What Kind of Science is Linguistics?

In Martin Neef & Christina Behme (eds.), Essays on Linguistic Realism. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 7-20 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


I argue that what determines whether a science is ‘formal’ or ‘empirical’ is not the ontological status of its objects of study, but, rather, its methodology. Since all sciences aim at generalizations, and generalizations concern types, if types are abstract (non-spatiotemporal) objects, then all sciences are concerned to discover the nature of certain abstract objects. What distinguishes empirical from formal sciences is how they study such things. If the types of a science have observable instances (‘tokens’), then the nature of the types may be determined empirically. If they types have either abstract tokens, or no tokens at all, their nature must be determined by non-empirical methods involving intuition, reasoning and proof. I conclude that the status of (theoretical) linguistics depends on the methodologies of syntax, semantics, phonology, morphology and orthography (and any other subdiscipline that is concerned with the study of the structure of language).



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Types and tokens: on abstract objects.Linda Wetzel - 2009 - Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Logic and Ontology of Language.Urszula Wybraniec-Skardowska - 2019 - In Bartłomiej Skowron (ed.), Contemporary Polish Ontology. Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 109-132.
Types and tokens.Linda Wetzel - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Rethinking linguistics.Hayley G. Davis - 2003 - New York: RoutledgeCurzon. Edited by Talbot J. Taylor.
Linguistics, Psychology, and the Ontology of Language.Fritz J. McDonald - 2009 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 9 (3):291-301.
On linguistics in philosophy, and philosophy in linguistics.James Higginbotham - 2002 - Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (5-6):573-584.
On the Concept of a Token Generator.Takashi Iida - 2013 - Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science 21:37-55.
The Philosophy of linguistics.Jerrold J. Katz (ed.) - 1985 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Compositionality as methodology.Josh Dever - 1999 - Linguistics and Philosophy 22 (3):311-326.


Added to PP

599 (#29,901)

6 months
237 (#10,597)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

David Pitt
California State University, Los Angeles

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Mathematical truth.Paul Benacerraf - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (19):661-679.
Rethinking Language, Mind, and Meaning.Scott Soames - 2015 - Princeton University Press.
The Phenomenology of Cognition, Or, What Is It Like to Think That P?David Pitt - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (1):1-36.
Introspection, Phenomenality, and the Availability of Intentional Content.David Pitt - 2011 - In Tim Bayne & Michelle Montague (eds.), Cognitive Phenomenology. Oxford University Press. pp. 141-173.
Intentional Psychologism.David Pitt - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 146 (1):117-138.

View all 6 references / Add more references