The interaction between linguistics & philosophy
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Like so many sciences, linguistics originated from philosophy's rib. It reached maturity and attained full independence only in the twentieth century (for example, it is a well-known fact that the first linguistics department in the UK was founded in 1944); though research which we would now classify as linguistic (especially leading to generalizations from comparing different languages) was certainly carried out much earlier. The relationship between philosophy and linguistics is perhaps reminiscent of that between an old-fashioned mother and her emancipated daughter, and is certainly asymmetric. And though from philosophy's rib, empirical investigation methods have ensured that linguistics has evolved (just as in the case of the more famous rib) into something far from resembling the original piece of bone. Another side of the same asymmetry is that while linguistics focuses exclusively on language (or languages), for philosophy language seems less pervasive - philosophy of language being merely one branch among many. However, during the twentieth century this asymmetry was substantially diminished by the so called linguistic turn1, undergone by numerous philosophers – this turn was due to the realization that as language is the universal medium for our grasping and coping with the world, its study may provide the very key for all other philosophical disciplines. As for the working methods, we could perhaps picture the difference between a philosopher of language and a linguist by means of the following simile. Imagine two researchers both asked to investigate an unknown landscape. One hires a helicopter, acquires a birds-eye view of the whole landscape and draws a rough, but comprehensive map. The other takes a camera, a writing pad and various instruments, and walks around, taking pictures and making notes of the kinds of rocks, plants and animals which he finds. Whose way is the more reasonable? Well, one wants to say, neither, for they seem to be complementary..
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