Philosophy for Linguists: An Introduction

Philosophy for Linguists: An Introduction

Philosophy for Linguists: An Introduction

Philosophy for Linguists: An Introduction

Synopsis

Philosophy for Linguists provides students with a clear, concise introduction to the main topics in the philosophy of language.Focusing on what linguists need to know and how philosophy relates to modern linguistics, the book is structured around key branches of linguistics: semantics, pragmatics, and language acquisition. Assuming no prior knowledge of philosophy, Siobhan Chapman traces the history and development of ideas in the philosophy of language and outlines the contributions of specific philosophers. The book is highly accessible and student-oriented and includes:* a general introduction and introductions to each chapter* numerous examples and quotations* comprehensive suggestions for further reading* an extensive glossary of linguistic terms.

Excerpt

Anyone who studies linguistics will, sooner or later, come across references to philosophy. These may be to general philosophical themes and concepts, or to the ideas of individual philosophers and schools of thought. Either way, students of linguistics will probably find themselves looking for some guidance in understanding how the philosophy referred to relates to their interest in language. But even if they know where to start, they are likely to end up grappling with complex philosophical works, or with introductions to them which don’t make any mention of linguistics. This book is intended for just these people. Its aim is to introduce some topics from the history of philosophy, and to explain their relevance for present-day linguists.

It’s not surprising that there is so much philosophy in linguistics. Linguistics itself is a fairly recent academic discipline, but much of our current thinking about language has developed from ideas which date from the decades and centuries before it came into being. Many of these were originally put forward by philosophers. So some areas of the study of language can be seen, at least in part, as originating within philosophy and only later becoming a focus of the new discipline of linguistics. and all areas have benefited from discussions of the nature of language, and particularly the nature of meaning, which are to be found in philosophy. As we will see, these discussions are relevant even to those who see themselves as primarily concerned with language as a means of communication, or a type of human behaviour, and may therefore be tempted to question the importance of detailed philosophical analysis to their interests.

Throughout this book, no prior knowledge of philosophy is assumed; philosophers and their ideas are introduced from scratch as they are needed. However, because the book is primarily intended for those following specialist courses in language, or those who already have a general interest in the subject, there isn’t much detailed explanation of the ideas and theories of present-day linguistics. Some of these are mentioned later in this introduction, and can be followed up in the books recommended in the ‘further reading’ section at the end of it. But we will begin by looking at the branch of philosophy we will be concerned with, and the reasons why we will chiefly be limiting ourselves to this area.

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