Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 327–336

Linguistic competence and expertise


DOI: 10.1007/s11097-011-9211-5

Cite this article as:
Addis, M. Phenom Cogn Sci (2013) 12: 327. doi:10.1007/s11097-011-9211-5


Questions about the relationship between linguistic competence and expertise will be examined in the paper. Harry Collins and others distinguish between ubiquitous and esoteric expertise. Collins places considerable weight on the argument that ordinary linguistic competence and related phenomena exhibit a high degree of expertise. His position and ones which share close affinities are methodologically problematic. These difficulties matter because there is continued and systematic disagreement over appropriate methodologies for the empirical study of expertise. Against Collins, it will be argued that the term ‘expertise’ should be reserved for expertise (esoteric experts) and exclude everyday performance (ubiquitous experts). Wittgensteinian ideas will be employed to maintain that it is mistaken and misleading to derive substantive conclusions about the epistemology of expertise from ordinary linguistic competence and vice versa. Significant attention will be devoted to the notion of following a rule with particular reference to the intelligibility of tacit rule following. A satisfactory theoretical approach to expertise should not involve making important claims about ordinary linguistic competence.


ExpertiseCollinsLinguistic competenceRulesWittgenstein

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Birmingham City UniversityBirminghamUK