, Volume 120, Issue 2, pp 151–191

Chomsky On The ‘Ordinary Language’ View Of Language

  • Francis Y. Lin

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005088716396

Cite this article as:
Lin, F.Y. Synthese (1999) 120: 151. doi:10.1023/A:1005088716396


There is a common-sense view of language, which is held by Wittgenstein, Strawson Dummett, Searle, Putnam, Lewis, Wiggins, and others. According to this view a language consists of conventions, it is rule-governed, rules are conventionalised, a language is learnt, there are general learning mechanisms in the brain, and so on. I shall call this view the ‘ordinary language’ view of language. Chomsky’s attitude towards this view of language has been rather negative, and his rejection of it is a major motivation for the development of his own theory. In this paper I shall review Chomsky’s long-standing criticisms. I shall show that (1)Chomsky’s argument does not constitute a dismissal of the ‘ordinarylanguage’ view of language, (2) Chomsky’s conclusions about language do not follow from his argument, and (3) the ‘ordinary language’ view actually points to a promising way for us to understand the true nature of language and mind.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francis Y. Lin
    • 1
  1. 1.Somerville CollegeOxfordU.K.