LSTL 35: Ontological Questions in Linguistics

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Ontological Questions in Linguistics

Jan W.F. Mulder & Paul Rastall
St. Andrews University;University of Portsmouth

Mulder and Rastall argue for a reduced ontological commitment in linguistics, which is strongly opposed to many prevailing contemporary views. In line with current views in the philosophy of science they view linguistic theories and descriptions as explanatory constructs without existential claims. They distinguish between actually existing speech events, different orders of "reality" and explanatory/theoretical constructs following philosophers such as Popper and Harre. Mulder develops his views in the context of his axiomatic functionalist approach and Rastall argues that linguistic entities should be viewed as "powers" in Locke's sense rather than as "things".

Both authors argue that the reification of linguistic entities is misleading and propose views which are close to those of Quine and earlier linguists such as Hjelmslev. The work is in four theoretically oriented chapters concerned with the nature of the ontological problem, speech events as "powers", events and constructs, and orders of reality as well as three applications to linguistic theory and analysis involving Mulder's well-developed axiomatic functionalism in the context of ontological issues. Jan W.F. Mulder is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at St. Andrews University. He is the author of numerous articles in professional journals, book chapters and is the author of Sets and Relations in Phonology and Foundations of Axiomatic Linguistics. He is the co-author (with S.G.J. Hervey) of The Theory of the Linguistic Sign and The Strategy of Linguistics. Mulder is the originator and main developer of axiomatic functionalism and is the Honorary President of the International Society of Functional Linguistics.

Paul Rastall is Principal Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Portsmouth. He is the author of numerous articles in professional journals and of three books, Empirical Phonology and Cartesian Tables, A Functional View of English Grammar and A Linguistic Philosophy of Language.

ISBN 9783895864612. LINCOM Studies in Theoretical Linguistics 35. 160pp. 2005.

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