LINGUIST List 7.1482

Tue Oct 22 1996

Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics

Editor for this issue: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar <aristartam2000.tamu.edu>


Directory

  1. Martin Kusch, 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics
  2. "Edward L. Galligan", Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics
  3. Robert Beard, Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics
  4. Stefan A Frisch, Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics

Message 1: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics

Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 12:29:03 BST
From: Martin Kusch <mkuschtattoo.ed.ac.uk>
Subject: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics
On October 19th, Professor Shaumyan wrote:

> ...
> As a result of effective critique of psychologism in logic and
> mathematics by Frege, Husserl, and many other logicians,
> mathematicians, and philosophers, nobody now contends that psychology
> constitutes the basis of logic and mathematics. Nowadays logicians and
> mathematicians understand that psychologism in logic and mathematics
> is a fallacy. Psychologism in linguistics is a fallacy similar to
> psychologism in logic and mathematics. Still this fallacy persists
> among linguists.

Two comments:

(1) In suggesting that Frege's and Husserl's anti-psychologistic
arguments carry over into linguistics, Prof. Shaumyan has been pre-
ceded by J.J. Katz (and a number of authors, including Chomsky him-
self) have replied to Katz. (See J.J. Katz, _Language and Other
Abstract Objects_, Totawa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlewood, 1981.)

(2) It seems to me that Prof. Shaumyan overestimates the extent to
which Frege's and Husserl's arguments against psychologism are
accepted amongst philosophers today. For a summary of the case
against their arguments, see e.g. M. Kusch, _Psychologism_, 
London: Routledge 1995, Chap. 4, and Appendix 2. Appendix 2
is not part of 'physical' book itself, but can be accessed over
the internet: 
http://www.routledge.com/rcenters/philres/psy_app2.txt

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Dr Martin Kusch

Max-Planck-Institut fuer psychologische Forschung
Leopoldstrasse 24, D-80802 Muenchen
 
Phone: +49 (0)89 38 60 22 33 
Fax: +49 (0)89 38 60 22 52 
Email: Kuschmpipf-muenchen.mpg.de 
 

And: 
Science Studies Unit, University of Edinburgh
21 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9LN

Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4257 
Fax: +44 (0)131 650 6886 
Email: mkuschtattoo.ed.ac.uk 
WWW: http://www.ed.ac.uk/~mkusch/home_page.html
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
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Message 2: Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics

Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 12:02:42 EDT
From: "Edward L. Galligan" <edward.galliganwmich.edu>
Subject: Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics
Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics
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Message 3: Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics

Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 21:38:45 EDT
From: Robert Beard <rbeardbucknell.edu>
Subject: Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics
In LINGUIST List: Vol-7-1478 for Sat Oct 19 1996, Mr. Shaumyan seems to
concur with
Jerrold Katz (Language and Other Abstract Objects) when he wrote:

>It is true that language exists in the human mind and the use of language
>involves psychological processes. But we must distinguish between
>psychological processes and the content of psychological processes. Thus,
>mathematical and logical operations also involve psychological processes,
>but mathematics and logic are not concerned with the content of these
>processes--mathematical and logical relations, which are independent of
>psychological processes. Similarly with language. Language is a system of
>social conventions for representing reality. This system of social
>conventions is called a semiotic system. Semiotic systems are
>independent of psychological processes that accompany their use.

The problem with the argument is than no child between the ages of 2-5 has
every learned mathematics without being taught (not even the children both
of whose parents are professors of mathematics and talk about mathematics
all the time). Then there is the problem of teaching computers mathematics
vs. language. So, the detectable differences between language and
mathematics seem at least explicitly to hinge on psychological--if not
physical--development. 

- ---------------------------------------------------------
Robert Beard Bucknell University
Russian & Linguistics Programs Lewisburg, PA 17837
rbeardbucknell.edu 717-524-1336
Russian Program http://www.bucknell.edu/departments/russian
Morphology on Internet http://www.bucknell.edu/~rbeard
- ---------------------------------------------------------
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Message 4: Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics

Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 15:12:38 CDT
From: Stefan A Frisch <safrischindiana.edu>
Subject: Re: 7.1478, Disc: Psychologism in Linguistics
In defense of psychologism in linguistics

Mr. Schaumyan has made a strong statement in claiming that linguistics is 
independent of psychology. He further proposes that:

"The investigation of linguistic phenomena by means of psychology is of 
course possible and it is important. But a necessary prerequisite for 
such investigation is the previous establishment of linguistic facts: the 
psychology of speech presupposes linguistics as its basis."

Unfortunately, the state of the art in linguistics has not established 
the facts. It is precisely by examining language carefully and 
systematically that we can determine what is truly linguistic. The 
independence of linguistics is "under attack" from other fields in 
addition to psychology. Models of articulation involving coordinative 
structures suggest that general principles of goal oriented motor control 
underlie the production of the sounds of language. Work by Lindblom, 
Stevens and others points toward anatomically based constraints and 
preferences for the inventory of speech sounds in a language. The most 
recent dissertations in phonology from UCLA have pointed out a host of 
auditory influences on the phonology and phonotactics. All of this work 
shows that the fact that language is produced and perceived by people 
influences the shape of the linguistic sign.

Given that there are anatomical constraints on language it is premature 
to assume that there are no cognitive constraints on language. For 
example, to what extent are linguistic categories different from other 
cognitive categories? Beth Levin's book "English verb classes and 
alternations" left me with the distinct impression that verbs are 
clustered around prototypes, and thus that how a verb behaves in the 
system is a function of its relation to the prototypes. If this is true, 
then in this case linguistic knowledge is not independent of the way it 
is stored and processed. The more complex question then becomes, what are 
the prototypes and what is their status in the system? We wouldn't be 
able to ask this question, though, without "factoring out" the cognitive 
variables. This is my own research agenda, a kind of "cognitive 
reductionism".

Mr. Shaumyan also claims that "languages are semiotic systems and 
therefore linguistics is a part of semiotics". If this is true, then 
psychology and physiology are also parts of semiotics, as there are 
undeniable influences of mind, brain, and body on language.

Rather than taking an isolationist approach, as Mr. Shaumyan proposes, I 
suggest that we welcome the infringement of psychology, physiology, and 
any other discipline that can aid in establishing what the linguistic 
facts are.

Stefan Frisch
Speech Research Laboratory
Indiana University
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