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Revista signos

versión On-line ISSN 0718-0934


TEUBERT, Wolfgang. Writing, hermeneutics, and corpus linguistics. Rev. signos [online]. 2007, vol.40, n.64, pp.431-453. ISSN 0718-0934.

In an oral society, people do not ask: ‘What does this (piece of) text mean?’ but ‘What do you mean?’ With the advent of writing, the text has become dislodged from its author. Now it is the text, and not the author′s intention, which has to be probed. Only writing makes it possible to think about language, and to invent concepts unknown in oral societies, like that of ‘logos’, or, centuries later, that of ‘word’. With writing, meaning becomes an aspect of the (written) text. The frst forms of writing referred to concrete things out there in some discourse-external reality. The frst cuneiform clay tablets were language-independent. This gave rise to the idea that language can be described as a system of signs, signs being material objects standing for other objects. If it were possible to link the sign and the reality in a permanent way, then a manipulation of signs would manipulate reality. This is why the project of a lingua perfecta was attractive over many centuries. Today′s conceptual ontologies still echo this quest for a perfect language. Corpus linguistics views the discourse as an autopoietic system that can be described without reference to some discourse-external reality or to the mental states of the members of the discourse community. Any new contribution to the discourse is analysed as a reaction, assertion, rejection, or interpretation of what has been previously said. If we want to understand what a (piece of) text means, we have to look at the texts to which it, explicitly or implicitly, refers. Hermeneutics is this art of interpreting one text in the light of other texts. Corpus linguistics can help, to some extent, to turn this art into a methodology

Palabras clave : Meaning; hermeneutics; corpus linguistics; orality; writing.

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