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Methodology of Functional Pragmatism as the Merge of Antropocentrism and Relationismus

© The Editorial Council and Editorial Board of Linguistic Studies

Linguistic Studies
Volume 35, 2018, pp.  

Methodology of Functional Pragmatism as the Merge of Antropocentrism and Relationismus

Prosianyk Oksana

Article first published online: June 06, 2018 

Additional information

 Author Information: 

Prosianyk Oksana, PhD of Philology, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor of Social Communications Management Department of S. Kuznets Kharkiv National Economic Universityoxppros@gmail.com

Prosianyk, O. Methodology of Functional Pragmatism as the Merge of Antropocentrism and Relationismus [Text] // Linhvistychni Studiyi / Linguistic Studies : collection of scientific papers / Donetsk National University; Ed. by Anatoliy Zahnitko. Vinnytsia : Vasyl' Stus DonNU, 2018. Vol. 35. Pp. 9-13ISBN 966-7277-88-7

Publication History:

Volume first published online: June 06, 2018
Article received: October 10, 2018, accepted: May 15, 2018 and first published online: June 06, 2018


У статті зосереджено увагу на вивченні методології функціонального прагматизму, що розуміється як поєднання антропоцентризму і реляціонізму. Розуміння світу як об'єкта людського досвіду, людського досвіду – як інформації (і навпаки), а також розуміння інформації як відношення є ключовими положеннями описуваної методології.

Keywords: concept, anthropocentrism, relationalism, pragmatism, language, speech, language activity.



Oksana Prosianyk

Social Communications Management Department of S. Kuznets Kharkiv National Economic University, Ukraine


Background: Anthropocentrism and relationalism are reviewed as the main principles of representation of the subject, but the pragmatism is reviewed as the main active principle of the perception process and valuation of its results.

The basics of the concept of the functional pragmatism were developed by Ukrainian, Polish and Russian linguists – O. V. Leschak, V. I. Zayka, M. S. Labaschyuk, Y. L. Syt’ko, M. Krul, M. Kovalskyy and others on the foundation of the views by I. Kante, G. Tarde, V. James, L. Vygotskyy, E. Kassierar, M. Mamardashvili, and also pure linguistic concepts of language activity by Y. Boduen de Kurtene, F.de Saussure, V. Matezius, M. Dokulil and I. S. Toroptsev. Our interest towards this school is explained by the fact that their methodological principles were viewed from the perspective of F. de Saussure.

Purpose: Having understood that neither anthropocentrism nor relationalism are new philosophical-methodological positions, we have attempted to define both anthropocentrism and relationalism combined as functional pragmatism. We will go further and will consider the methodological essence of the above.

Results: The idea of anthropocentrism is based upon acknowledging of the language subject by the informational essence, that resides only in the human mind. Relationalism is based on understanding of each phenomenon and every essence as a relation or the complex of relations (actually – relations of relations). The category of the relation is the basis of formal category of anthology within functional pragmatism. Constancy of the informational relations can be considered to be functions, and the combination of functions – as the experience and activity.

Discussion: By using the functional-pragmatic methodological principles we intend to re-interpret the number of points of “traditional” F. de Saussure’s views, and also to interpret numerous commentaries to these points and to the new ones: unknown texts of the Swiss linguist.

Keywords: concept, anthropocentrism, relationalism, pragmatism, language, speech, language activity.



Oksana Prosianyk, PhD of Philology, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor of Social Communications Management Department of S. Kuznets Kharkiv National Economic University. Her scientific interests include: problems of lingual semiotics, history and methodology of linguistics and language studies, lexical semiotics, literary linguistics, Saussure Studies.

Correspondence: oxppros@gmail.com


Оксана Просяник

УДК 81-116.2



У статті зосереджено увагу на вивченні методології функціонального прагматизму, що розуміється як поєднання антропоцентризму і реляціонізму. Розуміння світу як об'єкта людського досвіду, людського досвіду – як інформації (і навпаки), а також розуміння інформації як відношення є ключовими положеннями описуваної методології.

Ключові слова: концепція, антропоцентризм, реляціонізм, прагматизм, мова, мовлення, мовна діяльність. 


Problem statement in general terms and its connection to significant scientific and practical aims. Fundamentally the methodology of functional pragmatism (which we are using in our work) consists of two main ideas of ontological nature and one purely epistemic idea which originates as a logical outcome from the above two ideas. We are talking about anthropocentrism and relationalism as essential fundamental interpretation of perception object and about pragmatism as the main pragmatist principle of the actual perception process and evaluation of its results.

The author of the article relies on analysis of the most recent research and publications where resolution of this problem has been attempted. The basic principles of functional pragmatism concept were developed by the group of Ukrainian, Polish and Russian liguists: O. V. Leschyak, V. I. Zaika, M. S. Labuschyuk, Y. L. Sytko, M. Król, M. Kowalski and others on the basis of philosophical viewpoints of I. Kant, G. Tarde, W. James, L. Vygotsky, E. Cassirer, M. Mamardashvili, and also solely linguistic concepts of the language activity by J. Baudouin de Courtenay, F. de Saussure, V. Mathesius, M. Dokulil and I. S. Toroptsev. Our interest towards the above linguistic school is based on the fact that all of the above scientists have developed their methodological views first of all based on the work of F. de Saussure.

The idea of anthropocentrism is confined in acknowledging the object of linguistics as the informational being that lives solely in one’s consciousness (mind). Such a view is consistently contradistinguished by both: purely physiological and materialistic concepts of language and speech as energy-material phenomena (e.g. sound stream of graphic traces or physiological sensations), and: solely metaphysical concepts that hypostatize the language and the speech and consider these functions to be independent entities from the human consciousness – as an independently existent informational system, in a way spiritual being, e.g. so called “the spirit of the nation”. As stated by O. Leschyak, “if a linguist stands only on anthropocentist views”, then he or she “does not consider the language to be elsewhere apart from the mind or consciousness of a human being” (“Study On Functional Pragmatism” 57). The same thought can be found with Polish linguist M. Kowalski: “functional pragmatism considers the units of existence not to be independently existent, but exclusively within the subjective experience. Therefore, we are searching not for the meaning of reality in inself (as it crosses the border of our experience), but the reality relevant to us” (Kowalski 36-37).

Formation of the Article Purpose. Having understood that neither anthropocentrism nor relationalism are new philosophical-methodological positions, we have attempted to define both anthropocentrism and relationalism combined as functional pragmatism. We will go further and will consider the methodological essence of the above.

Main research material with the full underlying rationale of the research results.

As a full-fledged and valid doctrine anthropocentrism was incepted by Immanuel Kant. Both Kant’s followers and scientists of other fields spread this doctrine. According to him, the ideal (information, and therefore the language) can exist only in the form of a function of a separate human being’s physiological function.

According to Jan Baudouin de Courtenay “the Language exists only in individual brain, only in souls, only in the mind of a human beings who form a language society. A tribal or a national language is an abstract general idea, created out of numerous existing individual languages.” (“Language and Languages” 71), following – “The language changes can only be explained as a physiological and even to some extent physiological changes. And psychological and physiological life exists only within an individual human being and not within the society as such. Psychological processes and physiological changes take place only within individual human beings and never within the societies. But the fact that these processes take place in a similar manner within different people means that first of all the lifestyle and the life conditions may be similar, and secondly – in case of psychological changes – due to communication between individuals within the society” (Baudouin de Courtenay “On General Reasons” 224). One of the founders of functional linguistics Nikolai Trubetskoy states at the very beginning of his “Foundations of Phonology” : “The language exists in the consciousness of each member of each language community and is at the foundation of endless speech activities” (Trubetskoy 6). Russian philosopher Dmitrii Dubrovsky once noted: “(…) “the content” of a national consciousness only exists in the form of subjective reality of many people, it consists of the content core formed by combination of individual consciousness’s (Dubrovsky 177), but “the ideal is immediately connected only to three types of codes: brain neurodynamic code, behavioral-expressive (movement activities, change of body language, especially changes in the eyes’ and facial expressions) and speech code. And only the first code is fundamental.” (Dubrovsky 133). According to the above we come to a simple conclusion that the language as an informational system must exist only in the form of idiolect or language activity of an individual human being, as only such an activity possesses all these three forms of the existence of an ideal. The same thought was supported by a founder of Russian School of Word-Formation Ivan Toroptsev: “As a general language exists in the form of individual languages, the same way the units of general language exist in the form of units of individual language” (Toroptsev 53), alongside this “the ideal sides of structural units of a general language” exist not in some sort of metaphysical space of collective consciousness or national tradition, but are embodied “in the brain of each language carrier” (Toroptsev 53).

However anthropocentrism should not be confused with subjective idealism (ontological individualism), because in this methodological concept a human being is understood at the same time both as functioning “here and now” individual who possesses relating to species (populational) and ancestral (panhuman) features, and as an invariant personality with his/her permanent characteristics. O. Leschyak establishes specifics of anthropological understanding of human experience as individual-lineal correlation: “Experience (…) is the content of existence. But its form is a function, e.g. the connection, the active relation. The experience of an individual does not isolate itself. In terms of a form – the experience is recognized (in functionalism) by the relation of psychophysiological empirics to social-cultural reflection, therefore it cannot be considered to have no relation to both the material world and the world of interpersonal cultural relations” (“Study On Functional Pragmatism” 66).

In the monograph of M. Labaschyuk, the representative of the Ukrainian-Polish school of functional pragmatism, we find a similar approach in understanding of the human experience as an individual-social relation: “Both semiotics of objective-practical activity, and semiotics of spiritual-abstract activity of a human being are social in there origins, however semiotics of virtual experience is much more complex and more complicated to be verified in terms of social relations due to its abstractedness. One cannot speak in its totality either about an individual language, or about a social language. One should note and always remember constant dynamic relationship (that cannot be eliminated) between an individual language (idiolect) that is understood as a result of reaction and the display of individual language capability (individual style) within social speech communication, and the language of social groups (social dialect) that is considered to be a part of the same idiolect, that originated and is functioning as a result of speech communication within the interdependent social combination of separate interworking idiolects” (Labaschyuk 42) and going forward – “Whole human experience is twofold – on one hand it is inner world of a separate individual, his/her own experience, but on the other hand this experience of him/her-self as a part of nature, and also as a part of human community. Although “my own” experience is specific, unique and inimitable, every minute “I” receive confirmation of the fact that it is an experience (on the level of feelings, behavior, semiotics and even thought) that in many ways matches the experience of other people” (Labaschyuk 44). V. Zaika sticks to the same view: “the knowledge is accumulated in the process of daily living and social functioning, and also in the process of verbal communication, that is why the most important characteristic apart from implicitness (…) is the fact that they are generic for the representatives of the same culture” (Zaika 82). In other words the information (knowledge, meaning) is both social (in origin and purpose) and psychologically implicit (according to its anthological nature).

Second principle (as mentioned above) – relationismus (or functionalism) assists in understanding of both human being and the language experience (as a basic object of linguistics). This principle is based on understanding of each occurrence and each entity as a relationship or combinations of relationships (in other words – relations of relationships). The category of relationship is the basic formal category of ontology within functional pragmatism.

The notion of relationship became a methodological category thanks to I. Kant and his followers from Magdeburg and Baden Schools of Neo-Kantianism. For example, Kant says: “Inner definition of subject matter that appears before us in space {substantia phaenomenon} is nothing but the relationship and the very subject matter is the combination of relationships themselves” (Kant 251), “the space with all inside of it consists of only formal or real relationships” (Kant 263) or “all we know about substance is down to relationships only”. At the same time by Kant the basic ontological relationship is relationship between the world and the self: “the objects can have dual relationship towards our ability of perception, and in particular towards sensuality and reason, and also depending on which ability of perception the notions refer to. All the above establishes the channels of relationships. (Kant 248), but “(…) the laws exist not within phenomenon but only in the relationship to the self which phenomenon are adherent to, because the self has mind, as well as the occurrences exist not by themselves but only in relationship to the same self as the self has feelings” (Kant 148).

One of the most prominent followers of Kant Ernst Cassirer dedicated the whole work to the subject, where he consistently contradistinguished Substantialism (ontology of objects – physical or spiritual) to Relationalismus (ontology of relationships): “What is and what a certain idea means – can only be established when we consider this as a carrier and the starting point of certain assertions, as a combination of possible relationships. The notions are identical if they can be swapped within the same statements” (Cassirer 49), which means that “we will never be able to cognize the objects for what they really are, but we will always cognize them from the perspective of a relationship within which they exist, and we will only be able to acknowledge them within their change and relationship of their existence.” (Cassirer 395). Therefore, concludes E. Cassirer, “we can come to a category of an object only through the category of relationship” (Cassirer 396). The idea of relationship as the foundation of understanding of the objects is transferred to the self. Within the same work we read: “The thought about “I” is not more original and is not more logically straightforward than the thought about the self, because the both exist only together and can develop only in constant interrelation between one another. No content can be known or felt as subjective without being opposed to one another which seems objective” (Cassirer 382). Mikhail Labaschyuk note the same: “Object and the self do not exist on their own, but they are absorbed by practical and social-communicative activity that is determined by social and cultural-historical relationship between object and the self, which suggests the possibility of change of both antology and epistemics of the subject and the self” (Labaschyuk 41). The same thing is metioned by Y. Syt’ko: “At every moment of activity, in each speech-thought act a human being is in the state of fulfilling the function or role play, but at the same time a human being does not stop being potentially ready for conducting of other functions and roles. Therefore, the consciousness is a function of the relationship between the self and the world” (Syt’ko 7). The understanding of the world as an object of a human experience, and the human experience as the information (and vice versa), and also understaning of the information as the relationship – are all the key statements of the described methodology. As noted by D. I. Dubrovsky, “information is always a relationship between one to another, is a function of representation of one to another” (Dubrovsky 135).

Relationalism is not some kind of unique variety of methodology within the philological field. At first it was part of functional linguistics and literary studies (OPOYAZ, Prague School, Kazan School), but later on it was picked up by onomasiology, pragmatic functionalism, and even by discourse study and narrative study” (Jennet).

Stability and hierarchy of relationships allow seeing the sign of functionality, effectiveness and pragmatism within relationships of relationships. Stability of informational relationships can be regarded as functions, and the combination of functions – as experience and activity. As fairly noted by O. Leschyak, “function in the function research is not the subjectal area of knowledge (as functioning), and is not one of the characteristics of research object (its role within the acts of functioning or the system). […] Function here is the central methodological idea, the means of object representation, the character and the form of its being. In terms of generalization – the function idea in functionalism can only be compared to the understanding of experience as onthological-existential characteristics of self (“About a problem of function understanding” 251). According to the opinion of Polish researcher M. Król “by analisying the idea of functionalism, one should pay attention to two facts: firstly, functionalism should be looked at from the perspective of its functionality and not its objective essense, and secondly and the most importantly the understanding of objects as different types of functions” (Król 98). Cassirer noted that the understanding of ontological objects has got nothing to do with subjectivism because Kantian relationism (functionalism) talks not about the world as it is but about the way we people perceive it: “Statement that the existence is the product of thinking does not point to physical or metaphysical casual relation, but only means solely functional hierarchic relationship in terms of significance of certain assertions” (Cassirer 385). According to Labaschyuk, “Ontological and gnosiological category of “functional binding” (functional connections of sides of relationship) is confirmed to be both the reason (ontodiochronically – in relations to individual development) and the consequence (idiosincronically – in relations to pragmatics of language activity)” (Labaschyuk 183). O. Leschyak writes about the same dual functional nature of human experience and the world (as an object of human experience): “on one hand, experience of an individual human being is the main condition for oneness of the world, but on the other hand, - this is only a function of interrelation with the world of nature and the world of ideas (e.g. the world of other people). The world as we know it, as we feel it, think it, experience it – is the world of our experience: if this is a possible experience – we can talk about the nature, and if this is not a possible experience – we can talk about ideas or supernatural events. However, we know (see, feel, experience) ourselves indirectly – via different people who taught us and continue teaching us to understand the world, think, feel and experience this way and not the other” (“Ontological foundations of functional pragmatism “200). M. Kowalski adheres to the same concept: “(..) every single experience is at the same time a social experience (social-cultural). Such dualism and interdependence should be stressed as they are connected to the notion of activity that is defined as the human experience existence. So if experience can manifest as an inner and outward social process, then the human activity can be both individual and social” (Kowalski 45).

The basis of relationism (functionality) allows to cross the border, first of all, of the individual unicity of human self (as every informational function such as language, is understood as a social interpersonal convention), and secondly, it crosses the border of restricted situational experience (because every informational function is understood as active working function, as the relationship between the previous intention / reason and following outcome). That is exactly why the key object of language study in functional pragmatism is not the language or speech but whole language experience / language activity of social human personality. Activity is one of the key notions of functional pragmatism. Referring to the Prague linguistic works: “Being a product of human activity, the language together with its activity takes principal direction (…) the language is a system of expression forms that serve a certain purpose” (“Travaux du Cercle Linguistique” 7), “A word observed from the functional point of view forms the result of nominal lingual activity that sometimes inseparably connected to syntagmatic activity” (Ibid 11), and also “One should distinguish the inner language activity and overt language activity. This matter for most of speaking people is a one off event, because lingual forms are more often used in thought rather than while speaking” (Ibid 14).

The conclusion of the above research and the prospects for future research. The pragmatics of research is the logical outcome of application of the basics of anthropocentrism and relationismus, e.g. the concept of activity / experience towards the procedures of epistemology. In other words the dependency of research procedures on the needs (intentions) and the possibilities (capabilities) of a human being (as self of perception activity) and the researcher as the representative of a certain school, trend, the carrier of a certain scientific-methodological worldview. Let us refer once again to the work of O. Leschyak “Philosophical basis of functionalism can be a concept called humanistic pragmatism. Function as a form of experience can be perceived only within the relationship towards the needs of human experience – pragmatically. And as function, that is considered through the prism of activity notion, is defined as a central formational notion within this type of methodology, it covers all aspects of activity: self, object, information, the means and activities” (“On Functional Pragmatism” 66). According to pragmatics basics the target dispositions are decisive for every aspect of human activity including lingual-semiotic. Ukrainian narratologist  I. Papusha says, that “in fact the pragmatics disposition of a creator-recipient determines both syntax characteristics and semantics specifics of the narrative” (Papusha 98).

Methodological relativism and pluralism become obligatory conditions of pragmatic understanding of linguistic research. The first means understanding of total dependency of the theory and the practice of research on methodology and scientific worldview. The latter assumes the possibility of the parallel decisions of scientific targets within various methodologies and possible non-matching results. Therefore we can confirm that functional pragmatism does not exclude the possibility of parallel coexistence of several linguistics, which are built upon different methodological principles. None of these linguistics can claim cognitive completeness or total objectivity of conclusions and this does not mean that each of them must be inwardly coherent and cognitively effective.

The conclusions from the above research and the prospects for further research. Based on functional-pragmatic methodological principles that is “from the perspective of anthropocentrism, relationismus and pragmatic teleology” (Zaika 13), we try to re-interpret the number of points of “traditional” F. de Saussure, and also to interpret the numerous commentaries to these points and new unknown texts (published in 2002) of the Swiss linguist with no commentaries.



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Надійшла до редакції 05 березня 2018 року.