Synthese

, Volume 120, Issue 2, pp 151–191 | Cite as

Chomsky On The ‘Ordinary Language’ View Of Language

  • Francis Y. Lin
Article

Abstract

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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Baker, G. P. and P. M. S. Hacker: 1985, Wittgenstein: Rules, Grammar and Necessity, Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  2. Bloomfield, L.: 1928, 'A Set of Postulates for the Science of Language', Language 2.Reprinted in M. Joos (ed.), Readings in Linguistics, American Council of Learned Sciences, Washington, 1957.Google Scholar
  3. Bloomfield, L.: 1935, Language, Allen and Unwin, London.Google Scholar
  4. Braine, M. D. S.: 1976, Children's First Word Combinations, University of Chicago Press for the Society for Research in Child Development.Google Scholar
  5. Chomsky N.: 1975, Reflections on Language, Pantheon Books, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Chomsky, N.: 1977, Essays on Form and Interpretation, North-Holland, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Chomsky, N.: 1980a, 'Discussion of Putnam's Comments', in M. Piattelli-Palmarini (ed.) (1980), 310–24.Google Scholar
  8. Chomsky, N.: 1980b, Rules and Representation, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Chomsky, N.: 1986, Knowledge of Language: Its Nature, Origin, and Use,Praeger, New York.Google Scholar
  10. Chomsky, N.: 1988, Language and Problems of Knowledge: The Managua Lectures,MIT Press, London.Google Scholar
  11. Chomsky, N.: 1993, 'Mental Constructions and Social Reality', in E. Renland and W. Abraham (eds.) Knowledge of Language, Vol. 1, Kluwer, London, 29–58.Google Scholar
  12. Chomsky, N.: 1995a, 'Language and Nature', Mind 104, 1–61.Google Scholar
  13. Chomsky, N.: 1995b, The Minimalist Program, MIT Press, London.Google Scholar
  14. Dummett, M.: 1975, 'What is a Theory of Meaning? (II)', in G. Evans and J. McDowell (eds.), Truth and Meaning, Oxford University Press, London. Reprinted in Dummett (1993), 34–93.Google Scholar
  15. Dummett, M.: 1978, 'What Do I Know When I Know a Language?'. First published as a paper presented at the Centenary Celebrations, Stockholm University. Reprinted in Dummett (1993), 94–105.Google Scholar
  16. Dummett, M.: 1989, 'Language and Communication', in A. George (ed.), Reflections on Chomsky, Blackwell, Oxford. Reprinted in Dummett (1993), 166–87.Google Scholar
  17. Dummett, M.: 1993, The Seas of Language, Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  18. Elman, J. L., E, A, Bates, M. H. Johnson, A. Karmiloff-Smith, D. Parisi, and K. Plunkett: 1996, Rethinking Innateness: A Connectionist Perspective on Development, MIT Press, London.Google Scholar
  19. Fromkin, V. A.: 1997, 'Some Thoughts about the Brain/Mind/Language Interface', Lingua 100, 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Haegeman, L.: 1994, Introduction to Government and Binding Theory, 2nd edition, Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  21. Jespersen, O.: 1924, The Philosophy of Grammar, Allen and Unwin, London. Reprinted in 1992 by University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  22. Jespersen, O.: 1937, Analytic Syntax, Allen and Unwin, London. Reprinted in 1984 by University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  23. Lewis, D.: 1975, 'Language and Languages', in K. Gunderson (ed.), Language, Mind, and Knowledge, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 3–35.Google Scholar
  24. Lin, F. Y.: 1998, 'Jespersen, Skinner and Chomsky on Language', ms., Somerville College, Oxford.Google Scholar
  25. Lust, B. (ed.): 1986, Studies in the Acquisition of Anaphor, Reidel, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  26. Piattelli-Palmarini, M. (ed.): 1980, Language and Learning: The Debate between Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky, Routlege and Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar
  27. Pine, J. M. and E. V. M. Lieven: 1993, 'Reanalysing Rote-Learned Phrases: Individual Differences in the Transition to Multi-Word Speech', Journal of Child Language 20, 551–71.Google Scholar
  28. Pinker, S. and P. Bloom: 1990, 'Natural Language and Natural Selection', Behavioural and Brain Sciences 13, 707–27.Google Scholar
  29. Pinker, S.: 1994, The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and Mind, Allen Lane, London.Google Scholar
  30. Putnam, H.: 1980a, 'What is Innate and Why: Comments on the Debate', in Piattelli-Palmarini (ed.) (1980), 287–309.Google Scholar
  31. Putnam, H.: 1980b, 'Comments on Chomsky's and Fodor's Replies', in Piattelli-Palmarini (ed.) (1980), 335–40.Google Scholar
  32. Quine, W. V. O.: 1960, Word and Object, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  33. Quine, W. V. O.: 1972, 'Methodological Reflections on Current Linguistic Theory', in G. Harman and D. Davidson (eds.), Semantics of Natural Language, Humanities Press, New York, 442–54.Google Scholar
  34. Schlesinger, I. M.: 1977, Production and Comprehension of Utterances, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  35. Schlesinger, I. M.: 1982, Steps to Language: Towards a Theory of Native Language Acquisition, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  36. Searle, J. R.: 1972, 'Chomsky's Revolution in Linguistics', New York Review of Books, June 29.Google Scholar
  37. Searle, J. R.: 1976, 'The Rules of the Language Game', Times Literary Supplement,10 September.Google Scholar
  38. Searle, J. R.: 1980, 'Rules and Causation', The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3, 37–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Strawson, P. F.: 1970, Meaning and Truth, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  40. Strawson, P. F.: 1974, Subject and Predicate in Logic and Grammar, Methuen, London.Google Scholar
  41. Vygotsky, I. S.: 1962, Thought and Language, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  42. Wiggins, D.: 1997, 'Languages as Social Objects', Philosophy 72, 499–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wittgenstein, L.: 1953, Philosophical Investigations, Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations