The Language Connection (1996)

   •Roy Harris

Hardcover: 193 pages
ISBN: 1855064979

Neither philosophy nor linguistics, as these two disciplines are currently practised, could ever get started unless metalinguistic questions (such as ‘What does this word mean?’ and ‘How do you spell entropy?) could be asked and answered. If such questions were suddenly banned from respectable academic discourse, the effect would be as devastating as banning questions about the stars from astonomy. This book argues that both philosophy and linguistics, underneath their superficial veneer of technicalities, rely heavily on our lay understanding of everyday metalinguistic questions. This has been the case throughout the Western tradition, and affects even Aristotle’s formalization of logic. If this is right, before embarking on either discipline we need to know what properties of ‘a language’ are tacitly being taken for granted in order to make it possible to identify, discuss and argue about linguistic units, their combinations, and their meanings. Probing these lay assumptions reveals a linguistic Achilles’ heel common to both subjects.

– ‘To challenge assumptions which ... underlie both modern linguistics and modern philosophy is a courageous and engaging undertaking’: Sioban Chapman in Journal of Linguistics

– ‘Harris, in truculent mood, but with considerable elegance and wit, has put together a powerful critique’: David Crystal in Times Higher Education Supplement


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© Roy Harris, Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics, Oxford, 2010-2015