After reviewing some major features of theinteractions between Linguistics and Philosophyin recent years, I suggest that the depth and breadthof current inquiry into semanticshas brought this subject into contact both with questionsof the nature of linguistic competence and with modern andtraditional philosophical study of the nature ofour thoughts, and the problems of metaphysics.I see this development as promising for thefuture of both subjects.
Linguists take the intuitive judgments of speakers to be good evidence for a grammar. Why? The Chomskian answer is that they are derived by a rational process from a representation of linguistic rules in the language faculty. The paper takes a different view. It argues for a naturalistic and non-Cartesian view of intuitions in general. They are empirical central-processor responses to phenomena differing from other such responses only in being immediate and fairly unreflective. Applying this to linguistic intuitions yields an (...) explanation of their evidential role without any appeal to the representation of rules. Introduction The evidence for linguistic theories A tension in the linguists' view of intuitions Intuitions in general Linguistic intuitions Comparison of the modest explanation with the standard Cartesian explanation A nonstandard Cartesian explanation of the role of intuitions? Must linguistics explain intuitions? Conclusion. (shrink)
In appearance, Husserl’s writings seem not to have had any influence on linguistic research, nor does what the German philosopher wrote about language seem to be worth a place in the history of linguistics. The purpose of the paper is exactly to contrast this view, by reassessing both the position and the role of Husserl’s early masterpiece — the Logical Investigations — within the history of linguistics. To this end, I will focus mainly on the third (On the (...) theory of wholes and parts) and fourth (The distinction between independent and non-independent meanings) Investigations, paying special attention to Husserl’s mereology and to the idea of a general pure grammar. The paper tries to situate the third and fourth Logical Investigation within the general context of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century linguistics and furthermore attempts to show the historical and theoretical importance of the Logical Investigations for the birth and the development of one of the most important linguistic “schools” of the twentieth century, namely structural linguistics. (shrink)
Michael Devitt has argued that Chomsky, along with many other Linguists and philosophers, is ignorant of the true nature of Generative Linguistics. In particular, Devitt argues that Chomsky and others wrongly believe the proper object of linguistic inquiry to be speakers' competences, rather than the languages that speakers are competent with. In return, some commentators on Devitt's work have returned the accusation, arguing that it is Devitt who is ignorant about Linguistics. In this note, I consider whether there (...) might be less to this apparent dispute than meets the eye. -/- . (shrink)
Viewed in the light of the remarkable performance of ‘Watson’ - IBMs proprietary artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language - on the US general knowledge quiz show ‘Jeopardy’, we review two experiments on formal systems - one in the domain of quantum physics, the other involving a pictographic languaging game - whereby behaviour seemingly characteristic of domain understanding is generated by the mere mechanical application of simple rules. By re-examining both experiments in the context (...) of Searle’s Chinese Room Argument, we suggest their results merely endorse Searle’s core intuition: that ‘syntactical manipulation of symbols is not sufficient for semantics’. Although, pace Watson, some artificial intelligence practitioners have suggested that more complex, higher-level operations on formal symbols are required to instantiate understanding in computational systems, we show that even high-level calls to Google translate would not enable a computer qua ‘formal symbol processor’ to understand the language it processes. We thus conclude that even the most recent developments in ‘quantum linguistics’ will not enable computational systems to genuinely understand natural language. (shrink)
Noam Chomsky’s well-known claim that linguistics is a “branch of cognitive psychology” has generated a great deal of dissent—not from linguists or psychologists, but from philosophers. Jerrold Katz, Scott Soames, Michael Devitt, and Kim Sterelny have presented a number of arguments, intended to show that this Chomskian hypothesis is incorrect. On both sides of this debate, two distinct issues are often conflated: (1) the ontological status of language and (2) the relation between psychology and linguistics. The ontological issue (...) is, I will argue, not the relevant issue in the debate. Even if this Chomskian position on the ontology of language is false, linguistics may still be a subfield of psychology if the relevant methods in linguistic theory construction are psychological. Two options are open to the philosopher who denies Chomskian conceptualism: linguistic nominalism or linguistic platonism. The former position holds that syntactic, semantic, and phonological properties are primarily properties, not of mental representations, but rather of public languagesentence tokens; The latter position holds that the linguistic properties are properties of public language sentence types. I will argue that both of these positions are compatible with Chomsky’s claim that linguistics is a branch of psychology, and the arguments that have been given for nominalism and platonism do not establish that linguistics and psychology are distinct disciplines. (shrink)
Here, I consider the recent application of phylogenetic methods in historical linguistics. After a preliminary survey of one such method, i.e. cladistic parsimony, I respond to two common criticisms of cultural phylogenies: that cultural artifacts cannot be modeled as tree-like because of borrowing across lineages, and that the mechanism of cultural change differs radically from that of biological evolution. I argue that while perhaps remains true for certain cultural artifacts, the nature of language may be such as to side-step (...) this objection. Moreover, I explore the possibility that cladistic parsimony can be justified even if is true by appealing to the inference pattern known among philosophers as ‘Inference to the Best Explanation’. (shrink)
In his “Meaning and Formal Semantics in Generative Grammar” (Erkenntnis 2015, 61–87), Stephen Schiffer argues that truth-conditional semantics is a poor fit with generative linguistics. In particular, he thinks that it fails to explain speakers’ abilities to understand the sentences of their language. In its place, he recommends his “Best Bet Theory”—a theory which aims to directly explain speakers’ abilities to mean things by their utterances and know what others mean by their utterances. I argue that Schiffer does not (...) provide good reason to prefer the Best Bet Theory over truth-conditional semantics in the context of generative linguistics. First, his negative arguments against the truth-conditional approach are unpersuasive, and second, the Best Bet Theory involves an explanatory circularity which makes it unfit for linguistic theorizing. I conclude that the Best Bet Theory is thus not even a viable competitor to truth-conditional semantics in generative linguistics. (shrink)
This edited volume offers ten new essays on semantics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of linguistics by top scholars in the field. Covering a wide range of topics, the collection is sure to be of interest to scholars in those areas as well as some philosophers of mind. Because of the diversity of topics and perspectives inherent in the collection, readers will find both exposition and debate among the contributors.
One of the central issues in linguistics is whether or not language should be considered a self-contained, autonomous formal system, essentially reducible to the syntactic algorithms of meaning construction (as Chomskyan grammar would have it), or a holistic-functional system serving the means of expressing pre-organized intentional contents and thus accessible with respect to features and structures pertaining to other cognitive subsystems or to human experience as such (as Cognitive Linguistics would have it). The latter claim depends critically on (...) the existence of principles governing the composition of semantic contents. Husserl''s fourth Logical Investigation is well known as a genuine precursor for Chomskyan grammar. However, I will establish the heterogeneous character of the Investigation and show that the whole first part of it is devoted to the exposition of a semantic combinatorial system cognate to the one elaborated within Cognitive Linguistics. I will thus show how theoretical results in linguistics may serve to corroborate and shed light on those parts of Husserl''s Fourth Investigation that have traditionally been dismissed as vague or simply ignored. (shrink)
In light of the sharp linguistic turn philosophy has taken in this century, this collection provides a much-needed and long-overdue reference for philosophical discussion. The first collection of its kind, it explores questions of the nature and existence of linguistic objects--including sentences and meanings--and considers the concept of truth in linguistics. The status of linguistics and the nature of language now take a central place in discussions of the nature of philosophy; the essays in this volume both inform (...) these discussions and lay the groundwork for further examination. (shrink)
Mind–body dualism has rarely been an issue in the generative study of mind; Chomsky himself has long claimed it to be incoherent and unformulable. We first present and defend this negative argument but then suggest that the generative enterprise may license a rather novel and internalist view of the mind and its place in nature, different from all of, (i) the commonly assumed functionalist metaphysics of generative linguistics, (ii) physicalism, and (iii) Chomsky’s negative stance. Our argument departs from the (...) empirical observation that the linguistic mind gives rise to hierarchies of semantic complexity that we argue (only) follow from constraints of an essentially mathematical kind. We assume that the faculty of language tightly correlates with the mathematical capacity both formally and in evolution, the latter plausibly arising as an abstraction from the former, as a kind of specialized output. On this basis, and since the semantic hierarchies in question are mirrored in the syntactic complexity of the expression involved, we posit the existence of a higher-dimensional syntax structured on the model of the hierarchy of numbers, in order to explain the semantic facts in question. If so, syntax does not have a physicalist interpretation any more than the hierarchy of number-theoretic spaces does. (shrink)
Philosophy of linguistics is the philosophy of science as applied to linguistics. This differentiates it sharply from the philosophy of language, traditionally concerned with matters of meaning and reference.
The philosophical and, in a lesser degree, linguistic debate about the notion of names has been raging for a long time. The processes behind naming are presented and explained in various ways. This paper will try to give a new insight into the motivation behind the creation of new names as seen from the linguistics viewpoint. Metaphor, as one of the major sources of motivation from the perspective of cognitive linguistics, is the basic form of human conceptualization. The (...) first part of the paper presents the current theories about names. The second part describes the basic principles of cognitive linguistics as related to metaphors. The third part deals with providing the evidence regarding metaphor involvement in original creation of people's names, while the last part of the paper presents examples from the Serbian language. (shrink)
138 titles across a wide range of scholarly publications illustrate the conceptual affinities that connect the palaetiological sciences of biological systematics, historical linguistics, and stemmatics. These three fields all have as their central objective the reconstruction of evolutionary "trees of history" that depict phylogenetic patterns of descent with modification among species, languages, and manuscripts. All three fields flourished in the nineteenth century, underwent parallel periods of quiescence in the early twentieth century, and in recent decades have seen widespread parallel (...) revivals. "Tree thinking" (O'Hara, 1988) is now standard within evolutionary biology, and the unity of what William Whewell called palaetiology is being once again appreciated by scholars and scientists in many fields. (shrink)
Logic and linguistics have engaged in a many-faceted dialogue since the very beginnings of both disciplines in Antiquity. While participants may have had diverse views over the ages, arguably, the dialogue has always revolved around the relationship between human thought and natural language. While there are those who see these two domains as one and the same, or as a case of one-directional influence , we beg to differ. To us, the long historical tradition of authors such as Arnauld, (...) Boole, Turing, or Jespersen demonstrates the much richer perspectives on language and reasoning that are needed, including connections with intelligence and computability.Another major historical theme in the above dialogue are similarities or convergences between natural and artificial languages. It is clear that natural languages are not only semantically broader, but also much closer to human communication than artificial languages, and so linguistic grammars have long dealt with a larger set of problems than logical formalism. This specal issue of JoLLI consists six selected papers presented in the "Logic and Linguisics" Workshop in UNI-LOG 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, plus two papers by invited authors: Johan van Benthem, and Marcus Kracht and Uno Klein. It contains a number of samples of what is intriguing and promising work at the interfaces of logic and language. (shrink)
This book deals with the need to rethink the aims and methods of contemporary linguistics. Orthodox linguists' discussions of linguistic form fail to exemplify how language users become language makers. Integrationist theory is used here as a solution to this basic problem within general linguistics. The book is aimed at an interdisciplinary readership, comprising those engaged in study, teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences, including linguistics, philosophy, sociology and psychology.
As hopes that generative linguistics might solve philosophical problems about the mind give way to disillusionment, old problems concerning the relationship between linguistics and philosophy survive unresolved. This collection surveys the historical engagement between the two, and opens up avenues for further reflection. In Part 1 two contrasting views are presented of the interface nowadays called 'philosophy of linguistics '. Part 2 gives a detailed historical survey of the engagement of analytic philosophy with linguistic problems during the (...) present century, and sees the imposition by philosophers of an 'exploratory' model of thinking as a major challenge to the discipline of linguistics. Part 3 poses the problem of whether linguistics is dedicated to describing independently existing linguistic structures or to imposing its own structures on linguistic phenomena. In Part 4 Harris points out some similarities in the way an eminent linguist and an eminent philosopher invoke the analogy between languages and games; while Taylor analyses the rationale of our metalinguistic claims and their relationship to linguistic theorizing. Providing a wide range of views and ideas this book will be of interest to all those interested and involved in the interface of philosophy and linguistics. (shrink)
This groundbreaking collection, the most thorough treatment of the philosophy of linguistics ever published, brings together philosophers, scientists and historians to map out both the foundational assumptions set during the second half of ...
Authoritative and wide-ranging, this book examines the history of western linguistics over a 2000-year timespan, from its origins in ancient Greece up to the crucial moment of change in the Renaissance that laid the foundations of modern linguistics. Some of today's burning questions about language date back a long way: in 1400 BC Plato was asking how words relate to reality. Other questions go back just a few generations, such as our interest in the mechanisms of language change, (...) or in the social factors that shape the way we speak. Vivien Law explores how ideas about language over the centuries have changed to reflect changing modes of thinking. A survey chapter brings the coverage of the book up to the present day. Classified bibliographies and chapters on research resources and the qualities the historian of linguistics needs to develop, provide the reader with the tools to go further. (shrink)
This paper investigates the issue whether metaphors have a metaphorical or secondary meaning and how this question is related to the borderline between philosophy and linguistics. On examples by V. Woolf and H. W. Auden, it will be shown that metaphor accomplishes something more than its literal meaning expresses and this “more” cannot be captured by any secondary meaning. What is essential in the metaphor is not a secondary meaning but an internal relation between a metaphorical proposition and a (...) description of its effects. In order to understand metaphors, we have to share an ability to construe metaphorical meanings at once. The aim of this ability is to uncover an internal relation, which lies behind a particular metaphor. (shrink)
Computational techniques comparing co-occurrences of city names in texts allow the relative longitudes and latitudes of cities to be estimated algorithmically. However, these techniques have not been applied to estimate the provenance of artifacts with unknown origins. Here, we estimate the geographic origin of artifacts from the Indus Valley Civilization, applying methods commonly used in cognitive science to the Indus script. We show that these methods can accurately predict the relative locations of archeological sites on the basis of artifacts of (...) known provenance, and we further apply these techniques to determine the most probable excavation sites of four sealings of unknown provenance. These findings suggest that inscription statistics reflect historical interactions among locations in the Indus Valley region, and they illustrate how computational methods can help localize inscribed archeological artifacts of unknown origin. The success of this method offers opportunities for the cognitive sciences in general and for computational anthropology specifically. (shrink)
For the past three decades linguistic theory has been based on the assumption that sentences are interpreted and constructed by the brain by means of computational processes analogous to those of a serial-digital computer. The recent interest in devices based on the neural network or parallel distributed processor (PDP) principle raises the possibility ("eliminative connectionism") that such devices may ultimately replace the S-D computer as the model for the interpretation and generation of language by the brain. An analysis of the (...) differences between the two models suggests that the effect of such a development would be to steer linguistic theory towards a return to the empiricism and behaviorism which prevailed before it was driven by Chomsky towards nativism and mentalism. Linguists, however, will not be persuaded to return to such a theory unless and until it can deal with the phenomenon of novel sentence construction as effectively as its nativist/mentalist rival. (shrink)
There were in the past, just as there are in the present, several diverse attempts to establish a unique theory capable of identifying in all natural languages a similar, invariable basic structure of a logical nature. If such a theory exists, then there must be principles that rule the functioning of these languages and they must have a logical origin. Based on a work by the French linguist, Oswald Ducrot, entitled D’un mauvais usage de la logique , this paper aims (...) to present in a concise manner two of the above mentioned attempts. They were elaborated in diverse epochs and different arguments were put forward to support them. The first attempt was in XVII century France and its theoretic basis was the renowned ‘Port-Royal Logic’. The second attempt is recent and its theoretic support comes from Contemporary Logic. DOI: 10.5007/1808-1711.2011v15n1p111. (shrink)