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Review of  Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language

Reviewer: Anca Gata
Book Title: Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language
Book Author: Siobhan Chapman Christopher Routledge
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Philosophy of Language
Issue Number: 17.188

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Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2006 00:42:49 +0200 (EET)
From: Anca Gata
Subject: Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language

EDITORS: Chapman, Siobhan; Routledge, Christopher
TITLE: Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language
PUBLISHERS: Edinburgh University Press & Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2005

Anca Gata, Department of Applied Modern Languages, ''Dunarea de
Jos'' University of Galati, Romania


This volume is a collection of entries concerning some of the most
representative thinkers in the fields of Linguistics and the Philosophy
of Language.

The book opens with a Preface (pages ix-x) of the editors, includes
Notes on Contributors (names and affiliation -- pages xi-xii), and an
Index (pages 279-282).

The 80 key thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language are
each dealt with separately in entries ranged in alphabetical order. The
entries vary between 1 and 8 pages, and include each a short
bibliography consisting of 'Primary works' belonging to the author and
a list of 'Further Reading', which mentions some of the most important
writings about the authors, the nature of their contribution and critical

The key thinkers in the volume represent the 'Western tradition of
thought' (page ix), belonging to the European and American areas.
These key thinkers are: Aristotle, Arnauld, Austin, Ayer, Bakhtin,
Barthes, Benveniste, Berkeley, Bernstein, Bloomfield, Boas, Bopp,
Bourdieu, Brugmann, Cameron, Carnap, Chomsky, Davidson, Derrida,
Descartes, Dummett, Firth, Fodor, Frege, Geach, Goodman,
Greenberg, Greimas, Grice, Grimm, Halliday, Hegel, Hjelmslev,
Hockett, Humboldt, Hume, Husserl, Jakobson, Jones, Kant, Kripke,
Kristeva, Labov, Lacan, Leibniz, Lewis, Locke, Malinowski, Martinet,
Marx, Mill, Milroy, Montague, Moore, Morris, Peirce, Piaget, Pike,
Plato, Popper, Putnam, Quine, Ramsey, Rask, Russell, Ryle, Sacks,
Sapir, Saussure, Searle, Sinclair, Skinner, Strawson, Tannen, Tarski,
Todorov, Trubetzkoy, Whorf, Wittgenstein.

The selection criteria of the key thinkers, as mentioned in the Preface,
appear to have been the following: they belong to a tradition
extending from antiquity to the present day; they represent
the ''Western tradition of thought''; they are mainly linguists and
philosophers, but also ''psychologists, anthropologists, cognitive
scientists, critical theorists and mathematicians''; they have ''an
important contribution to the description or the theory of language'';
they ''worked with the subject''; they ''have been significant in similar
areas of thought''; they ''influenced or were influenced by the subject'';
they provided in their work ''significant contrast'' to established
theories (p. ix). The first four criteria apply to all of the thinkers, while
the last ones only partially and only to some of them.

As mentioned in the editors' Preface, the entries describe the work of
thinkers mainly in the fields of linguistics and philosophy, but also in
psychology, anthropology, cognitive sciences, critical theory,
mathematics, since these have contributed in important ways to the
description or to the theory of language.

An overview of the each particular thinker's work is provided in each
entry, in some cases preceded by a short biographical presentation --
''where this is relevant to illuminating the character of the thinker or
explaining his or her career and ideas in their historical and cultural
context'' (p. ix).

The short presentation below is meant to give an idea on the contents
of some entries.

Logic, thought, meaning and language -- Russell gave a most notable
theory on descriptions, by applying a logical treatment to natural
language. Ryle elaborated a 'concept of mind' later developed by
representatives of analytic philosophy in Oxford and argued that, in
studying meaning, one has to study the word and not an abstract
notion of meaning. Wittgenstein considered language ''as a goal-
directed and use-governed system of communication'', thus coining
the concept of 'language game'. Tarski proved that it is impossible to
define truth within a natural language in a comprehensible way.
Carnap contributed to the development of analytical philosophy and
investigated meaning matters; under Tarski's influence, he worked on
the semantics of modal operators, by also providing an elaboration of
the notions of extension and intension previously discussed by Frege.
Quine criticized Carnap, by arguing that notions such as meaning and
synonymy can not be applied to natural languages and by advancing
the idea that we hold a theory of the world biased by a system of
sentences and influenced as such by our sensory experience and by
our knowledge of language. Strawson argued that logical and natural
language conditionals differ in that in natural language the entities in
conditional relationship are also in some causal connection while this
is not the case in logical conditional. Grice, who also worked with
Strawson on Aristotle's categories, developed Strawson's ideas on
meaning, distinguishing between 'what is said' and 'what is implicated';
Grice also gave a psychological account on linguistic communication
seen as being co-operative and end-driven, which has been the basis
of an important number of studies in contemporary pragmatic studies.
Davidson advanced the thesis of the compositionality of meaning,
which asserts that the meaning of a sentence is generated from the
meanings of its parts; subsequent development of some areas in
linguistics relies on this idea, such as research in the meaning of
connectives and quantifiers. Lewis's contribution is best represented
by his work on possible worlds as represented in language in
counterfactual conditionals.

Development of linguistics -- Bloomfield is known for having largely
used the concept of 'phoneme' (devised by Baudouin de Courtenay)
and insisted that sound is the first element that should be examined in
linguistics, and meaning afterwards. Unlike Bloomfield, Sapir
considered meaning to be essential in language. Whorf is the father of
the concept of 'allophony'. Whorf advocated, in the same line with
Sapir, for linguistic relativity, which consists in considering a linguistic
community's perception of the world as determined by the language
they use. This is known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Trubetzkoy
was -- within the Prague School -- the founder of phonology as distinct
from phonetics, and studied the phonological systems and the
prosody of ''hundreds of languages'', his work being mainly focused on
synchrony. Benveniste developed his own conception of language use
by establishing his theory of subjectivity, based on the notion
of 'enunciation', largely made use of in subsequent French linguistic
and literary studies; he was mainly interested in the speaker's activity
and his intervention in discourse by means of deictics.

Linguistics and literature -- Influenced in some respect by Benveniste,
Barthes is the father of the 'writing degree zero' theory, which argues
in favour of the idea that an objective representation of reality in
literature is impossible, since writing depends on history and on
personal beliefs and mythologies. Also influenced by Benveniste,
Todorov has extensively used linguistics in his literary studies, by
showing that the object of a literary text is its creation, in a way related
to Blanchot's (1955) approach to literature. Influenced by Lacan,
Derrida, Barthes, Kristeva is the author of the theory of intertextuality,
as well as of the notions of genotext and phenotext; her work is
underlied by Bakhtin's notion of dialogism.
Conversation and Discourse Analysis -- Sacks mainly exposed his
views on linguistic interaction in his lectures 'on conversation',
constitutive of the discipline; he was interested by the study of
conversational turn taking, conversational units, conversational
patterns, openings, closing, topic organisation, sequencing, repairs,
use of pronouns and performatives. Tannen's main contribution is in
gender studies and her idea is that men and women speak differently.
Cameron criticizes Tannen for this approach, by arguing that in fact
language ''calls the (gendered) identity of speakers into existence''.

The entries include an analysis of one or several aspects of the ideas
and / or theories brought to light by each thinker and a 'See also' list
of authors. This list provides names of other authors dealt with in the
volume who have been concerned by the same issues and have
contributed to deepening the ideas or theories belonging to each
particular key thinker; it is worth mentioning the editors' wish to track
significant relationships between the key thinkers: ''In addition, other
key thinkers who have their own entries are indicated with an asterisk
when first mentioned in an entry. These two types of cross-
referencing allow influences, commonalities and continuities in thinking
to be traced to other contemporary work, and across the history of
ideas.'' (p. ix)

Biographical details are provided with reference to important contacts
for the work of the authors dealt with: Jakobson ''established friendly
relations with ... Boas, Whorf and Bloomfield'' in the US; during
vacations, Daniel Jones, a mathematician and a lawyer by education,
studied phonetics in France with ''Paul Passy, the leading phonetician
of the time'', who convinced and helped the former ''to take up a
career in phonetics''; Katz began his career under the influence of
Chomsky; Kristeva worked with Lucien Goldmann, Barthes, Jacques
Dubois, Claude Lévi-Strauss, she met Lacan, Derrida, Michel
Foucault, and married Philippe Sollers; Labov was Uriel Weinreich's
student and later they worked together; Quine had contacts with
Dummett, Strawson, Grice, Geach, Davidson, Lewis, Carnap, Tarski;
Ramsey visited Wittgenstein in Austria; the latter ''acknowledged
Ramsey's role in helping him realise the errors in his own earlier
philosophy ''.

The biographical information also sheds light on:
-- the authors' families: Ayer's mother ''came from the wealthy Dutch
Jewish family that gave its name'' to the Citroën car company; Hegel
had three children; Husserl's ''son Wolfgang was killed in the Western
Front at Verdun'' (which caused him not writing for a long period of
time); Katz was married twice and Russell four times; Ramsey's
brother was archbishop of Canterbury while Ramsay himself was ''a
staunch atheist'';
-- their hobbies: Grice used to play bridge, chess and ''was a
passionate fan of cricket''; Hockett had musical talents; Katz dreamed,
in his youth, of a career in professional football; Rask travelled a lot
during his life (his ''great voyage extended from 1816 to 1823, across
Sweden, Finland, Russia, Persia, India) and he is supposed to ''have
had relevant knowledge of about fifty-five languages'', besides
English, Swedish and Icelandic; their vicious habits, peculiar way of
being or some strange aspects of their lives: Grice was a ''heavy
smoker''; Kant '' is said never to have left the area of Königsberg
[where he was born] during his entire life''; Katz was ''such a dynamic
character that a friend once said that talking to him was like talking to
five people''; Ramsey had an ''infectious sense of humour'', just like
Grice, who enjoyed discussions and whose examples have a ''bizarre
-- their non linguistic or non philosophical career: during World War II,
Austin ''was an intelligence officer at the Supreme Headquarters of the
Allied Expeditionary Force, active in preparations for D-Day, and
reached the rank of lieutenant colonel''; Barthes worked as a
teacher and as a librarian; Grimm ''spent over a third of his working life
as a librarian with light duties; Humboldt ''was also a lawyer and a
statesman'', a minister of public instruction, later dismissed from the
Prussian government because of political difference with other
statesmen; Hume never got an academic post, working as ''a private
tutor, as a law librarian, and as a secretary to various commanders
and diplomats overseas; Ramsey lived as a ''reclusive school teacher'';
Whorf was a fire prevention officer all his life;
-- the poor health condition of some of the authors: Barthes suffered
with tuberculosis ''from the age of 10 until his early thirties'';
Benveniste ''suffered a heart attack in 1956 and a stroke in 1969 that
crippled him and robbed him of the ability to speak for the rest of his
life''; Grice was ''increasingly affected by a chronic cough'',
later ''diagnosed with emphysema and suffered deteriorating health'';
Hume (aged 66) died ''after an illness lasting two years'';
-- the cause or circumstances of their death: Austin (aged 49), Katz
(70), Whorf (41), Wittgenstein (62) died of cancer, Hegel (61) of
cholera, Skinner (86) of leukemia, Russell (98) of influenza, Husserl
(79), ''apparently'', of pleurisy; Trubetzkoy (48) died of a heart
attack ''after a brutal Gestapo raid on his home''; Barthes (65) ''was
knocked down while crossing the road in Paris and died a month later
from his injuries'', Lewis (60) ''died suddenly ... from complications
arising from diabetes'', Sacks (40) died in a car accident, Berkeley
(68) also died ''quite unexpectedly'', while Jones (86) died ''peacefully''.

The Index includes selected concepts, theories, disciplines, methods,
approaches (such as 'analytic philosophy', 'causal
semantics', 'distinctive features', 'intentionality', 'modality', 'proper
names', 'semantics', 'truth theories', etc.) and names of authors either
dealt with or referred to in the volume.

There are 30 contributors to the volume (including the editors),
academics and researchers from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark,
Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland,
the UK, the USA. Siobhan Chapman contributed seven articles to the
volume, 6 other contributors, among whom the second editor,
Christopher Routledge, authored four articles, 8 -- three articles, 13 --
two articles, while 3 of the contributors wrote one article. The
contributions are as follows:
Baicchi, Annalisa: Russell;
Baldwin, Jennifer A.: Arnauld, Boas, Piaget, Pike;
Carr, Phillip: Popper;
Chapman, Siobhan: Ayer, Grice, Leibniz, Morris, Ramsey, Ryle,
Clark, Billy: Davidson, Descartes;
Cowie, Claire: Bourdieu, Kripke;
Einheuser, Iris: Carnap, Putnam;
Elhindi, Yousif: Greenberg, Saussure;
Garcia-Alvarez, Ivan: Frege, Geach, Lewis, Montague;
Gianto, Agustino: Aristotle, Hockett, Sacks;
Götzche, Hans: Dummett, Hjelmslev, Jakobson, Rask;
Hermann-Kaliner, Eva: Goodman, Martinet;
Honeybone, Patrick: Brugmann, Firth, Grimm, Trubetzkoy;
Kasher, Asa: Austin, Moore;
Kaye, Alan S.: Bopp, Humboldt, Pike;
Kousta, Stavroula-Thaleia: Kristeva, Mill;
Newman, Anthony: Fodor, Searle;
Pietarinen, Ahti-Veikko: Peirce, Wittgenstein;
Piller, Ingrid: Bakhtin, Cameron, Tannen;
Poole, Geoffrey: Chomsky, Plato, Skinner;
Rajagopalan, Kanavillil: Benveniste, Derrida, Katz;
Routledge, Cristopher: Barthes, Berkeley, Hume, Todorov;
Safarova, Marie: Lacan, Quine;
Scott, Mike: Sapir, Sinclair, Whorf;
Strässler, Jürg: Jones, Tarski;
Thompson, Geoffrey: Halliday;
Watt, Dominic: Labov, Milroy;
Willems, Klaas: Husserl, Kant;
Williams, John: Bernstein, Greimas, Malinowski;
Witkosky, David V.: Bloomfield, Hegel, Marx.


The 'Primary works' section in each article is of great value mainly to
students and young researchers willing to study an author's most
important contributions to the development of ideas in the field. This
section also provides in the case of the Tannen entry (p. 261) a
reference to the web page of the author dealt with. The 'Further
reading' section is also of great help: it provides a bibliographical list
of approaches to the work and theories of the author. In some cases,
it may contain a reference to web pages providing bibliographical
support (Austin, Peirce, Ramsey entries). The 'See also' section
provides an overview The entries are not meant to provide a critical
perspective on the authors. They help to situate the author's work, his
or her influence in the evolvement and development of the philosophy
of language and / or linguistics. Yet, there are some indirect critical
considerations in various entries, such as: Bernstein's work ''has been
criticised ... however, his original research on language codes has
been developed into models ... [and] influenced a wide range of
researchers and policy makers around the world'' (one is not told who
these are and in what respect their achievements are significant) (p.
34); many of Chomsky's admirers in the area of the radical liberal
left ''are hardly even aware of his huge stature in linguistics and the
philosophy of language'' (p. 53).

The Index is particularly helpful in facilitating the reader's task of
finding notions and concepts and of identifying other possible
approaches to the same topics throughout the book. Personally,
taking into account the existence of the Index, I would have found it
appropriate in the entries to use a particular typographical marking for
the names and concepts listed in the Index so as to facilitate cross-
referencing ('logic', occurring on 24 different pages, according to the
index, or 'Chomsky', occurring on 31 pages beside those specially
concerned with him). This would have ensured the readers'
awareness of the possibility of skimming through other entries to
enhance their knowledge or representation of some concept, theory,
investigation method or author (it may also be possible that the editors
have considered such a marking unpleasant for the reader since the
entries contain many occurrences of notions and concepts). A
branching presentation of the notions and concepts in the Index is
also judged more appropriate; for instance, 'knowledge' is found in the
Index only under 'knowledge by acquaintance v. knowledge by
description' (pages 231-2) and 'knowledge, philosophy of' (pages 1-3,
74, 76, 102, 135, 154-158, 272), while one can also list 'empirical
knowledge' (page 2), 'knowledge in sciences' (page 6), 'elements of
knowledge' (page 8), 'system of knowledge' (page 72), 'knowledge'
(pages 73, 76), 'scientific and non-scientific knowledge' (page
214), 'objective knowledge' (page 215), 'linguistic
knowledge', 'knowledge of language', 'knowledge of the world' (page

I also consider that the Index could ensure, by subsequent extension
in the next editions of the volume, a wider and more convenient
treatment of the topics approached: notions (such
as 'argument', 'falsifiability', 'meaning', 'mental image'), parts of speech
(such as 'noun', 'adjective', etc.) should be included in the Index, even
if they occur only once in the entries, since other terms or names
occurring only once are presently included in the Index as it is. Being
particularly interested in argumentation, I found it frustrating
that 'argument' is not indexed, although it is present in the entries (p.
74), and that 'argumentation' is cross-referenced to 'reasoning' in the
Index, although the notion is also present on other pages (p. 8). Many
other concepts, notions, theories or approaches need mentioning in
the Index -- a few examples will suffice: 'grammeme', 'tagmeme' (p.
206), 'truthfulness' (p. 215), 'philosophy of science' (p. 215) possible
worlds. I hope that subsequent editions of the book will improve the
presentation of the Index, which can be in itself a more than precious
tool for the insights it gives to issues of linguistics and the philosophy
of language. Such a presentation would ensure the volume a
remarkable quality.

The biographical sketch is important in more than one way: it gives
details on the historical background in which some of the key thinkers
lived and developed their thought; it relates the personality of the
author to his or her family, social background, education, contacts,
scientific and / or professional and social activity; it sheds light upon
less obvious or known aspects of his or her life having influenced his
or her work. One characteristic of most entries is that they provide
anecdotical information on the 'key thinkers', which is valuable and
interesting, since reading their works does not tell us anything about
their personal and social lives and interactions. Unlike other
personalities, political or artistic, linguists are rarely viewed from this
perspective. Personally, I consider it enriching and rewarding to find
biographical details on the authors, especially when this relates to the
evolvement of new thought.

Nevertheless, for some of the authors dealt with, I find that there is
much more biographical information than information on their work
and contribution to Linguistics and / or the Philosophy of Language.
This is the case with Benveniste, Hegel, whose contributions to the
field are overviewed in a little more or less than half a page, compared
to that of Todorov, for instance, which is described over two pages.
This is probably the result of the volume being the work of several
authors, whose information and way of approaching it is necessarily

Who is missing from the book? Hard to tell, taking into account the
somewhat non-homogenous selection criteria. A very tentative, and of
course subjective, alphabetical list could include, of course, among
others: Anscombre, Bal, Comrie, Coseriu (considered a few years
ago, before his death, the greatest linguist alive), Crawshay-Williams,
Crystal, Ducrot, Eemeren, Fleischman, Goffman, Guillaume (whose
work is almost unknown to readers of English), Jespersen, Kerbrat-
Orecchioni, Naess, Nolke, Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca (whose
treatise on argumentation is meaningful in many respects to research
in philosophy and linguistics), Wierzbicka.

One typo in the Index: D. Wilson's first name is misspelt 'Dierdre'
for 'Deirdre', under the entry Sperber ... (p. 282). I also identified other
typos: title of French volume, whose correct spelling is ''Grammaire
générale et raisonnée'' (p.8), ''determine's'' is misspelt for ''determines''
(p. 130), a hardspace is missing between ''p'' and ''is'' (p. 141).

On the whole, the volume is of good quality, a valuable endeavour for
bringing together linguistics and the philosophy of language.

Some of its greatest merits could be summarized as follows:
-- the perspective it proposes does not take for granted the readers'
familiarity with the subjects and topics dealt with, by thus making it
equally accessible and a precious tool for students, academics and
-- it brings together in one single book significant thought
-- it can be used as a very useful and handy reference resource;
-- it provides an updated list of the most important readings in one
specific domain, as recent as 2003 (the latest is 2005, in the entry for
Grice, p. 114);
-- it provides biographical insight, which is very likely to be very difficult
to find elsewhere; this is of much use especially in pedagogical
approaches, since students are often willing to know.

I find the volume very useful, quite easy to consult and use in teaching
and research, especially valuable for under and postgraduates and I
really believe that it filled a gap when this was really needed.


Blanchot, Maurice (1955) L'espace littéraire. Paris: Gallimard.

Anca Gata is a Professor of French language and of Linguistics at
Dunarea de Jos University in Galati, Romania. She also coordinates
the group of Argumentation and Rhetoric Studies within the Center of
Discourse Theory and Practice at the same university. Her research
interests include the relationship between tenses and illocutionary
force of the utterance, speech act theory, discourse analysis, theory
of argumentation (pragma-dialectical approach; strategy of
dissociation). She has published a volume on the French future and
one on the act of prediction. She is presently carrying out research on
argumentative strategies in media, public and electronic forum
discourse in French within the CNRS Laboratory "Communication et
Politique" in Paris.

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