[NetBehaviour] Disordered thinking through the origin of language (I'm in quotation) -

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Tue Sep 5 00:44:27 CEST 2006

Disordered thinking through the origin of language (I'm in quotation) -

... "I know this sounds ridiculous - but I'm on to something. If the body
is hairless, then for example mud or blood will 'stick' to it - be
obvious. Of course this is the beginning of symbolization - it would
appear comical, or different, one person to another - it's a miniscule
step - not even a step - to drawing something on the face, body, etc. So
in this case, I'd bet that writing predates language, or at least the two
were contingent / contiguous in origin. From writing on the body - it's
not difficult to see how signs of that sort would be connected to sounds
by mimesis - even if the original sounds were nothing more than laughing
or crying.

"One possible 'gesture' in this direction - the markings on Acheulian
pebbles... Even if spoken language didn't arise in this fashion, certainly
writing did. (Think of proto-language).

... 'For me it's an originary story much like Freud's of the sons killing
the father - but that remains a fornm of colonialism, assumption that it
is somehow a-culture, that it is abstract from an event in a particular
direction. I think of it as nothing more than perhaps mud or paste acci-
dently in the form of a third eye or smile, something to be imitated;
primates imitate, as do mocking-birds. From this would come the coagulat-
ion of signs, repetitions; laughter would be the first word. With Tran duc
Thao, gesture is out, away from the body, pointing towards the hills -
_this_ is where you hunt, for example, _behind_ the hill, something more
than pointing. But it's the other way around I think - pointing, gestur-
ing, sounding, would be from one to the other. It's only natural that this
would occur, and occur, often, and tend towards culture. Culture is
dependent on memory, on transmission of memory; bird-songs are cultural in
this sense. But in the case of the body, the skin of the body, it becomes
a _sign,_ something which may be written on the body, off the body, in the
sand, on a rock - those pebbles again - etc. What occurs at Lascaux etc.
is peeled _off_ the body.

"I don't think anything 'more' than this is necessary to explain writing
or language per se; spoken language would be a descendent of associated
sounds, I assume beginning with laughter. Empathetic behaviour comes into
play here as well; a wound and its figuration may be imitated as a form of
healing - this relates to shamanism, etc.

"In other words, there is a constellation of behaviours, repetitions,
intensifications, here - not only in the present (as in Lingis for
example) but in the past as originary. And this plays into the writing,
for that matter, that I did in Textbook of Thinking, etc., in which the
obscene is analyzed, plays a role (it plays a role in the obscene itself)
- the obscene and its obscene relation to the skin - think of the obscene
as a form of _pun_ in terms of physiognomy - it has a relationship to
linguistic puns, undermining transmissions through arousals, and so forth.
I think all of this 'fits.'

"As a friend pointed out, human infants have a propensity for babble that
becomes organized (one might say within a linguistic regime and commun-
ality) into languaging; the infant grows 'into' language. I think this
babbling - as well as the plasticity of our vocal cords - developed after
writing, or subsequent but close to, writing - that hairlessness, with
whatever survival value this might have given us - was prior, or that
reading the body as written increased, became culturally instutionalized,
with increasing hairlessness.

"It is not that 'the body is a text'; it is that 'a text is a body.'

"Re: Below - certainly dogs have faces, facial expressions (which may play
into what you say; we should go back and look at Darwin's book on this."


On Mon, 4 Sep 2006, Charles Baldwin wrote in response:

It's not certain to me that animals have faces or they do only because
we have faces. So the human hairless face is the first appearance - both
face as features and other, and also as receptive surface (perhaps then
becoming sand or bark). Comical: because it moves, because it expresses,
because of its familiarity. Then, from this, writing other parts of the
body too - so incisions, tatoos, etc.

A face gets expression and to produce the sound, so there's a kind of
mini-signifying machine there. All other body surfaces are in relation
to it. So, a particular relation between inscription, surface, and

Laughing, crying, moaning, sighing at the origin: these are relations
between very specific and irreducible bodily states and very specific
expressions. They express but they are deep as well.


And later:

Just back from hiking in the Otter Creek Wilderness. It occurs to me
that the written face does not signify but expresses just as rock on
dirt / or a river through a woods / express. I would be as comfortable
saying the rock on the streamside writes face as I would the other way


"As a footnote - this ties directly into the abject - in the sense that
it's dirt, scars, wounds, smears, smudges, scratches, abrasions, feces,
etc. that find their way onto the body - coding - incipient symbolization
- not only tends towards memory and repetition/transmission, but also
towards therapeutic - not that the body is cleansed by language, but that
it's circumscribed (i.e. no longer fissured)."

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