, Volume 120, Issue 2, pp 193-211

Language Without Linguistics

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Abstract

Though Mr. Lin purports to attack “Chomsky's view of language” and to defend the “common sense view of language”, he in fact attacks “views” that are basic and common to linguists, psycholinguists, and developmental psychologists. Indeed, though he cites W. V. O. Quine, L. Wittgenstein, and J. L. Austin in his support, they all sharply part company from his views, Austin particularly. Lin's views are not common sense but a set of scholarly and philological prejudices that linguistics disparaged from its inception as an organized science a hundred years ago.

Professor [of Philosophy]: I will explain to you the secrets of language in all its wealth and complexity.

Monsieur Jordain: & Great. Now I'll let you into a secret of my own. I am in love with a lady – a noble lady – and I would like you to help me write a little note which I can drop at her dainty feet.

Professor: ...Presumably you want it written in verse?

Monsieur Jourdain: Verse. No. I can't stand verse.

Professor: In prose, then.

Monsieur Jourdain: What do you think I am? Prose? Not [expletive deleted] likely!

Professor: Well, I'm sorry, but it has to be one or the other. You can only express yourself in prose or verse.

Monsieur Jourdain: What, [expletive deleted]-all else? Just prose or verse? ... That's a bit of a let down. Call yourself a philosopher? ...What about when I talk like I am doing right at this moment, what's that then?

Philosopher: That, Monsieur, is prose.

Monsieur Jourdain: You mean I have been talking in prose for forty [expletive deleted] years and never known it?

This revised version was published online in August 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.