Chapter published in:Columbia School Linguistics in the 21st Century
Edited by Nancy Stern, Ricardo Otheguy, Wallis Reid and Jaseleen Sackler
[Studies in Functional and Structural Linguistics 77] 2019
► pp. 103–101
The object of explanation for linguistics
Diver’s radical proposal for the foundations of linguistic theory
What is the ultimate object of explanation in linguistics? What are the pre-analytical observations, the observations against which all theoretical constructs are tested? Columbia School (CS) proposes a radical answer: the observations in linguistics, and hence its ultimate object of explanation, are the acoustic asymmetries of the speech continuum. This fact is responsible for the paradoxical status of meaning and communication in CS theory. CS theory takes the communicative function of language as key to the nature of linguistic structure, yet it does not offer a theory of communication. It analyzes linguistic structure as consisting of inventories of meaning-bearing signs; yet it does not offer a theory of meaning which maps utterances to interpretations. This paper articulates the reasons that CS linguistics declines to treat the interpretations of utterances as linguistic objects in need of explanation. It also provides a detailed description of how a CS grammatical analysis accounts for features of the acoustic asymmetries of a spoken English text, and provides an explanation for them.
Keywords: linguistic theory, linguistic categories, empirical base of linguistics, linguistic units, Columbia School
Keywords: teoría lingüística, categorías lingüísticas, fundamento empírico de la Lingüística, unidades lingüísticas
Published online: 02 October 2019
Diver, William, Joseph Davis, & Wallis Reid
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
Hauser, Marc D., Fitch, W. Tecumseh, & Chomsky, Noam
(1916/1972/1986) Cours de linguistique générale. Publié par Charles Bally et Albert Séchehaye. Avec la collaboration de Albert Riedlinger. Edition critique préparée par Tullio de Mauro. Paris: Edition Payot. Translated by Roy Harris as Course in general linguistics. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Classics, 1972/1986.