4 Jan 2010 21:11
Re:  Re: Language Games and Semantic Domains
Janet Singer <jsinger@...>
2010-01-04 20:11:26 GMT
2010-01-04 20:11:26 GMT
John and Jon,
Is it the case that the isolated study of syntax, combined with the optimistic assumption that semantics and pragmatics can be dealt with at some unspecified "later" date (when we have enough empirical examples), indistinguishable in effect from dogmatic "syntacticism"?
Carnap may have been guilty of the former, while not actually claiming that "all of the relevant phenomena reduce to questions of syntax" (to use JA's definition). In the article Foundations of Logic and Mathematics in International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Carnap wrote [pardon the long quote]:
2. Analysis of Language
A language, as, e.g., English, is a system of activities or, rather, of habits, i.e., dispositions to certain activities, serving mainly for the purposes of communication and coordination of activities among the members of a group. The elements of the language are signs, e.g., sounds or written marks, produced by members of the group in order to be perceived by other members and to influence their behavior. ...
Thus, three components have to be distinguished in a situation where language is used ... (1) the action, state, and environment of a man who speaks or hears, say, the German word "blau"; (2) the word "blau" as an element of the German language ...; (3) a certain property of things, viz., the color blue, to which this man -- and the German-speaking people in general -- intends to refer (one usually says, "The word means the color for these people", or ". . . . within this language").
The complete theory of language has to study all these three components. We shall call pragmatics the field of all those investigations which take into consideration the first component, whether it be alone or in combination with the other components. Other inquiries are made in abstraction from the speaker and deal only with the expressions of the language and their relation to their designata. The field of these studies is called semantics. Finally, one may abstract even from the designata and restrict the investigation to formal properties -- in a sense soon to be explained -- of the expressions and relations among them. This field is called logical syntax. The distinction between the three fields will become clear in our subsequent discussions.
That an investigation of language has to take into consideration all the three factors mentioned was in recent times made clear and emphasized especially by C. S. Peirce, by Ogden and Richards, and by Morris (see Vol. I, No. 2). Morris made it the basis for the three fields into which he divides semiotic (i.e. the general theory of signs), namely pragmatics, semantics, and syntactics. Our division is in agreement with his in its chief features. For general questions concerning language and its use, compare also Bloomfield, Volume I, No. 4.
3. Pragmatics of Language B
Suppose we find a group of people speaking a language B which we do not understand; nor do they understand ours. After some observation, we discover which words the people use, in which forms of sentences they use them, what these words and sentences are about, on what occasions they are used, what activities are connected with them, etc. ...
In this way, we slowly learn the designata and mode of us of al the words and expressions, especially the sentences; we find out both the cause and effect of their utterance. We may study the preferences of different social groups, age groups, or geographical groups in the choice of expressions. We investigate the role of language in various social relations, etc.
The pragmatics of language B consists of all these and similar investigations. Pragmatical observations are the basis of all linguistic research. We see that pragmatics is an empirical discipline dealing with a special kind of human behavior and making use of the results of different branches of science (principally social science, but also physics, biology, and psychology).
Foundations of Logic and Mathematics in International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Vol. I, no. 3. University of Chicago Press. (1939) p.146
The Encyclopedia does show the extent to which contributors Russell, Carnap, et al, were relying on the ultimate success of empirical research to catalog all the complexities they acknowledged were beyond the scope of the formal approach. Now that decades of efforts have only underscored that such optimism in a complete catalog is misplaced, empirical research itself is prompting a shift to the fundamentally complex -- but more powerful -- unifying paradigm Peirce (and others) argued for.
JA> The attitude that I get from reading Chomsky all throughouthis writings is a due respect for the complexity of linguistic
phenomena, in respect of which he adopts the methodical limitation
of focusing on syntax. That is not the same thing as "syntacticism", which would be the claim that all of the relevant phenomena reduce
to questions of syntax.
JS> I agree that Chomsky knew the complexity very well. But the
"methodical limitation of focusing on syntax" throws out the baby
with the bathwater.