La philosophie du langage: manuel international des recherches contemporaines, français

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Marcelo Dascal, Dietfried Gerhardus, Kuno Lorenz, Georg Meggle
De Gruyter, 1992 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 2088 pages

The philosophy of language as a distinct philosophical discipline has been in existence in the West for no more than 200 years. It acquired a special, constitutive role for the study of all speech dependent phenomena even more recently, in the 20th century, in close connection with the development, by analytic philosophy, of the tools or the logical analysis of linguistic expressions. All the same, one can find explicit discussion of language either parenthetically and dispersed throughout the text or else in larger disgressions in any philosophical treatise, whatever its historical period or philosophical tradition, non-Western cultures included.

Furthermore, philosophical research on language is only seldom precisely demarcated from logic on the one hand and psychology on the other. In fact, even now, logic and philosophy of language have considerable overlap especially in the investigation of linguistic expressions from the point of view of meaning, truth, deducibility. Similarly, psychology and philosophy of language overlap and sometimes compete in their analysis of the function of linguistic expressions in terms of the mental processes of speakers and listeners. The specificity of the phenomenon language vis-à vis that studied by logic and psychology has for a long time been considered to be confined to the domain covered by traditional grammar.

In its beginnings, modern linguistics displays a remarkable unity between the science and the philosophy of language. Wilhelm von Humboldt's work is paradigmatic of this phase. But in this early romantic form, linguistic's independence was entirely subordinated to the services it rendered to the dominant science and philosophy of history of its time. Only slowly, in the course of the 19th century, did the science of language (=linguistic) dissociate itself from the philosophy of language, along two main lines, which partly compete with and partly complement each other methodologically. They determine the parameters of linguistics up to the present day and are known under the labels historical-comparative and experimental-observational. As a result, the science of language becomes an object-discipline, charged with expanding the empirical content of its assertions, whereas the philosophy of language becomes a meta-discipline, whose task is the clarification of the conceptual frame underlaying talk about language. In so far as linguistics adopts the self-image of an empirical - i.e. positive - discipline, it excludes from its field those inquiries that lack empirical control yet are indispensable for understanding how the linguistic tools involved in doing science come into being. The philosophy of language thus achieves its independence in the capacity of a purely reflexive, foundational research. Its last appearance in this form, before the shift towards a critique of language engineered by analytic philosophy, is in Ernst Cassirer's Philosophie der symbolischen Formen (1923-1929).

The roughly hundred years of use of linguistic analysis in dealing with philosophical problems have been accompanied by an ever accelerating development of the philosophy of language. Such a development shows up both diachronically, in a better understanding of its historical predecessors, and synchronically, in a diversification of its conceptual tools. It takes place in a close connection with logic, linguistics, psychology, and their present-day offshoot, cognitive science; more recently it is qualified by a competition with semiotics and communication theory. The competitive stance derives from the fact that semiotics claims for itself an integrative function, in its capacity as a science of symbolic systems, and communication theory emphasises the communicative intensions underlying any language activity. If one views the use of symbols as a kind of empirically observable behaviour, itself mediated by symbols, then action theory (pragmatics/praxeology) and ethology, possibly supplemented by models such as those devised in artificial intelligence, should in turn replace both semiotics and communication theory with respect to their foundational claims. In the wake of the upsurge of interest in the field, even the specialist is nowadays unable to keep pace with all developments, and to maintain a global view of the mass of specialized research. No doubt there are many thematic collections of articles and other efforts in the direction of international documentation, but they hardly solve this problem.

The present handbook of the Philosophy of Language is intended to help solve some of the difficulties just mentioned by providing an overall view of the current state of the philosophy of language, conceived as broadly as possible and including an adequate coverage of the range of questions posed, of methods applied, and of the theoretical frameworks adopted.

The handbook is comprised of 129 articles, divided into two parts with 60 articles each, which are subsumed under three chapter headings in each part. The first three chapters are mainly historically oriented, whereas the remaining ones are predominantly systematic nature. At the center of the first part, the 26 articles of the Chapter II are devoted to the philosophy of language in the works of historically important persons, whereas the center of the second part, the 22 articles of Chapter V present fundamental concepts and explain their role mainly in present-day philosophy of language. In order to ensure an adequate treatment of the historical aspects of the philosophy of language, Chapter II has been complementeed by two further chapters, Chapter I, consisting of 13 articles which provide spatio-temporal surveys of main currents and periods, and Chapter III with 21 articles, on various philosophical positions about language, which are currently held or which, though belonging to the past, still are or ought to be influential. Likewise, for guaranteeing an adequate treatment of the systematic aspects in the philospphy of language, Chapter V has been flanked on the one side by Chapter IV, which explores 16 important controversies of both past and present, and in the other side by Chapter VI, whose 22 articles deal with aspects of philosophy of language in other fields.

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