Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Cognitive Reductionism About Language

Cognitive Reductionism about languages is the following (empirical) claim:
Every language L is spoken/cognized by some one or more speakers.
That is, the claim that languages can be reduced to cognitve states of some one or more speakers. However, I think that cognitive reductionism is deeply mistaken. There are languages which are not spoken, or cognized.

So, on my view, statements of the form:
Agent A cognizes language L
Agents A and B cognize the same ("shared") language L.
are contingent empirical claims. The agent A might not have cognized L. Whether agents A and B cognize a "shared" language is an empirical question.

It seems clear that, as a matter of empirical observation, agents never cognize the same language (though this is contingent, of course). There are lexical, phonological, semantic, pragmatic, etc., differences. And this phenomenon---heterogeneity in speech communities---requires explanation.

3 comments:

  1. There are languages which are not spoken, or cognized.

    Are you thinking of things like Linear A?

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  2. I mean things like arbitrary interpreted languages, infinitary languages, and so on. Or, for example, the guitar language,

    http://m-phi.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/the-guitar-language.html

    Jeff

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  3. Or, for example, the various permuted interpreted languages discussed by Quine, Putnam and Kripke. Or, for example, uninterpreted languages as studied in formal language theory (i.e., here $L$ is an uninterpreted language; a subset of the set $A^{\ast}$ of words over an alphabet $A$).

    Jeff

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