Volume 12, Issue 1, 2012
Fritz J. McDonald
Why Language Exists
Stating the Obvious
There are words. There are sentences. There are languages. Commonsense linguistic realism is the conjunction of the three preceding claims. Linguists and philosophers including Noam Chomsky (1986, 2000), Georges Rey (2006, 2008), and Barry C. Smith (2006) have presented skeptical doubts regarding the existence of linguistic entities. These doubts provide no good reason to deny commonsense linguistic realism. Some skeptical doubts are in fact not directed at the metaphysical thesis of commonsense linguistic realism but rather only at non-metaphysical methodological concerns. In some instances, linguistic antirealists make their case by foisting upon the realist assumptions that she need not hold regarding the nature of linguistic entities. Furthermore, those who have denied the existence of linguistic entities have not themselves presented an alternative account of words, sentences, or languages that is coherent
or defensible. I present an elaboration and defense of commonsense linguistic realism as a metaphysical thesis, with the aim of deflating concerns that have arisen about the existence of language.