Chapter published in:Essays on Linguistic Realism
Edited by Christina Behme and Martin Neef
[Studies in Language Companion Series 196] 2018
► pp. 1–6
The ontology of natural language
This chapter discusses natural language ontology, focusing on the nature of sentences. Two contrasting views about such elements are considered. First, the naturalistic view takes sentences to be elements of the physical world. There are two variants. One, which regards sentences as utterances, has few if any current advocates. The other, which views sentences as mental/biological things, is currently dominant, defining the position of Noam Chomsky. Second, there is the nonnaturalistic, Platonist view advocated intensively by Jerrold J. Katz, which takes sentences to be abstract objects. This view is consistent with the fact that sentences are timeless, locationless entities entering into no causal relations. Only the naturalistic view is inconsistent with actual linguistics, where sentences are uniformly treated in set-theoretical terms.
Keywords: sentence, ontology, Platonist view, biolinguistics, naturalistic imperative
Published online: 26 July 2018
2012 Chomsky’s foundational admission. lingbuzz/001569 http://ling.auf.net/lingBuzz/001569.