Deranging the Mental Lexicon

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (1):33-55 (2016)
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This paper offers a defense of Davidson’s conclusion in ‘A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs’, focusing on the psychology and epistemology of language. Drawing on empirical studies in language acquisition and sociolinguistics, I problematize the traditional idealizing assumption that a person’s mental lexicon consists of two distinct parts—a dictionary, comprising her knowledge of word meanings proper, and an encyclopedia, comprising her wider knowledge of worldly affairs. I argue that the breakdown of the dictionary–encyclopedia distinction can be given a cognitive and functional explanation: facts regarding language learning and the challenges of coping with linguistically diverse environments require that dictionary and encyclopedia remain deeply integrated rather than categorically distinct dimensions of the mental lexicon. This argument provides support for a psychologized version of Davidson’s conclusion in ‘Derangement’: there is no such thing as a language, in the sense that there is no diachro..



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Endre Begby
Simon Fraser University

Citations of this work

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References found in this work

The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
Individualism and the mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.
Truth and meaning.Donald Davidson - 1967 - Synthese 17 (1):304-323.
Individualism and the Mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - In John Heil (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology. Oxford University Press.
Truth and meaning.Donald Davidson - 1967 - Synthese 17 (1):304-323.

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