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Title: The abstractness of language : on realism's challenge to psychologism in linguistics
Other Titles: Yu yan de chou xiang xing : lun yu yan xue zhong shi zai zhu yi xiang xin li zhu yi de tiao zhan
語言的抽象性 : 論語言學中實在主義向心理主義的挑戰
Authors: Kwok, Wai Man (郭偉文)
Department: Dept. of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2002
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Linguistic analysis (Linguistics)
Notes: CityU Call Number: P123.G86 2002
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 134-138)
Thesis (Ph.D.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2002
viii, 138 leaves ; 30 cm.
Type: Thesis
Abstract: Propounded by Noam Chomsky, linguistic psychologism has been the dominant interpretation of linguistics today. It takes linguistics to be an empirical psychological study of the innate "knowledge of language" of the human mind/brain. As a direct challenge to psychologism, linguistic realism, which was put forth by Jerrold Katz, takes linguistics to be a formal mathematical study of an abstract linguistic realm independent of the human mind/brain. This dissertation attempts to lay bare the philosophical foundations of linguistic realism and examine its arguments against linguistic psychologism. Also, through a critical analysis of the issues involved, it throws light on various topics and notions that are significant for the interpretation of linguistics. Chapter 1 introduces the prominent features of linguistic psychologism and realism, presents the realist's formulation of the central questions at issue and explains the framework within which they tackle them. Chapter 2 proceeds to clarify the controversy, discussing issues concerning the status of synchronic linguistics as the underlying linguistic program, the status of grammatical judgments as linguistic evidence, the implications for linguistic practice, the applicability of the realist's scheme of foundational positions, the advocacy of alternative positions, the nature of the mind in Chomsky's theory, and the nature of some notions of sentence relating to this theory. Chapter 3 gives a detailed examination of the realist's arguments against psychologism. It first launches the main attack against the realist's central challenge to psychologism, which is, according to the realist, concerned with a basic ontological disagreement between realism and psychologism, i.e., sentences are abstract Platonic objects for realism but concrete psychological objects for psychologism. It argues that the abstract/concrete opposition is a false one, thus rendering this central challenge misguided. In addition, it shows that realists' arguments are flawed in many other respects as well, in particular, in their criticism that Chomsky's theory is incompatible with a best scientific theory of language. It comes to the conclusion that the challenge fails, showing that Katz's view that the abstractness of the subject-matter of a grammar plays a pivotal role in the interpretation of linguistics is unfounded.
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