Linguistic Mistakes

Erkenntnis 88 (5):2191-2206 (2023)
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Ever since the publication of Kripke’s Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, there’s been a raging debate in philosophy of language over whether meaning and thought are, in some sense, normative. Most participants in the normativity wars seem to agree that some uses of meaningful expressions are semantically correct while disagreeing over whether this entails anything normative. But what is it to say that a use of an expression is semantically correct? On the so-called orthodox construal, it is to say that it doesn’t result in a factual mistake, that is, in saying or thinking something false. On an alternative construal it is instead to say that it doesn’t result in a distinctively linguistic mistake, that is, in misusing the expression. It is natural to think that these two construals of semantic correctness are simply about different things and not in competition with each other. However, this is not the common view. Instead, several philosophers who subscribe to the orthodox construal have argued that the alternative construal of correctness as use in accordance with meaning doesn’t make any sense, partly because there are no clear cases of linguistic mistakes (Whiting 2016, Wikforss 2001). In this paper I develop and defend the idea that there’s a distinctively linguistic notion of correctness as use in accordance with meaning and argue that there are clear cases of linguistic mistakes.

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Indrek Reiland
University of Vienna

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