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Loquor, ergo communico-cogito-sum

Abstract : In this manuscript, I argue for the hypothesis that language is at the heart of humanity because it serves three major functions: a communicative function, to exchange with our fellow creatures, a cognitive function, to elaborate and structure our thoughts, and a metacognitive function of autonoesis. These three functions are interlinked, each relying on the other two. Communication, thinking and autonoesis form a systemic triad, involving complex interactions, and requiring multiple and sophisticated linguistic forms (phonological, lexical, morphosyntactic and prosodic). Human language in its present diverse shape, results from the combined pressures of communication complexification, thinking elaboration and self-awareness enhancement. Each of these functions can be perturbed, however, endangering the other two. The errors committed by the language the production and perception systems need to be detected and potentially corrected. In addition, the language systems need to distinguish between self-generated and other-generated events. To unfold adequately, the communication-thinking-autonoesis triad requires a cybernetics, i.e. a general control mechanisms, which includes several devices: verbal monitoring and agency attribution. This verbal cybernetics allows for the control of our own verbal flows as well as those of others (during communication), for the monitoring of our inner verbalising (for thinking), and for self- and other-monitoring in our autobiographical narrative constructions (for autonoesis). The first chapter is dedicated to theoretical formalising, and attempts at describing some of the components of this verbal cybernetics. I first provide arguments for the claim that language underlies communication, thinking and autonoesis functions. Then, building on many works in psycholinguistics and neuroscience, I describe the verbal monitoring and agency attribution devices, for each of the three functions, as well as their hierarchical neurocognitive and predictive implementation. Finally, I describe the first building blocks for a neurocomputational formalism aimed at describing the integrated verbal cybernetics that govern the communication-thinking-autonoesis triad. The second chapter provides a description of experimental works carried out with the aim of observing and testing the neurocomputational implementation of some components of the verbal cybernetics. I describe behavioural and neurophysiological data on language production or perception (overt or covert), in adults, in infant or children, and in people with language, hearing, neurological or psychiatric disorders. The third chapter lists a few therapeutic, educative and technological applications of this work, in the domain of general language remediation. The final chapter presents the research program I consider for the future. In terms of theoretical research, I plan to better characterize the neurophysiological substrates of the verbal cybernetics that underlies the communication-thinking-autonoesis triad, in order to build an integrated neurocomputational formalism. In terms of empirical research, I intend to carry on collecting behavioural and neurophysiological data, to support these theoretical propositions. In terms of applications, I consider potential outcomes in the field of language development, remediation or re-education, keeping in mind that it is thanks to language that we can communicate, think and exist.
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Hélène Loevenbruck. Loquor, ergo communico-cogito-sum. Sciences cognitives. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2019. ⟨tel-02461867⟩

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