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Language, Science, and Structure A Journey into the Philosophy of Linguistics

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2023-04-28
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Supplemental Materials

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What is a language? What do scientific grammars tell us about the structure of individual languages and human language in general? What kind of science is linguistics? These and other questions are the subject of Ryan M. Nefdt's Language, Science, and Structure.

Linguistics presents a unique and challenging subject matter for the philosophy of science. As a special science, its formalisation and naturalisation inspired what many consider to be a scientific revolution in the study of mind and language. Yet radical internal theory change, multiple competing frameworks, and issues of modelling and realism have largely gone unaddressed in the field. Nefdt develops a structural realist perspective on the philosophy of linguistics which aims to confront the aforementioned topics in new ways while expanding the outlook toward new scientific connections and novel philosophical insights. On this view, languages are real patterns which emerge from complex biological systems. Nefdt's exploration of this novel view will be especially valuable to those working in formal and computational linguistics, cognitive science, and the philosophies of science, mathematics, and language.

Author Biography

Ryan M. Nefdt is a philosopher of science who works on issues in linguistics, cognitive science, and AI at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of St Andrews, an MSc in Logic from the University of Amsterdam and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Cape Town. He has held research positions at various institutions such as MIT, Pittsburgh, Edinburgh, Minnesota, Yale, and Michigan and is published in numerous journals including Linguistics & Philosophy, Mind & Language, Biology & Philosophy, Synthese, Philosophy Compass, and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Table of Contents


Part 1: Introduction
1.1 The Philosophy of Linguistics
1.2 Generative and Non-Generative Frameworks
1.3 Structures and Structuralisms
1.4 A Guide to the Book

Part 2: Old Landscapes, New Maps
2.1 What is a Language, Anyway?
2.2 Object-oriented accounts
2.3 State and Network accounts

Part 3: The Many and the None
3.1 Anti-realist Accounts
3.2 Why I am not a Pluralist
3.3 No Country for Clear Resolutions

Part 4: Language and Structure
4.1 Moderate Naturalism
4.2 Languages as Real Patterns
4.3 Grammars as Compression Algorithms

Part 5: Linguistic Patterns and Biological Systems
5.1 Biolinguistics and Biology
5.2 Unbanishing the 'Linguistic Community'
5.3 A Note on Acquisition

Part 6: A Case Study: Words and SLEs
6.1 The Naive Picture and Three Naturalistic Desiderata
6.2 Constructions and Constraints
6.3 A Structural Approach to Linguistic Entities

Part 7: Structural Realism and the Science of Linguistics
7.1 The Aim and Scope
7.2 Linguistic Theory Change
7.3 Structural Realism in Generative Linguistics
7.4 The Problem of Multiple Grammars

Part 8: Language at the Interface
8.1 A Note on Complex Systems
8.2 Levels of Abstraction
8.3 The Proposal
8.4 Semantic Metastructuralism

Part 9: Language and Cognitive Science: an arranged marriage
9.1 The Dilemma
9.2 The Study of Mind in Language
9.3 Intersection, Integration, and Architecture
9.4 Unifying Cognitive Structures

Conclusion: A Canopy in the Rainforest


Supplemental Materials

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