Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 8, Issue 2, 2008

Philosophy of Linguistics

Michael Devitt
Pages 203-231

Explanation and Reality in Linguistics

This paper defends Some anti-Chomskian themes in Ignorance of Language (Devitt 2006a) from, the criticisms of John Collins (2007, 2008a) and Georges Rey (2008). It argues that there is a linguistic reality external to the mind and that it is theoretically interesting to study it. If there is this reality, we have good reason to think that grammars are more or less true of it. So, the truth of the grammar of a language entails that its rules govern linguistic reality, giving a rich picture of this reality. In contrast, the truth of the grammar does not entail that its rules govern the psychological reality of speakers competent in the language and it alone gives a relatively impoverished picture of that reality. For, all we learn about that reality from the grammar is that it “respects” the rules of the grammar.