Trần Đức Thảo’s Theory of Language Origins

Abstract : Several thinkers and scientists throughout the philosophical and scientific tradition took up the relationship between cooperation, language, and social cognition. Among them, Trần Đức Thảoʼs (1917–1993) deserves a special mention. The purpose of the following research is to introduce the reader to Thảoʼs philosophical reflection on human language and its evolution. We shall attempt to map out the main lines of Thảoʼs theory of language origins set out in his Recherches sur l’origine du langage et de la conscience (1973) that combines philosophy, linguistics, psychology, and anthropology. The discovery of Marxism-Leninism led Thảo to suggest a materialistic and dialectic approach to the mind-body problem. In this way, Thảo tried to suggest a materialist and historical turn of Husserl’s philosophy of consciousness which was at the very heart of his own first philosophical interests. Thảo’s account threw into sharp relief the social nature of both language and cognition, so that language evolution is linked inextricably to social relations. Such a view depended upon the assumption that labour is an exclusively human characteristic which sets humans apart from animals. And the genesis of language is in human labour. In this way of thinking, language develops among both our pre-human ancestors and present humans in response to problems posed by the material life. Bearing in mind that language arises from the social demands and needs of the material world, language is transformed itself as human society changes. And given the social roots of thought and language, consciousness evolves continuously over time. Within this framework, Thảo wanted to determine the nature of language and its role in pre-historical societies and its making through social relations.
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Jacopo d'Alonzo. Trần Đức Thảo’s Theory of Language Origins. Linguistics. Université Sorbonne Paris Cité; Università degli studi La Sapienza (Rome), 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018USPCA096⟩. ⟨tel-02172403⟩

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