Rethinking the correlations between language and genetic code.

2016. №1, 114-132

Suren T. Zolyan
Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Law, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia , Yerevan, 0010, Republic of Armenia;


The deep similarity between language and genetic information transmission processing was recognized from the very foundation of genetics. As early as in 1970, R. Jakobson formulated the issue of correlations between language and the genetic code as pivotal for linguistics. A lot of attempts have been made to use linguistic methods for deciphering protein genes. However, this has not led to significant results, as far as this kind of technique is limited by the processes of encoding and at best helps to compile a dictionary of units, but is not capable of describing a language and identifying the semantic and textual structures, which are decisive for communication. Thus, functions of the huge amount of non-coding DNA (approximately 90%) still remain unclear. It was insufficiently taken into account that only text (but not sign) should be regarded as an object of creation — transmission — conservation — transformation of information.

Meanwhile, recent research has discovered the possibility to control transgenic expression through mental activity. This compels us to consider the processing of genetic information as communication. We suggest to regard the genome as a hypertext consisting of ordered subsets of other texts. The text itself can be viewed as a quasi-organism having its own memory, creative-cognitive characteristics and communicative force; the cell (its ribosome) — as a quasi-intelligence able to operate with abstract semiotic entities. As a fragment of such an approach, we propose to describe protein synthesis (genetic translation) in terms of linguistic and semiotic processes, demonstrating that the «reading» of genetic information by the cell is endowed with the essential characteristics of human «reading».

Our preliminary results make it possible to extend the R. Jakobsonian set of fundamentals bringing together language and processes of genetic coding and to add some characteristics: an analogue of dichotomy of language and speech, semiotic nature of genetic information (presence of the signifier and the signified), distinction between the sign within grammar (type) and within text (token).