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Post-contemporary interventions

Total Speech: An Integrational Linguistic Approach to Language

By
Michael Toolan
Michael Toolan

Michael Toolan is Associate Professor of English at the University of Washington.

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Duke University Press
ISBN electronic:
978-0-8223-7984-3
Publication date:
1996

Units, rules, codes, systems: this is how most linguists study language. Integrationalists such as Michael Toolan, however, focus instead on how language functions in seamless tandem with the rest of human activity. In Total Speech, Toolan provides a clear and comprehensive account of integrationalism, a major new theory of language that declines to accept that text and context, language and world, are distinct and stable categories. At the same time, Toolan extends the integrationalist argument and calls for a radical change in contemporary theorizing about language and communication.

In every foundational area of linguistics—from literal meaning and metaphor to the nature of repetition to the status of linguistic rules—Toolan advances fascinating and provocative criticisms of received linguistic assumptions. Drawing inspiration from the writings of language theorist Roy Harris, Toolan brings the integrationalist perspective to bear on legal cases, the reception of Salman Rushdie, poetry, and the language of children. Toolan demonstrates that the embeddedness of language and the situation-sensitive mutability of meaning reveal language as a tool for re-fashioning and renewal.

Total Speech breaks free of standard linguistics’ fascinated attraction with “cognitive blueprints” and quasi-algorithmic processing to characterize language anew. Toolan’s reflections on the essence of language, including his important discussion of intention, have strong implications for students and scholars of discourse analysis, literature, the law, anthropology, philosophy of language, communication theory, and cognitive science, as well as linguistics.

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