Representation, levels, and context in integrational linguistics and distributed cognition

John Sutton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


Distributed Cognition and Integrational Linguistics have much in common. Both approaches see communicative activity and intelligent behaviour in general as strongly context-dependent and action-oriented, and brains as permeated by history. But there is some tension between the two frameworks on three important issues. The majority of theorists of distributed cognition want to maintain some notions of mental representation and computation, and to seek generalizations and patterns in the various ways in which creatures like us couple with technologies, media, and other agents; many also want to offer explanations at subpersonal levels which may undercut the autonomy of personal-level accounts. In contrast, dominant views in integrational linguistics reject all invocation of representation, resist the explanatory search for similarity across contexts and moments, and see linguistics as a lay discipline which should not offer explanations in terms alien to ordinary agents. On each of these issues, I argue that integrationists could move closer to the distributed cognition framework without losing the most important aspects of their view: integrationist criticisms of mainstream or classical theories can be respected while alliances with revised cognitivist views about representation, context, and explanation are developed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-524
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number6 SPEC. ISS.
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004

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