Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 6, Issue 3, 2006

Philosophy of Linguistics

Nenad Miščević
Pages 523-548

The Discrete Voice of Competence

In Devitt’s view, linguistic intuitions are opinions about linguistic production of products, most often one’s own. They result frorn ordinary empirical investigation, so “they are immediate and fairly unreflective ernpirical central-processor responses to linguistic phenomena”, which reactions are, moreover, theory-laden, where the ‘theory’ encompasses all sorts of speaker’s beliefs. The paper reconstructs his arguments, places his view on a map of alternative approaches to intuitions, and offers a defense of a minimalistic “voice-of-competence” view. First, intuitions are to be identified with the data, the minimal “products” of tentative linguistic production of naïve speaker-listeners, and not with their opinions about the data. Second, the data involve no theory and very little prototheory. Third, although there might be admixtures of guesswork in the conscious production of data, these are routinely weaned out by linguists. Finally, mere acceptance of the “voice of competence” does not land us in any objectionable Cartesianism: it is cornpatible with naturalism and with distrust of a priori philosophy.