Chapter published in:Essays on Linguistic Realism
Edited by Christina Behme and Martin Neef
[Studies in Language Companion Series 196] 2018
► pp. 79–138
Describing linguistic objects in a realist way
The essay is divided into four Parts A to D: Part A (Sections 1 to 3), Topic and background; B. Grammatical description (Sections 4 to 6); C. Grammars and theories of language: motivating axiomatization (Sections 7 to 9); and D. Grammars as axiomatic theories (Sections 10 and 11). The essay characterizes grammatical description, both informal and formal, from a realist point of view as the description of abstract objects, not to be confused with the concrete data to which the description must be ultimately related. The importance of theories of natural human languages for grammars is emphasized, also in view of comparative grammar writing, and is demonstrated by the detailed analysis of a grammatical statement taken from an informal grammar. There is a discussion of adequacy problems that arise in current frameworks for formal grammars due to an absence of theories of language from such frameworks. A format for axiomatic grammars is outlined by which an axiomatic grammar ‘presupposes’ a theory of language, in a technical sense. The view of grammars is non-reductionist; concepts of theory integration are characterized that allow us to integrate grammars with linguistic and non-linguistic theories. The conception of linguistics itself is non-reductionist, too, through applying a concept of inter-discipline that relates linguistics to other disciplines.
Keywords: Modified Realism, grammars and theories of language, ‘comparative concepts’, grammars as axiomatic theories
Published online: 26 July 2018
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