Linguistics and philosophy
DOI link for Linguistics and philosophy
Linguistics and philosophy book
Philosophy and the study of language are intimately connected, to the extent that it is impossible to say from which point in human intellectual history the study of meaning in natural language can be regarded as an independent enterprise. Natural language syntax, semantics and pragmatics are now considered to be subdisciplines of theoretical linguistics, surrounded by the acolytes in the domains of language acquisition, language disorders, language processing (psycholinguistics and neuroscience of language), all using empirical, including experimental, methods in addition to rationalistic inquiry. However, philosophical problems associated with the structure of language as well as with meaning in language and in discourse still remain, and arguably will always remain, the backbone of syntax and semantics, and a trigger for progress in theorising. It is impossible to summarise the impressively rich tradition of thinking about language in the history of philosophy. One would have to start with Presocratics in the sixth and seventh centuries BCE in Ancient Greece and cover two and a half millennia of intensive questioning and argumentation over the relations between language, reality, truth and the human mind. Or, one could try to delve into the history before the Greeks, then move through the landmarks of Plato, Aristotle and the later Stoics into the current era (see e.g. Harris and Taylor 1989; Law 2003; Allan 2010). In this brief introduction we shall focus on much later debates, starting from the period when discussions about topics that are currently in the focus of debates originated, that is late nineteenth century, marked by Frege’s insights into an ideal language for describing knowledge and the origin of modern logic that is now used as a metalanguage for theorising about meaning in natural human languages. From formal approaches within analytical philosophy I shall move to the ‘language-as-use’ paradigm of the ordinary language philosophy, followed by the more recent debates on meaning as it is to be understood for the purpose of formal representation and linguistic theory. In the process, I shall address some of the core areas that philosophers of language have been drawn to such as reference and referring or propositional attitude reports. Next, I move to the topic of the role of intentions and inferences, and finish with a brief attempt to place ‘linguistics and philosophy’ on the map of language sciences and research on language in the twenty-first century.