On Language Change: The Invisible Hand in Language

By Rudi Keller | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

In the prison of dichotomies

3.1

NATURE VERSUS ART-INSTINCT VERSUS REASON

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.

-39-

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On Language Change: The Invisible Hand in Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I - Exposition of the Problem 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Problem of Language Change 3
  • Chapter 2 - Historical Reconstruction 19
  • Chapter 3 - In the Prison of Dichotomies 39
  • Part II - Solution and Discussion 59
  • Chapter 4 - The Working of the Invisible Hand 61
  • Chapter 5 - Discussion 108
  • Chapter 6 - Conclusion 141
  • Notes 160
  • References 170
  • Index 178
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