Ibn Khaldûn’s Conception of Language and Mind: Between Tradition and Innovation
The paper will develop upon two parts. The first part will shed the light on Ibn Khaldûn’s concept of man as a ‘thinking animal’, and how this concept may be regarded as the basis for the establishment of civilization with all its human , social, political, and religious organizations, with language being the main instrument in its achievement. This, accordingly, will lead one to speak about Ibn Khaldûn’s ‘socialization of fikr,’ the innovation upon which he has built his ‘new science’, ilm al-urân, the equivalent of today’s science of sociology. At the end of this part, there will be a comparative study of Ibn Khaldûn’s conception of fikr and Al-Ghazâli’s, which is in itself an echo of Aristotle’s. The study will show how Ibn Khaldûn has built his rationalistic theory upon Al-Ghazâli’s and Aristotle’s. But it will show also how he has further developed it.
The second part will be a more mechanical study of the relationship between language and mind/ brain in Ibn Khaldûn. It will enunciate that conciliating between metaphysics and biology, Ibn Khaldûn has his own way of conceiving the language acquisition phenomenon. For him, language—except that it is a gift from God--is such a complex phenomenon. To its acquisition process the metaphysical world contributes fikr, physiology contributes the sounds and, eventually, society contributes instruction. This part will also end with a comparison, this time, between Ibn Khaldûn’s conception of the role of fikr (the natural ability of thinking) in the process of language acquisition and Aristotle’s confidence in the importance of logic (the technical procedure which parallels man's natural ability to think) in the process of acquisition. The comparison will prove that though Ibn Khaldûn has not dispensed altogether with Aristotle’s logic, he has never preferred the artificial to the natural.
Keywords: Language, Mind, Knowledge Acquisition, Language Acquisition, Psycholinguistics
English Assistant at the Higher Institute of Languages, English Department, Higher Institute of Languages