century, the European or Saussurean
structuralism, a fundamental notion is that of the Sign. In this key term all the central theoretic ideas of
structuralism are embedded. Among these are the arbitrarity of the sign, the
semiological system, the notion of valeur,
the distinction between diachronic and synchronic linguistics and the
distinction between langue and parole.
These terms all date back
to the pater sine qua non of
structuralism, Ferdinand de Saussure (cf. Cours
de linguistique générale, 1916). The breakthrough of this new linguistic
paradigm was due to a change in the sociology of science, which took place in
the beginning of the 20th century, and which might be described as a
bureaucratization of the scientific community a parallel to the modern
Western bureaucraties as described by Max Weber. In this development,
scientists made attempts to define their fields in a mutually exclusive way. Within
the field of linguistics, Saussure did so by claiming a special object of
study, la langue, which, he claimed,
was unattainable for other scientific approaches.
Although the Saussurean terms are forming a
theoretical whole, it could be argued that especially one is a constituting
basis of structuralism, namely the arbitrarity
of the sign (cf. Steffensen 2000). The arbitrarity
of the sign is indeed a crucial constituting factor in the structuralist
view of language as a self-contained closed system of linguistic signs.
Within the linguistics of
this 21st century there are several hyphenated linguistic
disciplines, all descending from the Saussurean inheritance. But there is one
remarkable exception, and that is ecolinguistics.
Ecolinguistics is an umbrella term which covers a rich diversity of
theoretical approaches (cf. Fill 1996). In this context we find it more
fruitful to draw the attention to the similarities of the diverse ecolinguistic
approaches than to the differences. Following Haugens definition according
to which ecolinguistics is the study of interactions between any given
language and its environment (Haugen 1972:325) the environmental
constitution of language is an important research field of ecolinguistics. This
means, in our point of view, that structural linguistics and ecological
linguistics are incompatible, since
the former denies the very theoretical (or axiomatic) starting point of the
latter. Furthermore, we suggest that a recognition and discussion of the
different approaches to the environmental constitution of language is crucial
for maintaining and developing ecolinguistics as a forum of friendly and democratic
dialogues. It is fundamentally undemocratic to exclude the study of language
from public discussion by claiming that other persons than linguists do not
even know what the true questions regarding language really are.
Dialectical Linguistics, or The
Odense School of Ecolinguistics (developed by Jørgen Chr. Bang & Jørgen
Døør since the 1970s, and within The ELI
Research Group: Ecology Language Ideology since 1990), we consider
language to be a constitutive and constituted part of a social praxis: Language is a social product of human activities,
but at the same time language changes or modifies the human activity and the
social praxis. This means that there is a dialectical
 between language and social praxis.
In our point of view, the social praxis is the dominating and language the
dominated individuality of this dialectical relation, since
a social praxis without language is a logical possibility, but language without
a social praxis is historically and logically impossible: The former is utopian, the
latter is atopian (cf. Bang & Døør 1990:5).
relationship between language and social praxis means that the scientific
investigation of language at the same time is a scientific investigation of our
social praxis. And it means that a theory of language is also a theory of
social praxis. This goes for all (linguistic) theories, whether they
acknowledge it or not. The democratic implication of such a view is that
language studies are the matter of everyone interested, not reserved for a
The three-dimensionality of the social praxis
Dialectical Linguistics is characterized by (i) explicating the axiological and political implications of our (and
others) doing linguistics, and by (ii) formulating our linguistic theories in
relation to an explicit dialectical theory of the social praxis historically
and transhistorically (cf. Døør 1998). Two important aspects of our dialectical
theory are (i) the Core Contradictions
and (ii) the three-dimensionality of the
social praxis. In this presentation we focus on the latter which we present
by quoting Bang & Døørs Dialogue
Model (Bang & Døør 1995:47):
The three-dimensionality of the social praxis
can readily be seen as Bang & Døørs, or the Odense Schools, theoretical
frame or basis of understanding and explaining the environmental
constitution of language.
The three dimensions are dialectically
determined and determing. The three logical dimensions are interrelated historical
and dynamic systems of recurrent invariances, patterns and tendencies (cf. Døør
1998:65). The ideo-logical dimension
is about our individual and collective mental, cognitive, ideological and
psychic systems. The socio-logical
dimension is about the ways we organize our interrelations in order to maintain
a collectivity of individuals, whether these individuals love each other (eg.
in a family and between friends), know each other (eg. between neighbours or in
a tribe) or are strangers to each other (eg. in political systems, like a
region, a state or the EEC). The bio-logical
dimension is about our biological collectivity and our coexistance with other
species (animals, plants, soil, oceans, microorganisms, macroorganisms etc.)
within Gaia or outside of Gaia.
No phenomenon is mono-logical or
mono-dimensional, according to our dialectical theory. Our way of breathing is not just determining our
bio-logical being and well-being, but also our mental and social well being
(cf. the breathing exercises within all kinds of meditation). Capitalism is not just a specific
socio-logical order of production, distribution and consumption within and
between social classes. It is also a specific ideo-logical configuration of
capitalist ideologemes like more is better, growth through production,
competitiveness, profit and the like. Also it is a specific bio-logical
configuration of exploitation, pollution and ecological unsustainability.
This three-dimensionality of the social praxis
means that also language is a
three-dimensional entity in a social praxis. Therefore linguistics needs to describe language in these three dimensions. Structuralism described language only as
an individual and collective ideo-logical phenomenon. One of the greatest
predecessors of our dialectical tradition, the Marxist linguist V.N. Voloinov
(cf. Marxism and the Philosophy of
Language, 1930/1973) described language as a purely socio-logical
 On this point we disagree with as well the structuralist tradition as
In our opinion, ecolinguistics is the study of the interrelations of bio-, socio-
and ideo-logical dimensions of language. The ecological well-being of Gaia
and the mental and social well-being of mankind go hand in hand. Therefore our
efforts in favour of ecological sustainability and ecolinguistics are
inseparable from our critique of the capitalist and bureaucratic societies and
1. Why Morphology?
society are inseparable. This means that normal science (cf. Kuhn 1962, Sjørup
Simonsen 2000) inevitably must be compatible with the dominant ideology of
society in order to obtain economical support from Gemeinschafte and Gesellschafte.
We have chosen to work with the concept of morphology
for two reasons. First, because the discipline of morphology possesses a central position in traditional linguistics,
which means that traditional morphology
is inscribed in or compatible with an ideology which is a part of the
ecological crisis. Second, because morphology
touches upon central linguistic questions like the individual and collective
creation and creativity of language.
We ask the question
whether it is possible to create and develop an Ecological Morphology or Ecomorphology
that makes us become more aware of our environmental problems. This we do in
the same way as Bang & Døør on the ecolinguistic section of AILA 1993 in
Amsterdam suggested a radical
approach to the ethical dimension of
the ecological crisis:
One part of the research community tries to
handle the serious ethical problematic of our ecological crisis by applying
traditional and well-established ethical theories and concepts to ecological
of the research community has realized that traditional ethics is part of the
problematic and are co-producers of ecological contradictions and dilemmas.
Therefore, what is needed is a fresh approach to ethics and the ethical
dimension of the ecological crisis. (Bang
& Døør 1995b:36)
The axiological and methodological
implication of this point of view is that we must make a radical
re-interpretation of what morphology
reach our attempt to formulate an ecological morphology, we will quote five
traditional linguistic definitions of morphology.
Within the Danish Dialectical Linguistics, we often
refer to the encyclopedic writings of David Crystal because they have a
canonical status of presenting social
sense definitions of linguistic terms. This is Crystals definition of
morphology and of a morpheme:
morphology (gram) The study of word
structure, esp. in terms of morphemes. [
(gram) The smallest contrastive unit
of grammar. (Crystal 1998:432)
We might add that Crystal defines contrast as Any formal difference that
serves to distinguish meaning in a language. (Crystal 1998:424).
2. One of the best over-all treatments of morphology is probably P.H.
Matthews Morphology (1974, 2nd ed. 1991). This book is part of
the Cambridge textbooks in linguistics-series, which gives it a canonical
status within linguistics. Matthews defines morphology in this way:
Morphology, therefore, is simply a term for
that branch of linguistics which is concerned with the forms of words in
different uses and constructions. (Matthews 1991:3)
] we can say that morphology is, briefly, the branch of grammar that deals with the
internal structure of words. (Matthews 1991:9)
3. In (one of) the newest handbook(s) of morphology, The Handbook of
Morphology (1998), the editors, Andrew Spencer & Arnold M. Zwicky, open
their Introduction with this proclamation:
Morphology is at the conceptual centre of
linguistics. This is not because it is the dominant subdiscipline, but because morphology
is the study of word structure, and words are at the interface between
phonology, syntax and semantics. (Spencer & Zwicky 1998:1; our italics,
4. Also Saussure himself offers us some thoughts on morphology.
Naturally, what he has to say about morphology is coloured by the philologism
of the contemporary academic milieus. When Saussure in Cours claims that Linguistiquement, la morphologie na pas dobjet
réel et autonome; elle ne peut constituer une discipline distincte de la
syntaxe (Saussure 1916/1973:186), he is merely alluding to the isolated
paradigms of declination (puer, puerum, etc.) and conjugation (sum, es,
est, etc.). But elsewhere Saussure
actually does define morphology, namely in a manuscript from ca. 1894-1895
which is quoted in Robert Godels A
Geneva School Reader in Linguistics (Bloomington & London 1969). Here
La morphologie est la science qui traite des unités
de son correspondant à une partie de lidée, et du groupement de ces unités.
] Le vrai nom de la morphologie serait: la théorie des signes, et non des
formes. (Godel 1969:28)
5. Finally, we present one of the great Danish linguists, Viggo
Brøndal (1887-1942). Brøndal was not directly a part of the Copenhagen School
of Hjelmslev (actually they couldnŽt stand each other!), but in many ways his
thoughts were quite close to those of the contemporary strucuralists. His
definition of morphology is (in Danish and in our translation):
Morfologi, i vid Forstand
defineret som Logisk Systematik, betragter udelukkende Ordenes indre Form,
Kategorier og Systemer, men ikke deres Combinationer. (Brøndal 1932:8)
Morphology, defined in its broadest sense as Logical Systematism,
considers exclusively the inner form, categories and systems of the words,
but not the combinations of these. (Brøndal 1932:8; our translation, jb&ss)
We identify three main problems in these
definitions of morphology and explicitly or implicitly of morphemes. These
problems are (i) The problem of
meaningfulness, (ii) The problem of
relationality and (iii) The problem
of smallest unit. We discuss these three points in 2-4.
2. Meaning in Ecolinguistics
The problem of meaningfulness is for instance seen in Crystals
definition. His definition of the morpheme isolates the notion of meaningfulness from our human
experiences with what makes sense. Crystal does not ask the question: What
makes sense and how does it make sense?
We get a hint of the answers to these questions
if we just for a second consider the etymology of the word morpheme. Etymologically, morpheme constitutes and is constituted
by the morphemes morph- and ema. morph- means form-, and -ema is used in greek nominalized verbs, and indicates what is
remaining after a given action. The structuralist use of the suffix -eme seems to ignore this processual
background, thus leaving the -emes at any given level as an ahistorical and
de-personalized distinctive unit or element. An ecolinguistic definition should
be based on the processual forming
and creation of meaningfulness. To
For a person speaking his native tongue, a word
[or, a morpheme; jb&ss] presents itself not as an item of vocabulary but as
a word that has been used in a wide variety of utterances by co-speaker A,
co-speaker B, co-speaker C and so on, and has been variously used in the
speakers own utterances. (Voloinov 1973:70)
Thus, a morpheme definition must take its
starting point in the dialogical reality of fluent speech. As human beings we
were capable of communicating already in the uterus (Bang 1987). When we were
born we continued developing this capacity by crying, moving, making facial
expressions etc. Later we started cooing and babbling, and later again we
started uttering words and sentences. And all the time we developed our
awareness of actions and utterances of our parents, brothers, sisters and
others. Through this growing awareness we noticed differences and similarities
of their speech, and our awareness of these differences and similarities
depended on our way of sensing the rhythmes of language or the melody of
language and the rhymes of texts, words and parts of words. We did not
perform structuralist commutation tests,
we heard the melody of our mother tongue.
It was our co-creative re-productions of these
differences and similarities that led us to our own speech. It was our acts of
interpreting, re-producing and re-creating rhymes and rhythmes that made us
able to distinguish those parts of our familys speech that made sense in
relation to a particular situation. And at the same time we learned that the
recurring patterns in their speech depended on the situations and intentions of
their speaking. This is how we first found out about morphemes not as independent building blocks in the construction
of a sentence, but as concrete individualities in the creation of meaning. In a
sense we met the complete utterance as a textual whole or as an individuality
with an understandable meaning, depending on and derived from the
situation. But we soon became aware of smaller individualities which made sense
within the utterance. We performed acts of natural linguistic analysis and
creativity, thus creating and developing our own speech. Morphemes are produced
and consumed as individualities that are dialectically constituted by and
constituting an utterance in a dialogue.
In order to
distinguish the significance of the utterance from the significance of the
smaller individualities of the utterance, Voloinov talked about theme and meaning:
Let us call the significance of a whole
utterance its theme. [...] The theme
of an utterance itself is individual and unreproducible, just as the utterance
itself is individual and unreproducible. [
] By meaning [...] we understand all
those aspects of the utterance that are reproducible
and self-identical in all instances
of repetition. [
] Theme is the upper,
actual limit of linguistic significance; [...] Meaning is the lower limit of linguistic significance.
We widely agree with Voloinov, although
we do not consider morphemes to be self-identical
in all instances of repetition. Identity is always situational and there is
thus no absolute self-identity, but only more or less identical textual
phenomena, produced and consumed by human beings. It follows from this that a reproduction is not an identical copy or repetition, but a situational re-creation of those textual
phenomena we have experienced.
A dialectical morpheme
comments lead us to suggest a dialectical or ecolinguistic definition of the
Definition. Morphemes are rhythmical and rhymic identifiable textual individualities
which: (i) Are constituted by and constituting a textual whole (text,
utterance, sentence, word). (ii) Are creatively formed, co-formed and
con-formed individualities in a dialogue situation (socio-, bio- and
ideo-logical). (iii) Are individualities in our cognitive and bodily
configurations of knowledge and memory and thus recreatable in a dialogue
situation (bio-, socio- and ideo-logical).
The forming, co-forming and con-forming
of morphemes as parts or shares of dialogical utterances are always
situational and personal. The morphemic forming
is an act of the text producer (S1 or the speaker). The co-forming is an collective act of all
subjects present in the communication situation (S1, S2
and S3). And the con-forming
is the subjects uttering of that social and cultural order that to a certain
degree pre-organizes our linguistic actions. We emphasize that linguistic
actions have two interdependent dimensions: Form and content. We reproduce a
certain meaning by reproducing a certain form. Our linguistic forming,
co-forming and con-forming of form is our forming, co-forming and con-forming
When we learn our mother tongue we
(unconsciously) internalize a social and cultural order (cf. Døør 1998:42). In
our modern Western societies, we generally internalize different aspects of a
capitalist and unecological way of living, thinking and communicating. This
internalization is inevitable. In our living, thinking and communicating we can
more or less support or non-support (trans-form or con-firm) the internalized
social and cultural order. We do not learn our mother tongue once and for all,
but in a lifelong creative, co-creative and con-creative process. Therefore we
always have a possibility of changing
our way of living, thinking and communicating but this takes thorough
of the internalization process are both those who (knowingly and unknowingly)
internalize and those who (knowingly and unknowingly) utter the social and
cultural order as the neutral background for our living, thinking and
communicating. We are all subjects of internalization processes as loving
and caring parents and as teachers, examiners and scientists.
We consider it to be a task for ecolinguists to
promote healthy ways of becoming aware of these internalization processes. Being
aware is the only way of identifying the subjects and interests at work in a
given situation. Without this awareness we are confronted with the anonymous third, ie. a cultural and
societal order that presents itself (sic!) as-if it was neutral and objective.
In the third point of our definition we propose
that we know or remember morphemes in order to recreate them. This knowledge or
memory is as well cognitive as bodily, because our experiences are as well cognitive as bodily.
 At the same time our knowledge or memory is situational. We do not remember atomized units,
waiting to be used in utterances. We remember parts/shares of situations (and
probably also our mood and feelings in that situation), and we recreate these
shares in our present situation. And sometimes we forget such shares,
especially if we rarely use them. We tend to forget perlocutionary rather
3. Relationality in
All of the
structural definitions quoted in 1.1. have one thing in common: They only treat
the inner relations of the word, and this they do in isolation from
all other textual and contextual phenomena. Two key terms in structural
morphology therefore seems to be: Word
and Internality. In these definitions
there is an implicit claim that the word can be isolated from other textual
aspects, and that inner relations can
be isolated from other types of relations.
We disagree with such an explanation. We
consider every individuality (ie. person, group, word, text, etc.) to exist in
three relational dimensions: Intra-relationality, inter-relationality and
extra-relationality. Intra-relations are relations within the individuality. Inter-relations
are relations between an individuality and other individualities of the same
kind or species. Extra-relations are relations between an individuality and
other individualities of other kinds or species.
Our starting point in our linguistic analyses
is always texts in dialogues. When we work with textual phenomena, our theoretical basis for a description of
relationality is the Triple Model of
Reference. This model was produced by Jørgen Chr. Bang and Jørgen Døør
together with Harry Perridon, Amsterdam University in 1990 (Bang & Døør
1990:30). The Triple Model describes
(1) the traditional term for referential parts of a text (Dimension of
reference), (2) the relationality of the referential part of the text ie.
inter-/intra-/extra-relationality (Dominating reference) and (3) what the
part of the text refers to, ie. whether the referred-to is cotextual, intextual, or contextual. The Triple Model is
Triple Model of Reference
C-prod = the
context of the producer(s)
C-comm = the
context of the communicator(s)
C-cons = the
context of the consumer(s)
C-derivated = the
context of the recontextualizer(s)
it could be added that the inter-textual reference is primarily a semantic category, the intra-textual
reference primarily a syntactic
category, and the extra-textual reference primarily a pragmatic category. This means that our description of the
inter-textuality of morphemes is primarily a semantic description or a
description of morphological semantics.
Similar points go for the intra- and extra-textuality (respectively morphological syntax and morphological pragmatics).
Traditional definitions of morphology are
incompatible with these relational principles, since there is no such notion as
extra-textuality in traditional morphology, only the intra-textual function of
morphemes is acknowledged. We suggest that an ecolinguistic morphology takes
all three kinds of relationality into consideration.
Haugens definition of ecolinguistics is
primarily concerned with the extra-relations of language, and indeed that is
exactly what structural linguistics and morphology has ignored. But Haugen does
not in his definition of ecolinguistics take into account that the
extra-relationality of language (ie. the environmental interactions) changes
the intra- and inter-relationality of language. Seen from our dialectical point
of view, ecolinguistics is the study of intra-, inter- and extra-relations and
of the relations between these relations.
In the following we shall shortly comment on
the inter-, intra- and extra-textual function of morphemes.
The inter-textual function of the morpheme
We start with the inter-textual function of the
morpheme because we already have touched on that subject in 2. It is one of the
most crucial and beautiful things about language that it is learnable for each new generation. Indeed,
there would be no language if our children could not consume it and (re)produce
it. Language is not a closed circuit between two homogenous adults, and
therefore Saussures circuit de la
parole and for that sake Chomskys theories are not theories on
language, but on calculations of language.
words have an ideo-logical existence for us (we know them, can produce and
consume them), because they first have had a socio-logical existence for us (we
have heard them in a dialogical situation in a social praxis).
 The sustainability of language depends on this ability of the language
producers and consumers to remember and to reproduce language. The relation between our
consumption of language in one situation, our memory and our re-production in
another situation is an inter-relation between the linguistic phenomena in
the two situations. In our morpheme definition we understood the linguistic
memory as a morphemic memory, ie. our lexicon as a morphemic
lexicon. This is due to our understanding of morphology as a principle of
But we do not just remember morphemes, we do
also remember the situational background of them. Our parents did not use the
same morphemes as our teachers in school, and even if they did we did not
understand them in the same way, because they had different institutional
status. This is what the great ecolinguist Adam Makkai describes (in How does a sememe
mean? (Makkai 1993:208-231)), as a sememic
difference between psychosememes, cognosememes and technosememes (cf. Makkai 1993:230). We would like to add that
this sememic difference is due to the situational and social environment of our
experiences with these sememes or morphemes, and not due to specific sememic,
morphemic or cognitive proportions.
Everytime we produce or
consume textual shares, ie. morphemes, in a dialogue situation, we reproduce
semantic meaning that is non-identical with the meaning of the same morphemes
in another situation. But even though there is a non-identity between these
morphemes in different dialogue situations, the meaning and form of a morpheme
is more or less constant in different situations, just as all situations have
some general proportions in common.
 So our semantics has a general dimension, the situational and textual
constancy, and a specific dimension, the situational and textual variability.
At the same time meaning
can be more or less common for a community. Meaning is at the same time shared
between the individualities in a community and individual for each member of
the community. In other words, we operate with a universal semantic dimension
and a particular semantic dimension. These two dimensions are the constituting
axes of the dialectical Semantic Matrix
that Jørgen Chr. Bang & Jørgen Døør formulated in Bang & Døør
1990. In the Semantic Matrix
they constitute four semantic fields that all are simultaneously present in
every text: The Social Sense, the Social Import, the Individual Meaning and the Personal
Significance (For further explanations, see Bang & Døør 1990:14ff.).
The semantic Matrix
Some shares of our speech are morphemes
in a more social sense, and some shares are morphemes in some persons
individual meaning but not in others. Here we disagree with those
structuralists, who say that a given utterance always have the same morphemes.
We say that it depends on the situation and on what the participants of the
dialogue consider to be morphemes in the utterance and in the dialogue.
Finally, one important
bio-logical phenomenon is at work in the inter-textual function of the
morpheme: We must be able to remember morphemes, and morphemes must be easily
reproduced. It is a healthy ecological principle that those words we use most
(eg. the personal pronouns I, you, he,
she, it, we, my etc.) are one-syllabic, and technical
terms (eg. psychosememes) are
The extra-textual function
of the morpheme
always produced in a social praxis, and therefore every dialogue, every text
and every part/share of a text are related to the dialogue situation. This
relation between text and situation is extremely complex. We try to recognize
at least three dimensions of extra-textual reference: A deictic dimension, a modal
dimension and a metaphoric dimension.
vDeixis is a key term in
dialectical linguistics. Bang & Døør have now through three decades
investigated and explained the social raison
dêtre of texts and dialogues, and this they have primarily done through
thorough analyses of deictic phenomena. We quote the newest deixis definition
made by Bang & Døør:
Deixis A category used to subsume features of languages which indicate
personal, objectical, and medial;
topical (i.e. temporal-locational
logical,(iv) modal, and (v)
lexical characteristics of
the text-context-discourse, or
the dialogue-situation, and
form of life/praxis within which an utterance takes place and has its life,
whose MEANINGS are dialectically determined by praxis. (Bang & Døør
Traditionally, deixis is exemplified with
such words as I/you/he (personal
deixis), now/then (temporal deixis) and here/there,
this/that (locational or spatial deixis). But also indications of the
logical, modal and lexical configuration of the text and situation are deictic
phenemona, because there is no such thing as universal logics. The logical and
modal configuration of a text is just as sensitive to the situation as the
personal configuration is: Compare these two sentences: If we want welfare goods, then we need to produce them, and unfortunately that results in pollution. And: If we want welfare goods, then we must produce them so it does not result in pollution. The different situational and modal
configuration in these sentences become obvious if we ask, whether the two
sentences could have been rationally uttered by the same person? If not so, is
then the category of logics and modality not as situationally determined (and
determining) as that of person, place and time?
vModality is also a
traditionally well described category of linguistics, cf. Lyons 1977. When we
use this term in relation to the extra-textual reference of a share of a text,
we imply a wider use of the term. Modality
can be defined as the attitudes of the communicating subjects towards the
dialogue and its (co-)subjects and objects. When we communicate we do not just
convey information; we rationally and emotionally relate ourselves to what we
say and hear. Bang & Døør operate with the
principle of dialectical description and indication, according to which
every description and any indication is always-also at the same time a
self-descrption and self-indication.(Bang & Døør 1998:28). When I describe
the capitalist system, I also describe how I relate myself to it, rationally
and emotionally. Every utterance and every part of an utterance has a
specific and dynamic modality.
The modal aspect of our utterances can be exemplified by the prefix un-. un- implicates that something referred to by the stem of the word,
is negated, eg. in words like undeveloped
and uncontrolled. Thereby the
producer of such prefixes operates with a yardstick for the valuation of the described.
When we refer to certain countries as undeveloped,
we (i) use the conditions of the developed (ie. Western) world as a yardstick
for our comparison, and we (ii) maintain that the comparison is in favour of
the Western world. Such a geopolitical classification has a bias which directs
the political actions of those who accept this term as their descriptive basis. In the same way something uncontrolled is suspicious. This is a
modality that for sure is in accordance with the Western, capitalist urge to
vMetaphor is defined by
Lakoff & Johnson: The essence of metaphor is understanding and
experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another (Lakoff & Johnson
1980:5). This another is defined by our particular social praxis, and the
metaphoric dimension of extra-textuality is hence a question of establishing an
experiental interpretation of the actual situation.
A morpheme that is prototypical for
the metaphoric aspects of morphemes is the germanic suffix *-lika- which means like. In English, the suffix is -ly (as in friend-ly), in Danish it is
-lig (as in ven-lig), and in German
it is -lich (freundlich). Together with the root this morpheme constitutes an
adjective that can be used in a nominal syntagma. In such cases, the substantive
of the syntagma is experienced and understood in the same way as we normally
experience and understand the root in the adjective. A friendly foreigner is
a foreigner that behaves like friends normally do.
is a certain degree of coherence in our world view and in the way we talk about
this world. The deictic, metaphoric and modal aspects of the morphemes we use
indicate our systems of knowledge and belief. Therefore we can criticize our
ideological and social praxis by examining morphemes. Furthermore we can put
forward alternative formulations and actions and thereby we can trans-form or
con-firm certain socio-, bio- and ideological praxises.
The intra-textual function
of the morpheme
So far, we
have treated morphology in a way that pretty much resembles a general theory of
the linguistic sign. The extra-textual function was to indicate (to deixis)
those situational entities referred to. And the inter-textual function was to
predicate something about the situational indicated entities. But what is the
intra-textual function of morphemes?
Instead of merely pointing at him and her,
we can due to our inter-textual habits predicate something about their
relation: He loves her or she loves him. This is where the intra-textual
function comes in. The intra-textual
function of a morpheme is to explicate the relations between textual (deictic
or lexical) entities, thus explicating the extra-textual relations of the deictic
or lexical indicated entities, as seen from the speakers (S1s)
point of view.
In some environments a
morpheme has a predominantly extra- and interrelational function, while it has
a predominantly intrarelational function in other. Certain morphemes have a
tendency to have one dominant relational function, regardless of the
environment. Eg. in the sentence That is
Peters hat: In most situations and environments, that has a dominant extratextual (ie. deictic) function, pointing
to an object well known in the dialogue situation. Peter and hat have
dominant inter- and extratextual functions, referring to a person and an
object, probably known to the participants of the dialogue. Finally, the -s has a dominant intra-textual
function, explicating the relation between Peter
and hat. Of course this intratextual
function is only possible due to inter- and extratextual experiences with
language production and consumption. The last morpheme, is is a relator,
relating the deictic that to the lexical explanation of what that is.
 Again it is important to underline that we have so much situational
knowledge that we readily would understand a statement like That Peter hat.
In relation to the
referential function of a word like Peters,
the stem Peter is the dominant
core, while the inflectional morpheme is an adhesive phenomenon. But in
relation to the the syntagmatic
constitution of the utterance, the inflectional morpheme is the dominant core,
while the stem is the adhesive phenomenon. As Jørgen Chr. Bang puts it:
In a more semantic sense the former is the
core, while the latter is the core in a more syntactic sense, while they
pragmatically stick together as a dialectical unity, where the dominancy is
historically changing and changeable. (Bang 1995:16; our translation,
We found it reasonable to distinguish
between some morphemes that prototypically are more semantic (ie. lexemic) and some that prototypically are more
syntactic (ie. inflectional). Furthermore we operate with a medio-class of
semantico-syntactic morphemes, namely the derivational
morphemes. Between a pair of words like friend and friendly there is as
well a semantic difference as a syntactic difference. Semantically, we use such
a derivation to change the reference from a person (the friend) to a specific
way of behaving (the man is friendly). Syntactically, we use this derivation
to incorporate a predicate into the sentential subject (thus creating a new
individuality, the friendly man), so we can relate another predicate to the
new individuality: the friendly man is an outstanding ecolinguist.
According to our
definition of the intra-textual function of a morpheme, we operate with a
function of relational explication. This
implies that we understand morphology on a par with certain syntactic
phenomena. If we for instance have four textual entities, Eve, Adam,
apple and to give, then we could morphologically (eg. through casus)
explicate the textual and contextual relations (like in Latin), or we could do
so syntactically: Eve gave Adam the apple. From their situational and
linguistic experiences, most people will interpret such a sentence in a way
that implies that Eve started having the apple, and Adam got the apple from
her, and not the other way round. Another possible syntactic organisation of
the same referentiel entities is Eva gave the apple to Adam. Here we use
another relator (to) to explicate
the textual and contextual relations between the refered-to entities.
It is a crucial part of a morphological
analysis to find out how the morphological, syntactical and prosodic
organisation of the textual features explicate the situational relations
explicated by the text. Do morphology, syntax and prosody co-operate or do
they indicate different situational conjunctures? And how is such a textual
organisation determined by the situation and how does it determine the
situation? These are questions of textual and situational awareness.
4. Micro-morphology in Ecolinguistics
problem we identified in relation to the structuralist definitions of morphology
was the problem of smallest unit. According to these, the
morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in language. Smaller textual units,
like phonemes, do not mean anything.
We doubt that this is so. If language is at the same time of a
socio-, bio- and ideological nature, then
the bodily or biological forming of sounds (phonemes) is interconnected
with a certain ideo- and sociological conjuncture. Certain sounds are related
to certain feelings, moods, experiences etc., cf. the Hindu tradition of
phonetics (eg. Paninis Astadhyayi).
This means that sounds to a certain degree can be treated as having a meaning. With
Jørgen Chr. Bang, we term these meaningful phenomena micro-morphemes. Of course the meaning of a morpheme cannot be seen
as some sum of micromorphemic meaning. The micro-morphemes M, O, TH, E
and R cannot be added up to a resulting morpheme mother. From the micro-
to the meso-level there is a qualitative difference.
Roman Jakobson has worked with these phenomena
in his article Why MAMA and PAPA? According to him, George Peter Murdoch
has examined 1.072 words for mother and father in a number of non-related
languages. Murdoch has shown that these languages (or rather, the producers and
consumers of them) have developed similar words for father and mother on the
basis of nursery forms (Jakobson 1971:538). For example 55% of the words for
mother include the sounds [m], [n] and [ng], while only 15% of the words for
father include these consonant classes. This is, as Jakobson points out, no
coincidence. The nasal murmur is the only sound that the child can produce
while sucking his or her mothers breast. Jakobson argues that this sound is
associated to the mother, to food, to satisfaction and other wishes. The
problem for Jakobson is of course the structuralist axiom of arbitrarity. Jakobson
must maintain that phonemes are meaningless, and therefore he restricts these
arguments to this particular area of human life.
But in our dialectical theory of language we do
not operate with an axiom of arbitrarity. It makes good sense to maintain that
[m], [n] and [ng] has a socio- and ideological meaning because of some natural
bio-logical basis. No linguistic phenomenon is mono-logical. Different
languages have different conjunctures of logics. So it is not necessarily a
falsification of a micro-morphological theory that some languages do not have
the exact same conjunture of the same bio-, socio and ideo-logics.
Jørgen Chr. Bang has worked with these
linguistic phenomena, and he focuses his attention on what from an ecological
point of view seems to be our basic words, such as deictic words, pronouns,
strong verbs etc. Further research must be done within this field. In our point
of view, this is an important question of the ecological constitutedness of
language and thus an important question within ecolinguistics.
Besides the micro- and meso-morphemes, we also
work with macro-morphemes. These are
morphemes bigger than the word, ie. phrases.
An instance of a macro-morpheme is so to say; we use such an expression as an
individuality, we do not form it of the morphemes so, to and say. Our
linguistic perceptions and conceptions are dynamical, and therefore we do not
have one level of linguistic memory. Our linguistic memory consists of a
dynamical and dialectical whole of micro-, meso- and macro-morphemes, organised
individually as well as collectively in different relations of dominance. With
one expression, we refer to micro-, meso- and macro-morphemic individualities
as morphemic fields.
5. Implications of an
To show the
implications of the morphological theory we have put forward in this paper, we
will analyse (a part of) a text. Doing dialectical linguistics, it is vital not
to constrain a linguistic analysis to textual phenomena, but to gain an insight
in our social praxis through analysis of a living communication. This is an
axiological sine qua non of our
We propose a method of investigating the
morphological features of this text. It consists of five methodological rules
that might give us an insight in texts, on the basis of a morphological
the inter-, intra- and extra-textual functions of some vital and interesting
(micro-/meso-/macro‑)morphemes in the text.
key morphemes, ie. morphemes with a
vital deictic and/or lexemic function.
the relations between key morphemes
and other morphemes, syntactic structures (sic!) and prosodic features (or in
written texts the graphemic organisation).
the situational relations of the subject and objects in the dialogue situation
with the texual relations of morphemes, syntax and prosody.
and criticise the implications of the text, ie. the conditions of its
production and consumption (cf. Bang & Døør 1988:15).
We exemplify this method through an
analysis of a text taken from a well-known introduction to the linguistic field
of psycholinguistics, namely Jean
Aitchisons book The Articulate Mammal
An introduction to psycholinguistics, London & N.Y.: Routledge 1998, 4th
edition, pp. 83-84:
We focus on
the quoted conversation between Lisa and Chomsky, and we use Chomskys and
Aitchisons interpretation of the text as a basis for a comparison between
their and our analyses. Through this comparison we will suggest some vital
axiological and methodological differences between an ecological and
strucuralist analysis. We present an alternative to the They understand them,
but they understand them wrongly-attitude, namely a situational understanding
in which Lisas understanding is understandable. Thus, we prefer to ask: How
and why do the linguist and the child understand a given sentence differently?
The starting point of our
analysis is Chomskys first line: is
this doll easy to see or hard to see? We analyse according to R1 and R2
in the matrix below. The identification of relevant and/or interesting
morphemes is always a question of topos
and interests. In our analysis of this sentence we work with eight morphemic fields, as indicated in the
matrix. Some of these morphemic fields have an obvious and necessary deictic
function, indicating time and topic of the conversation (cf. Extra-text
below). All morphemic fields have meaning,
which we express through the semantic matrix: What is the social sense and the
individual meanings involved? The social sense is quoted from Websters Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary
of the English Language (N.Y. 1996), and the individual meanings of the
linguist, Chomsky, and the child, Lisa, are our creative reconstructions. The
intra-textual functions indicate a sketch of our dialectical analysis.
R3: We should now identify the relations
between the key morphemes and the rest of the text. We see two reasons for
Lisas interpretation: First, the verbal extension to see is usually related
to a subject and an object. Lisas and Chomskys understanding of the question
differs on whether the doll is interpreted as the subject or the object for to
see. Second, Chomsky forms her sentence as a question, ie. as an 2.pers.
modality (I ask you answer), but there is no 2.pers. pronoun (you) in the
sentence she starts with the verbal relator is and forms the sentence in a
3.pers. modality. The you as subject is not explicated. Chomsky interprets
this doll as object (and Lisa as subject) of the sentence. Lisa, on the
contrary, interprets the only nominal entity in the sentence, this doll, as
subject not just in relation to the unstressed verbal relator, but also in
relation to to see. Furthermore Lisa does not hear the implicit you she
reacts on the explicit 3.pers. modality.
R4: Why is this so? It
might be a point and it is for as well Chomsky as for Aitchison that Lisa
is not yet familiar with the interpretation of the syntactic forming of the
passive voice. But seen in a situational context, Lisas answer is perfectly
understandable. What is the relation between this and doll? This
indicates that the doll is wellknown, it is visible for the dialogue
partners. In such a situation it must seem quite strange to Lisa to be asked
whether she can see this doll that is perfectly visible to both of them.
A matrix of morphemic functions R1
Maybe, in such a situation, she chooses
the only interpretation that makes sense: To interpret the question as regarding
the dolls ability to see. That is even a quite relevant question since the
doll is blindfolded. In other words, Lisa answers as if Chomsky were an
interested fellow human being with whom she can create a sensitive and
R5: In relation to an
abstract linguistic system, maybe Lisa understands Chomskys question wrongly. But
the proces of understanding is a creative one maybe especially for children
who do not have that many linguistic experiences as grown-ups. Lisa is used to
grown-ups that she can trust, and pragmatically she might expect Chomsky to be
wise enough not to ask silly questions. Thus Lisa lets her pragmatic
expectations overrule her semantic experiences. As she has done so often, she
uses her new pragmatic experiences as a background for extending the semantic
field of the utterance in question: To see must be an act of the doll and not
of me. So in relation to the situation she makes the only sensitive
interpretation. And we notice that Chomsky actually confirms Lisas interpretation: She does not deny it (No, she is
not hard to see, I can see her, and so can you!), she accepts Lisas
interpretation as a premise of her next question (Will you make her easy to
see?). After all, maybe Lisas answer is not wrong she answers exactly what
the linguist expects her to answer. Chomsky does not cooperate in the process
of making sense, and thus she excludes herself as an interested partner in a
vital dialogue. Thus, in the dialogue there are deictic references to Lisa, the
doll and the blindfold but not once to the linguist. If Chomsky really wanted
to know whether Lisa could see the doll, it would make much more sense to ask
Can you see this doll? Her question is a trick question, and children are not
familiar to that genre before school.
In school they learn to be aware of easy questions and their ulterior
The nominalized verbs
have two functions: First, to implicate subjects (cf. Bundsgaard forthcoming),
and second, as a grammatical metaphor (cf. Halliday 1992). In phrases such as
to a perhaps surprising degree and structures presented to them Aitchison
exclude or implicate some pragmatic subjects. It is for some reason not
nessesary for Aitchison to explicate who
is surprised, and who presents. In
such phrases we see the logics of structuralist science: There are no subjects
influencing the data collection. It does not matter who does the presenting. It does not matter who talks with the child. This kind of objective ie. non-subject-ive acts are the structuralist
yardstick for good data collection.
There are no of the
so-called modal verbs but all verbs indicate a certain modality, thus being
modal verbs and only two modal adverbs (perhaps,
usually) in the text. The verbs are
mainly of a constative kind (we are presenting the facts): The grammar differs, the 5-year-old is not aware, children readily assign etc. The adult linguist
knows the system, and she can judge what parts the child possesses and does
not possess. The linguist proclaims eternal and global (non-context-sensitive)
Finally, we notice
that a child exclusively is referred to as he. The female linguist reproduces
a specific understanding of the sexes, with the masculine being the neutral
gender. As Dale Spender writes: for females, the only semantic space in
English is negative. (Spender 1980:161).
6. Conclusions &
The dialectics of socio-logics,
bio-logics and ideo-logics.
- The dialectics of
intratextuality, intertextuality and extratextuality.
- The dialectics of syntax,
semantics and pragmatics.
- The dialectics of
micro-perspectives, meso-perspectives and macro-perspectives.
- The dialectics of acting,
thinking and communicating.
In our final analysis we realised that
the concept of morphology only makes sense in relation to a syntactic, semantic
and pragmatic analysis (ie. an analysis of intra‑, inter-, and
extra-textual morphemic functions) of the complex relations between a text and
(or: in) a situation. So, on the one hand we might not at all need
ecomorphology as an ecolinguistic subdiscipline: Ecolinguistics is about
language as a whole, ie. in its pragmatic, semantic, syntactic, morphologic,
phonetic, etc. dimensions. On the other hand ecolinguistics is incompatible
with traditional a-situational morphology, because this discipline builds on
the invalidating dichotomy of pure versus applied one thing that
ecolinguistics must never do. It is a vital concern for ecolinguistics to
provide a healthy basis for thinking and communicating about language not
just to apply some traditional linguistic artifacts on a given problematics. We
invite our fellow ecolinguists and other to consider morphology in this light.
So far, linguists have only reflected
differently on language but the point is to refract language.
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