Total Speech

An Integrational Linguistic Approach to Language

Total Speech

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: Published: June 1996

Author: Michael Toolan

Linguistics, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Theory and Philosophy

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.


“[T]here is much to be grateful for in a book which so effectively sets out complex theoretical claims to a space where those of a broadly functional persuasion can work. . . . [T]here are many insights, precepts and recommendations that a . . . wide range of linguists will find stimulating, encouraging, and useful.” — Geoff Thompson, Functions of Language

“The style of Toolan’s writing is worth mentioning for its elegance and balance. The articulacy and precision of the expression match the rigor of the argumentation and make the book a joy to read. . . . Total Speech deserves a reputation as a provocative and polemical statement of a paradigm-shift in progress.” — Peter Stockwell, Language and Literature

“This is an important book—both for the development of integrationist thinking and for the manner in which it forces adherents from all the other isms that currently litter the stage of language studies to think about the nature of language and linguistic communication.” — Stuart Shanker, Metaphor and Symbol

“Toolan’s title, Total Speech, alludes to J. L. Austin’s famous dictum: ‘The total speech act in the total speech situation is the only actual phenomenon which, in the last resort, we are engaged in elucidating.’ The failure of orthodox linguistics in the present century to provide any such elucidation is Toolan’s main theme. He pursues the reasons for it with relentless rigor and analytical acumen.” — Roy Harris, TLS

Total Speech provides an entirely original discussion of some of the most central and controversial issues in the theory and philosophy of language. This book is not just a synopsis of the integrationalist school of thought, it is a major contribution to the development of that thought and to its emergence as a major force in American and European thinking about language.” — Talbot Taylor, College of William and Mary


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1. On Inscribed or Literal Meaning 24

2. Metaphor 56

3. Intentionality and Coming into Language 98

4. Further Principles of Integrational Linguistics, or, On Not Losing Sight of the Language User 140

5. Relevance in Theory and Practice 181

6. Repetition 226

7. Rules 271

References 323

Index 335
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1790-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1781-4
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