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The Foundations of Public Language: Words as Social Artefacts

Tasker, Nicholas Mark (2017) The Foundations of Public Language: Words as Social Artefacts. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This thesis brings together topics in philosophy of language, social ontology, and generative linguistic theory. The first main contribution is to develop a theory of artefacts, and to apply it to linguistic entities. The general account of artefacts I offer here draws heavily on Amie Thomasson’s work, but I go on to isolate a class of artefacts which I refer to as essentially communicative artefacts, ECAs, and I argue that words fall into this category. One benefit of this approach is that insights arising from social ontology can be used to remedy deficiencies in philosophical discussions of words: for example, I show why the failure of form-theoretic approaches to word individuation poses a significant obstacle to attempts to deploy Searleian assumptions about social ontology in a theory of words. The second main contribution is to provide an account of public language which is compatible with developments in generative linguistics. Too often, philosophical discussions of words ignore conceptions of language which are prevalent in linguistics, which means that fruitful connections between the disciplines are missed, and that worries expressed by linguists about philosophical conceptions of public language go unanswered. My account of words is intended not only to be compatible with generative linguistic theory, but also to be thoroughly embedded in the philosophy of science and mind which animates generative linguistic theorising. From this vantage point, I evaluate a range of sceptical arguments which have been levelled against public language views. I conclude that what the philosophy of generative linguistics recommends is not an eliminativist position with respect to public language, nor a naively scientistic one, but a practical, principled, methodological preference. A third contribution is to provide original objections to extant theories of words, including those due to David Kaplan, Herman Cappelen, and Zoltan Szabo.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.727205
Depositing User: Mr Nicholas M Tasker
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2017 10:29
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:56
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/18495

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