LAFON 65A THE PRIMARY HEARING (road to language) part 25


« The language function relies entirely on psycho-systematic mechanisms. It is a mechanism of abstraction based on abstract symbols and requires tremendously complex auditory integration circuits; it only exists in human beings, while symbolism is also found in animals. The pathological alteration of the language function is called aphasia in adults and, most of the time, ‘delayed acquisition of language’ in children.

The integrative function and the language function both depend on conditioned behaviours – developed through learning processes – and are not prioritised one over another over time. On a scale of complexity and psychological properties, the function of image formation comes first, followed by symbols and concepts elaboration. The identification process for each phonetic group goes by no means through each of these three successive stages. The essence of human intelligence relies on the capacity to identify numerous concepts from a minimum of images. These three stages (image, symbol, concept) occur simultaneously and constantly confront each other. The principle of ‘path of least resistance’ plays a crucial role here, as it allows a quick concept elaboration without taking into account the sensory functions: what defines intelligence is the capacity to reduce the amount of circuits involved (10). However, in human beings, a kind of ‘quality control’ – where memory networks check the symbol and image involved, in case the newly elaborated concept was not congruent – is constantly performed.

(10): Contrary to popular belief, intelligence is not so much about knowledge acquisition: it is about recruiting integration circuits for a limited period of time, which shall be as short as possible. It reflects the possibility to create new functional connexions through the elaboration of simplified circuits». (1)

4) Other functions that are part of the INTEGRATIVE FUNCTION.

« Symbols and messages, as seen earlier, do not produce one single acoustic picture. That is why I decided to reference, under the name of ‘non-auditory contingent’, the vibrational and visual elements as well as the gestures that are used for supplementing the acoustic identification process.

From one image, one can produce a reflex response: this behaviour is conditioned by a sound and shows how we can discriminate between an acoustic element linked to a specific signification, and other, irrelevant, acoustic signs.

When symbolisation is possible, we can either observe a response expressed in echolalia – as with parrots – or a response structured according to the signification of the received message: typically, a dog obeying its master’s voice and orders. However, neither parrots nor dogs have the capacity to use symbols for elaborating new, significant, abstract concepts: this is where we reach the frontier with human being.» (2) 

Coming next: the last function.


(1) Professor J.C. LAFON « message et phonétique » (« message and phonetics ») pp. 68-69.

(2) Professor J.C. LAFON « message et phonétique » (« message and phonetics ») page 69.

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