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Chomsky on the 'Ordinary Language' View of Language

Francis Y. Lin
Synthese
Vol. 120, No. 2 (1999), pp. 151-192
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20118197
Page Count: 42
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Chomsky on the 'Ordinary Language' View of Language
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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 'ordinary language' 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.

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