SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Rationality in language
(Philosophy of Language, English)

The main thesis of this paper is to defend rationalistic approach to understanding, learning and using language; the main feature of language is its creative nature and that creativeness is in its core rational. In a nutshell, this means that language enables us to create infinite number of sentences via limited number of rules and limited vocabulary. This feature cannot be easily explained by behaviorist or other empiricist approaches to language. Main critique will be focused on work of Quine, and Tomasello's paper "Language is not an instinct", where theory of Generative Grammar is confronted. In "Word and Object", Quine states that children learn language by listening and responding in presence of certain stimuli, and society rewards or punishes accurate or false usage of induced words. I will argue that this is only partial explanation of phenomenon of language, since Quine does nothing to expand his explanation and that is as far as his explanation goes: in early age, children need stimuli and that is how children learn. Everything else in language is rationally sub-based.
Similar critique goes to Tomasello: the main argument against Generative Grammar that he offers is that Chomsky was extremely influenced by the very nature of English language and that is why that theory cannot achieve goals of universality. I will argue that Tomasello did not support that argument in rightful manner and even if he did, it wouldn't affect the idea of Generative Grammar. As alternative, he listed Cognitive and Functional views of language, which will later appear problematic in my critique.
I will argue that even though for understanding one complicated phenomenon as language acquisition, we need to study both the linguistic input that the child is exposed to, as well as relevant experiences: it is nonetheless essential to emphasize that formal approach, the approach that Chomsky initiated is the one that should have explanatory advantage in our approach to language. This will be accomplished by stating that syntax and semantics are two completely separated aspects of language and that they exist independently, can be researched independently, and that whenever they are connected or their existence is intertwined, that is solely accidental, even though prima facie it seems that they appear as univocal phenomenon.

Chair: Pascale Lötscher
Time: 14:00-14:30, 14 September 2018 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.003

Dorijan Dobrić 
(University of Belgrade, Faculty of Philosophy, Serbia)

I was born and raised in Belgrade. Besides philosophy, which is my main occupation, I am also a musician, and since 2005, I played in several bands, traveled across Europe and Serbia thanks to music and it is safe to say it is my inevitable passion. I have a background of a linguist and classical philologist - both studied in high-school and on faculty. Currently I work as a DJ and music producer, profession that I do for a living.

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