SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Justifying the Evidential Use of Linguistic Intuitions
(Philosophy of Language, English)

Intuitive judgements about the well-formedness of sentences is the data type of choice in generative linguistics. Despite this, there is little discussion within the field over what makes these intuitive judgements good evidence. In the philosophy of linguistics, on the other hand, this question has been hotly debated. One answer, the Voice of Competence view, as named by Michael Devitt, is that the speaker's linguistic competence delivers the propositional content of judgements. This proposal commits us to very immodest cognitive assumptions, and no one has come forward to defend it. Instead, Georges Rey (2013), among others, argues that the speaker's competence produces a signal which is fairly directly translated into the content of an intuitive judgement. This begins to answer the question, but these accounts are criticised for not cashing out how such signals could plausibly be translated into the propositional content of judgements.
On the other side of the debate, Devitt (2006) argues that intuitive judgements are theory-laden, central processor judgements. On Devitt's account, these judgements are made according to concepts from either folk linguistics or linguistic theory. Critics reply that this type of theory-laden judgements could not play the evidential role that intuitive judgements have in linguistics.
In this paper, I defend an account that combines elements from both sides of the debate. On this account, sentence processing is accompanied by an affective evaluation of the sentence (Luka, 2005), and this serves as the competence-based signal which a judgement is based on. The concept applied in the judgement, rather than being from (folk) linguistic theory, is built on the subject's experience with processing sentences and the accompanying affective evaluations. The result is a cognitively plausible account of linguistic intuitive judgements on which, in contrast to on Devitt's view, the content of judgements is mainly due to the speaker's linguistic competence.

Chair: Nadja-Mira Yolcu
Time: 12:00-12:30, 14 September 2018 (Friday)
Location: HS E.002

Karen Bröcker 
(Aarhus University, Denmark)

Karen Bröcker is currently a PhD fellow at the Centre for Science Studies at Aarhus University, Denmark. Her work focuses on the philosophy of linguistics, specifically the assumptions underlying the use of intuitive judgements as evidence in linguistics. She is part of a research group investigating the evidential use of intuitions in science, philosophy, and linguistics.

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