Geothermal Influences on Second-Person Clusivity—Pele Vulcan SpecGram Vol CLXXXIV, No 3 Contents Linguistic Old Wives Tales—Sarah M. Isaac

Thank You, Philosophy of Language

Presented by The Third Autonomous Bilborough Linguistics Circle

It’s well known that every student of linguistics, sooner or later, will come to the realisation that however much cross-linguistic data you have, however good your theories are, and however applicable, elegant and parsimonious your analysis is, there’s still something missing from that full-on, no-holds-barred linguistic experience we’re all looking for. And that’s when the Philosophy of Language kicks in. Its vague, speculative and irrelevant nature is matched only by the density of prose in which it is written and the dustiness of the tomes in which it is found. But ah!, that vagarity, speculation and irrelevance is the antidote we sometimes need to the empirical, well evidenced and tightly argued stuff the applicability and usefulness of which can become oh so tedious and demoralising.

So, thank you to the Philosophy of Language. As you reach for the many tantalising titles this domain of lingusiticising has to offer, titles such as The Meaning of Meaning and Sense and Reference, you know that you’ll be wrestling with the abstruse and the inscrutable by the bottom of page iv. And for those of us who’ve made it to grad school without a full understanding of the differences between ontology and epistemology, this is the place to find it (briefly, before numerous conflicting definitions hide it once more from view). Propositionality, intentionality, semanticity and referentiality: even when reading in German, you’ll have more exposure to abstract noun-forming morphology than any other field of linguistics!

Just consider: you might be able to do syntactic analysis in Generative, Functional and Construction Grammar approaches, but if you’ve never considered whether the predicate of a transitive verb includes the object or not, your tree diagram are just twee apothegms. Likewise, you might have conceptual or generative semantics down pat, but that’s just semi-antics if you’ve never considered whether meaning derives directly from objects in the real world or needs to be mediated by mental representations. But it’s not all serious stuff. Consider the question ‘what makes something funny?’ Only in the philosophy of language can you think about this in such a way as to remove all humour from it.

So, if data, argument, validity and applicability are dragging you down, and if you think that, like Wittgenstein, 75 pages of dense prose with a few symbols thrown in is a quicker and easier route to the PhD than attempting to address empirically a meaningful research question, stopping Quine-ing about it, and Rush-ell on over to the Philosophy of Language; there’ll Seare-ly be something for to pique your interest sooner or Frege.

Thank You, Philosophy of Language.

Geothermal Influences on Second-Person ClusivityPele Vulcan
Linguistic Old Wives TalesSarah M. Isaac
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIV, No 3 Contents