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Review of Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2006 00:42:49 +0200 (EET) From: Anca Gata Subject: Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language
EDITORS: Chapman, Siobhan; Routledge, Christopher TITLE: Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language PUBLISHERS: Edinburgh University Press & Oxford University Press YEAR: 2005
Anca Gata, Department of Applied Modern Languages, ''Dunarea de Jos'' University of Galati, Romania
This volume is a collection of entries concerning some of the most representative thinkers in the fields of Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language.
The book opens with a Preface (pages ix-x) of the editors, includes Notes on Contributors (names and affiliation -- pages xi-xii), and an Index (pages 279-282).
The 80 key thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language are each dealt with separately in entries ranged in alphabetical order. The entries vary between 1 and 8 pages, and include each a short bibliography consisting of 'Primary works' belonging to the author and a list of 'Further Reading', which mentions some of the most important writings about the authors, the nature of their contribution and critical approaches.
The key thinkers in the volume represent the 'Western tradition of thought' (page ix), belonging to the European and American areas. These key thinkers are: Aristotle, Arnauld, Austin, Ayer, Bakhtin, Barthes, Benveniste, Berkeley, Bernstein, Bloomfield, Boas, Bopp, Bourdieu, Brugmann, Cameron, Carnap, Chomsky, Davidson, Derrida, Descartes, Dummett, Firth, Fodor, Frege, Geach, Goodman, Greenberg, Greimas, Grice, Grimm, Halliday, Hegel, Hjelmslev, Hockett, Humboldt, Hume, Husserl, Jakobson, Jones, Kant, Kripke, Kristeva, Labov, Lacan, Leibniz, Lewis, Locke, Malinowski, Martinet, Marx, Mill, Milroy, Montague, Moore, Morris, Peirce, Piaget, Pike, Plato, Popper, Putnam, Quine, Ramsey, Rask, Russell, Ryle, Sacks, Sapir, Saussure, Searle, Sinclair, Skinner, Strawson, Tannen, Tarski, Todorov, Trubetzkoy, Whorf, Wittgenstein.
The selection criteria of the key thinkers, as mentioned in the Preface, appear to have been the following: they belong to a tradition extending from antiquity to the present day; they represent the ''Western tradition of thought''; they are mainly linguists and philosophers, but also ''psychologists, anthropologists, cognitive scientists, critical theorists and mathematicians''; they have ''an important contribution to the description or the theory of language''; they ''worked with the subject''; they ''have been significant in similar areas of thought''; they ''influenced or were influenced by the subject''; they provided in their work ''significant contrast'' to established theories (p. ix). The first four criteria apply to all of the thinkers, while the last ones only partially and only to some of them.
As mentioned in the editors' Preface, the entries describe the work of thinkers mainly in the fields of linguistics and philosophy, but also in psychology, anthropology, cognitive sciences, critical theory, mathematics, since these have contributed in important ways to the description or to the theory of language.
An overview of the each particular thinker's work is provided in each entry, in some cases preceded by a short biographical presentation -- ''where this is relevant to illuminating the character of the thinker or explaining his or her career and ideas in their historical and cultural context'' (p. ix).
The short presentation below is meant to give an idea on the contents of some entries.
Logic, thought, meaning and language -- Russell gave a most notable theory on descriptions, by applying a logical treatment to natural language. Ryle elaborated a 'concept of mind' later developed by representatives of analytic philosophy in Oxford and argued that, in studying meaning, one has to study the word and not an abstract notion of meaning. Wittgenstein considered language ''as a goal- directed and use-governed system of communication'', thus coining the concept of 'language game'. Tarski proved that it is impossible to define truth within a natural language in a comprehensible way. Carnap contributed to the development of analytical philosophy and investigated meaning matters; under Tarski's influence, he worked on the semantics of modal operators, by also providing an elaboration of the notions of extension and intension previously discussed by Frege. Quine criticized Carnap, by arguing that notions such as meaning and synonymy can not be applied to natural languages and by advancing the idea that we hold a theory of the world biased by a system of sentences and influenced as such by our sensory experience and by our knowledge of language. Strawson argued that logical and natural language conditionals differ in that in natural language the entities in conditional relationship are also in some causal connection while this is not the case in logical conditional. Grice, who also worked with Strawson on Aristotle's categories, developed Strawson's ideas on meaning, distinguishing between 'what is said' and 'what is implicated'; Grice also gave a psychological account on linguistic communication seen as being co-operative and end-driven, which has been the basis of an important number of studies in contemporary pragmatic studies. Davidson advanced the thesis of the compositionality of meaning, which asserts that the meaning of a sentence is generated from the meanings of its parts; subsequent development of some areas in linguistics relies on this idea, such as research in the meaning of connectives and quantifiers. Lewis's contribution is best represented by his work on possible worlds as represented in language in counterfactual conditionals.
Development of linguistics -- Bloomfield is known for having largely used the concept of 'phoneme' (devised by Baudouin de Courtenay) and insisted that sound is the first element that should be examined in linguistics, and meaning afterwards. Unlike Bloomfield, Sapir considered meaning to be essential in language. Whorf is the father of the concept of 'allophony'. Whorf advocated, in the same line with Sapir, for linguistic relativity, which consists in considering a linguistic community's perception of the world as determined by the language they use. This is known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Trubetzkoy was -- within the Prague School -- the founder of phonology as distinct from phonetics, and studied the phonological systems and the prosody of ''hundreds of languages'', his work being mainly focused on synchrony. Benveniste developed his own conception of language use by establishing his theory of subjectivity, based on the notion of 'enunciation', largely made use of in subsequent French linguistic and literary studies; he was mainly interested in the speaker's activity and his intervention in discourse by means of deictics.
Linguistics and literature -- Influenced in some respect by Benveniste, Barthes is the father of the 'writing degree zero' theory, which argues in favour of the idea that an objective representation of reality in literature is impossible, since writing depends on history and on personal beliefs and mythologies. Also influenced by Benveniste, Todorov has extensively used linguistics in his literary studies, by showing that the object of a literary text is its creation, in a way related to Blanchot's (1955) approach to literature. Influenced by Lacan, Derrida, Barthes, Kristeva is the author of the theory of intertextuality, as well as of the notions of genotext and phenotext; her work is underlied by Bakhtin's notion of dialogism. Conversation and Discourse Analysis -- Sacks mainly exposed his views on linguistic interaction in his lectures 'on conversation', constitutive of the discipline; he was interested by the study of conversational turn taking, conversational units, conversational patterns, openings, closing, topic organisation, sequencing, repairs, use of pronouns and performatives. Tannen's main contribution is in gender studies and her idea is that men and women speak differently. Cameron criticizes Tannen for this approach, by arguing that in fact language ''calls the (gendered) identity of speakers into existence''.
The entries include an analysis of one or several aspects of the ideas and / or theories brought to light by each thinker and a 'See also' list of authors. This list provides names of other authors dealt with in the volume who have been concerned by the same issues and have contributed to deepening the ideas or theories belonging to each particular key thinker; it is worth mentioning the editors' wish to track significant relationships between the key thinkers: ''In addition, other key thinkers who have their own entries are indicated with an asterisk when first mentioned in an entry. These two types of cross- referencing allow influences, commonalities and continuities in thinking to be traced to other contemporary work, and across the history of ideas.'' (p. ix)
Biographical details are provided with reference to important contacts for the work of the authors dealt with: Jakobson ''established friendly relations with ... Boas, Whorf and Bloomfield'' in the US; during vacations, Daniel Jones, a mathematician and a lawyer by education, studied phonetics in France with ''Paul Passy, the leading phonetician of the time'', who convinced and helped the former ''to take up a career in phonetics''; Katz began his career under the influence of Chomsky; Kristeva worked with Lucien Goldmann, Barthes, Jacques Dubois, Claude Lévi-Strauss, she met Lacan, Derrida, Michel Foucault, and married Philippe Sollers; Labov was Uriel Weinreich's student and later they worked together; Quine had contacts with Dummett, Strawson, Grice, Geach, Davidson, Lewis, Carnap, Tarski; Ramsey visited Wittgenstein in Austria; the latter ''acknowledged Ramsey's role in helping him realise the errors in his own earlier philosophy ''.
The biographical information also sheds light on: -- the authors' families: Ayer's mother ''came from the wealthy Dutch Jewish family that gave its name'' to the Citroën car company; Hegel had three children; Husserl's ''son Wolfgang was killed in the Western Front at Verdun'' (which caused him not writing for a long period of time); Katz was married twice and Russell four times; Ramsey's brother was archbishop of Canterbury while Ramsay himself was ''a staunch atheist''; -- their hobbies: Grice used to play bridge, chess and ''was a passionate fan of cricket''; Hockett had musical talents; Katz dreamed, in his youth, of a career in professional football; Rask travelled a lot during his life (his ''great voyage extended from 1816 to 1823, across Sweden, Finland, Russia, Persia, India) and he is supposed to ''have had relevant knowledge of about fifty-five languages'', besides English, Swedish and Icelandic; their vicious habits, peculiar way of being or some strange aspects of their lives: Grice was a ''heavy smoker''; Kant '' is said never to have left the area of Königsberg [where he was born] during his entire life''; Katz was ''such a dynamic character that a friend once said that talking to him was like talking to five people''; Ramsey had an ''infectious sense of humour'', just like Grice, who enjoyed discussions and whose examples have a ''bizarre humour''; -- their non linguistic or non philosophical career: during World War II, Austin ''was an intelligence officer at the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, active in preparations for D-Day, and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel''; Barthes worked as a teacher and as a librarian; Grimm ''spent over a third of his working life as a librarian with light duties; Humboldt ''was also a lawyer and a statesman'', a minister of public instruction, later dismissed from the Prussian government because of political difference with other statesmen; Hume never got an academic post, working as ''a private tutor, as a law librarian, and as a secretary to various commanders and diplomats overseas; Ramsey lived as a ''reclusive school teacher''; Whorf was a fire prevention officer all his life; -- the poor health condition of some of the authors: Barthes suffered with tuberculosis ''from the age of 10 until his early thirties''; Benveniste ''suffered a heart attack in 1956 and a stroke in 1969 that crippled him and robbed him of the ability to speak for the rest of his life''; Grice was ''increasingly affected by a chronic cough'', later ''diagnosed with emphysema and suffered deteriorating health''; Hume (aged 66) died ''after an illness lasting two years''; -- the cause or circumstances of their death: Austin (aged 49), Katz (70), Whorf (41), Wittgenstein (62) died of cancer, Hegel (61) of cholera, Skinner (86) of leukemia, Russell (98) of influenza, Husserl (79), ''apparently'', of pleurisy; Trubetzkoy (48) died of a heart attack ''after a brutal Gestapo raid on his home''; Barthes (65) ''was knocked down while crossing the road in Paris and died a month later from his injuries'', Lewis (60) ''died suddenly ... from complications arising from diabetes'', Sacks (40) died in a car accident, Berkeley (68) also died ''quite unexpectedly'', while Jones (86) died ''peacefully''.
The Index includes selected concepts, theories, disciplines, methods, approaches (such as 'analytic philosophy', 'causal semantics', 'distinctive features', 'intentionality', 'modality', 'proper names', 'semantics', 'truth theories', etc.) and names of authors either dealt with or referred to in the volume.
There are 30 contributors to the volume (including the editors), academics and researchers from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, the USA. Siobhan Chapman contributed seven articles to the volume, 6 other contributors, among whom the second editor, Christopher Routledge, authored four articles, 8 -- three articles, 13 -- two articles, while 3 of the contributors wrote one article. The contributions are as follows: Baicchi, Annalisa: Russell; Baldwin, Jennifer A.: Arnauld, Boas, Piaget, Pike; Carr, Phillip: Popper; Chapman, Siobhan: Ayer, Grice, Leibniz, Morris, Ramsey, Ryle, Strawson; Clark, Billy: Davidson, Descartes; Cowie, Claire: Bourdieu, Kripke; Einheuser, Iris: Carnap, Putnam; Elhindi, Yousif: Greenberg, Saussure; Garcia-Alvarez, Ivan: Frege, Geach, Lewis, Montague; Gianto, Agustino: Aristotle, Hockett, Sacks; Götzche, Hans: Dummett, Hjelmslev, Jakobson, Rask; Hermann-Kaliner, Eva: Goodman, Martinet; Honeybone, Patrick: Brugmann, Firth, Grimm, Trubetzkoy; Kasher, Asa: Austin, Moore; Kaye, Alan S.: Bopp, Humboldt, Pike; Kousta, Stavroula-Thaleia: Kristeva, Mill; Newman, Anthony: Fodor, Searle; Pietarinen, Ahti-Veikko: Peirce, Wittgenstein; Piller, Ingrid: Bakhtin, Cameron, Tannen; Poole, Geoffrey: Chomsky, Plato, Skinner; Rajagopalan, Kanavillil: Benveniste, Derrida, Katz; Routledge, Cristopher: Barthes, Berkeley, Hume, Todorov; Safarova, Marie: Lacan, Quine; Scott, Mike: Sapir, Sinclair, Whorf; Strässler, Jürg: Jones, Tarski; Thompson, Geoffrey: Halliday; Watt, Dominic: Labov, Milroy; Willems, Klaas: Husserl, Kant; Williams, John: Bernstein, Greimas, Malinowski; Witkosky, David V.: Bloomfield, Hegel, Marx.
The 'Primary works' section in each article is of great value mainly to students and young researchers willing to study an author's most important contributions to the development of ideas in the field. This section also provides in the case of the Tannen entry (p. 261) a reference to the web page of the author dealt with. The 'Further reading' section is also of great help: it provides a bibliographical list of approaches to the work and theories of the author. In some cases, it may contain a reference to web pages providing bibliographical support (Austin, Peirce, Ramsey entries). The 'See also' section provides an overview The entries are not meant to provide a critical perspective on the authors. They help to situate the author's work, his or her influence in the evolvement and development of the philosophy of language and / or linguistics. Yet, there are some indirect critical considerations in various entries, such as: Bernstein's work ''has been criticised ... however, his original research on language codes has been developed into models ... [and] influenced a wide range of researchers and policy makers around the world'' (one is not told who these are and in what respect their achievements are significant) (p. 34); many of Chomsky's admirers in the area of the radical liberal left ''are hardly even aware of his huge stature in linguistics and the philosophy of language'' (p. 53).
The Index is particularly helpful in facilitating the reader's task of finding notions and concepts and of identifying other possible approaches to the same topics throughout the book. Personally, taking into account the existence of the Index, I would have found it appropriate in the entries to use a particular typographical marking for the names and concepts listed in the Index so as to facilitate cross- referencing ('logic', occurring on 24 different pages, according to the index, or 'Chomsky', occurring on 31 pages beside those specially concerned with him). This would have ensured the readers' awareness of the possibility of skimming through other entries to enhance their knowledge or representation of some concept, theory, investigation method or author (it may also be possible that the editors have considered such a marking unpleasant for the reader since the entries contain many occurrences of notions and concepts). A branching presentation of the notions and concepts in the Index is also judged more appropriate; for instance, 'knowledge' is found in the Index only under 'knowledge by acquaintance v. knowledge by description' (pages 231-2) and 'knowledge, philosophy of' (pages 1-3, 74, 76, 102, 135, 154-158, 272), while one can also list 'empirical knowledge' (page 2), 'knowledge in sciences' (page 6), 'elements of knowledge' (page 8), 'system of knowledge' (page 72), 'knowledge' (pages 73, 76), 'scientific and non-scientific knowledge' (page 214), 'objective knowledge' (page 215), 'linguistic knowledge', 'knowledge of language', 'knowledge of the world' (page 216).
I also consider that the Index could ensure, by subsequent extension in the next editions of the volume, a wider and more convenient treatment of the topics approached: notions (such as 'argument', 'falsifiability', 'meaning', 'mental image'), parts of speech (such as 'noun', 'adjective', etc.) should be included in the Index, even if they occur only once in the entries, since other terms or names occurring only once are presently included in the Index as it is. Being particularly interested in argumentation, I found it frustrating that 'argument' is not indexed, although it is present in the entries (p. 74), and that 'argumentation' is cross-referenced to 'reasoning' in the Index, although the notion is also present on other pages (p. 8). Many other concepts, notions, theories or approaches need mentioning in the Index -- a few examples will suffice: 'grammeme', 'tagmeme' (p. 206), 'truthfulness' (p. 215), 'philosophy of science' (p. 215) possible worlds. I hope that subsequent editions of the book will improve the presentation of the Index, which can be in itself a more than precious tool for the insights it gives to issues of linguistics and the philosophy of language. Such a presentation would ensure the volume a remarkable quality.
The biographical sketch is important in more than one way: it gives details on the historical background in which some of the key thinkers lived and developed their thought; it relates the personality of the author to his or her family, social background, education, contacts, scientific and / or professional and social activity; it sheds light upon less obvious or known aspects of his or her life having influenced his or her work. One characteristic of most entries is that they provide anecdotical information on the 'key thinkers', which is valuable and interesting, since reading their works does not tell us anything about their personal and social lives and interactions. Unlike other personalities, political or artistic, linguists are rarely viewed from this perspective. Personally, I consider it enriching and rewarding to find biographical details on the authors, especially when this relates to the evolvement of new thought.
Nevertheless, for some of the authors dealt with, I find that there is much more biographical information than information on their work and contribution to Linguistics and / or the Philosophy of Language. This is the case with Benveniste, Hegel, whose contributions to the field are overviewed in a little more or less than half a page, compared to that of Todorov, for instance, which is described over two pages. This is probably the result of the volume being the work of several authors, whose information and way of approaching it is necessarily distinct.
Who is missing from the book? Hard to tell, taking into account the somewhat non-homogenous selection criteria. A very tentative, and of course subjective, alphabetical list could include, of course, among others: Anscombre, Bal, Comrie, Coseriu (considered a few years ago, before his death, the greatest linguist alive), Crawshay-Williams, Crystal, Ducrot, Eemeren, Fleischman, Goffman, Guillaume (whose work is almost unknown to readers of English), Jespersen, Kerbrat- Orecchioni, Naess, Nolke, Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca (whose treatise on argumentation is meaningful in many respects to research in philosophy and linguistics), Wierzbicka.
One typo in the Index: D. Wilson's first name is misspelt 'Dierdre' for 'Deirdre', under the entry Sperber ... (p. 282). I also identified other typos: title of French volume, whose correct spelling is ''Grammaire générale et raisonnée'' (p.8), ''determine's'' is misspelt for ''determines'' (p. 130), a hardspace is missing between ''p'' and ''is'' (p. 141).
On the whole, the volume is of good quality, a valuable endeavour for bringing together linguistics and the philosophy of language.
Some of its greatest merits could be summarized as follows: -- the perspective it proposes does not take for granted the readers' familiarity with the subjects and topics dealt with, by thus making it equally accessible and a precious tool for students, academics and researchers; -- it brings together in one single book significant thought developments; -- it can be used as a very useful and handy reference resource; -- it provides an updated list of the most important readings in one specific domain, as recent as 2003 (the latest is 2005, in the entry for Grice, p. 114); -- it provides biographical insight, which is very likely to be very difficult to find elsewhere; this is of much use especially in pedagogical approaches, since students are often willing to know.
I find the volume very useful, quite easy to consult and use in teaching and research, especially valuable for under and postgraduates and I really believe that it filled a gap when this was really needed.
Blanchot, Maurice (1955) L'espace littéraire. Paris: Gallimard.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Anca Gata is a Professor of French language and of Linguistics at Dunarea de Jos University in Galati, Romania. She also coordinates the group of Argumentation and Rhetoric Studies within the Center of Discourse Theory and Practice at the same university. Her research interests include the relationship between tenses and illocutionary force of the utterance, speech act theory, discourse analysis, theory of argumentation (pragma-dialectical approach; strategy of dissociation). She has published a volume on the French future and one on the act of prediction. She is presently carrying out research on argumentative strategies in media, public and electronic forum discourse in French within the CNRS Laboratory "Communication et Politique" in Paris.