Talk:Metalanguage

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A 'metalanguage' is a linguistic term for a type of language that can be used to describe (or analyze) (the properties of) another language (or symbolic system).

"Metalanguage" is the technical term in linguistics for any form of language which is used to describe the properties of language.

Roman Jakobson

Roman Jakobson includes the metalingual function in his list of the functions of language.[1]

((More generally, any descriptive discourse such as literary criticism can be said to function as a metalanguage.))

Jacques Lacan

Lacan's first reference to metalanguage comes in 1956, when he echoes Jakobson's view on the metalingual function of all language:

"All language implies a metalanguage, its already a metalanguage of its own register."[2]

In 1956 Jacques Lacan reaffirms Jakobson's view on the metalingual function of all language: "all language implies a metalanguage, its already a metalanguage of its own register."[3]


A few years later, in 1960, he says precisely the opposite, arguing that "no metalanguage can be spoken."[4]

However, in 1960, Lacan states the opposite, arguing that "no metalanguage can be spoken."[5]

What Lacan appears to mean by this remark is that, since every attempt to fix the meaning of language must be done in language, there can be no escape from language, no 'outside'.

This is reminiscent of Heidegger's views on the impossibility of exiting "the house of language."

This also appears similar to the structuralist theme of il n'y a rien hors du texte ('there is nothing outside the text'), but it is not the same; Lacan does not deny that there is a beyond of language (this beyond is the real), but he does argue that this beyond is not of a kind that could finally anchor meaning.

There is, in other words, no transcendental signified, no way that language could "tell the truth about truth."[6]

The same point is also expressed in the phrase; "there is no Other of the Other."[7]

If the Otheer is the guarantee of the coherence of the subject's discourse, then the falsity of this guarantee is revealed by the fact that the guarantor himself lacks such a guarantee.

In a clinical context, this means that there is no metalanguage of the transference, no point outside the transference from which it could be finally interpreted and "liquidated."

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Lacan rejects the very possibility of a metalinguistic dimension, denies the existence of any metalanguage.

Lacan follows Heidegger's view of language as a "house of being" of which it is impossible to step outside.[8]

Lacan does not deny that there is a beyond of language, but he does argue that this beyond is not of a kind that could finally anchor meaning.

There is no transcendental signified, no way that language could "tell the truth about truth."[9]

Other of the Other

The same point is also expressed in the phrase, "there is no Other of the Other."[10]

If the Other is the guarantee of the coherence of the subject's discourse, then the falsity of this guarantee is revealed by the fact that the guarantor himself lacks such a guarantee.

Psychoanalytic Treatment

In a clinical context, this means that there is no metalanguage of the transference, no point outside the transference from which it could be finally interpreted and 'liquidated'.

See Also


Index
  1. Jakobson, 1960:25
  2. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p. 226
  3. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p. 226
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.311
  5. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.311
  6. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.867-8
  7. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.311
  8. 1960
  9. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 867-8
  10. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.311
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