In defense of public language

In Louise M. Antony & H. Hornstein (eds.), Chomsky and His Critics. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. pp. 215–237 (2003)
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....a notion of 'common, public language' that remains mysterious...useless for any form of theoretical explanation....There is simply no way of making sense of this prong of the externalist theory of meaning and language, as far as I can see, or of any of the work in theory of meaning and philosophy of language that relies on such notions, a statement that is intended to cut rather a large swath. (Chomsky 1995, pp. 48-9) It is a striking fact that despite the constant reliance on some notion of 'community language' or 'abstract language,' there is virtually no attempt to explain what it might be. (Chomsky 1993, p. 39) ....either we must deprive the notion communication of all significance, or else we must reject the view that the purpose of language is communication. ...It is difficult to say what 'the purpose' of language is, except, perhaps, the expression of thought, a rather empty formulation. The functions of language are various. (Chomsky 1980, p. 230) I have yet to see a formulation that makes any sense of the position that "the essence of language is communication." (Chomsky 1980, p. 80; see also 1992b, p 215)



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Ruth Millikan
University of Connecticut

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