On Language Change: The Invisible Hand in Language

By Rudi Keller | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter 3

In the prison of dichotomies



One insight was always part of the discovery of such phenomena which are the result of human actions, but not the execution of any human design: that human languages belong to this domain of phenomena. This is also true for the mode of explanation of such phenomena, in the form of Conjectural History, or the explanation by the invisible hand. 'Of theories of this type economic theory, the theory of the market order of free human societies', writes Friedrich August von Hayek,

is so far the only one which has been systematically developed over a long period and, together with linguistics, perhaps one of a very few which, because of the peculiar complexity of their subject, require such elaboration. Yet, though the whole of economic theory (and, I believe, of linguistic theory) may be interpreted as nothing else but an endeavour to reconstruct from regularities of the individual actions the character of the resulting order, it can hardly be said that economists are fully aware that this is what they are doing. 1

One can rest assured that the last remark also applies to linguists. One can even say that the reflections of the Scottish moral philosophers were largely unknown to the linguists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This is all the more astonishing as almost none of these philosophers failed to mention language explicitly. Is there an explanation for this oversight?

We live in a culture marked by dichotomies. Dichotomies determine our thinking: God and the devil, heaven and hell, good and bad, langue and parole, nature and art, emotion and intellect, and many more.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
On Language Change: The Invisible Hand in Language


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 182

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?