Justifying the evidential use of linguistic intuitions

Synthese 198 (9):8167-8189 (2020)
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Linguistic intuitive judgements are the de facto data source of choice within generative linguistics. But why we are justified in relying on intuitive judgements as evidence for grammars? In the philosophy of linguistics, this question has been hotly debated. I argue that the three most prominent views of that debate all have their problems. Devitt’s Modest Explanation accounts for the wrong kind of intuitive judgements. The Voice of Competence view and Rey’s account both lack independent evidence. I introduce and defend a novel proposal that accounts for the evidential role of linguistic intuitive judgements and avoids these shortcomings. On this account, linguistic intuitive judgements are reports of the speaker’s immediate experience of trying to comprehend the sentence. This experience is due to the speaker’s linguistic competence, at least in part, and so the justification for the evidential use of linguistic intuitions ultimately comes from the speaker’s competence. However, the account does not rely on any special input from the speaker’s competence being available as the basis for linguistic intuitive judgements.



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Against epistemic absolutism.Changsheng Lai - 2021 - Synthese 199 (1-2):3945-3967.

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References found in this work

Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
The Modularity of Mind.Robert Cummins & Jerry Fodor - 1983 - Philosophical Review 94 (1):101.
Ignorance of Language.Michael Devitt - 2006 - Oxford, GB: Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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