Against essentialism: toward language awareness
University of Bergen
The major point made in this book is that the philosophical position called 'essentialism' engenders a very unrewarding set of beliefs. These beliefs are reflected in how people view language and in all the possible walks of life which involve the use of language. A critical stance toward philosophical essentialism is the idea which permeates and thus unites all the eight dialogues in the book.
After a short introductory dialogue (1) concerning the use of incomprehensible language, the book treats the following issues: (2) the importance of philosophical knowledge both for the professional linguist and for the average language user; (3) the importance that language users attribute to words; (4) the relationship between cognitive linguistics and non-essentialism (including a discussion of imprecision, creativity, fuzziness, metaphor); (5) the omni-presence of misunderstanding; (6) conflict (including a discussion of intolerance, dogmatism, infallability, conceit, authoritarian argumentation); (7) the political correctness debate; and (8) ways in which essentialism can be counteracted (including encouragement of a tolerant attitude to language use and of new coinages).
This book is intended primarily for undergraduate and graduate students of linguistics; but, given the informal style and the main claims of the book, which go significantly beyond linguistics, it may appeal to a much broader audience.
ISBN 9783895866210. LINCOM Studies in Pragmatics 07. 260pp. 2nd edition. 2002.