After decades dominated by a focus on the “individual speaker” and the “mind/brain” in both generative and cognitive linguistics, recent years have reinstated an older view on language as primarily social, i.e. as taking place between people more than within them. Within such a social conception of language, it is natural to reconsider the notion of language norm, but there have been few efforts in this direction. Two eminent exceptions are Eugenio Coseriu and Esa Itkonen, whose approaches to linguistic normativity we here focus on. Even given a combination of their insights, we find that some puzzles remain, especially concerning the question where language norms derive from. We pose this question in the spirit of (generative) phenomenology where the task is “precisely to inquire after how historical and intersubjective structures themselves become meaningful at all, how these structures are and can be generated” (Steinbock 2003: 300). Following earlier work where we have argued for the value of a phenomenological approach to language, we show how the philosophical tradition emanating from Edmund Husserl can both help resolve conceptual puzzles surrounding language norms and clear up the ground for further empirical studies.
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