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Speech Acts and Performative Utterances  

Daniel Allington

Speech Act Theory is the application to spoken and written language of the philosophy of action developed by John L. Austin. Austin was particularly interested in conventionalized actions, which have a special significance thanks to their social or institutional context. Although he emphasized that such actions could also be carried out through non-verbal means, Austin is mostly remembered for his analysis of the ways in which they can be carried out through the utterance of words—hence the term “Speech Act Theory,” and the title under which his lecture series on the topic was posthumously published (i.e., How to Do Things with Words). He described utterances that perform such actions as “performative utterances.” But he also effectively argued that all utterances are performative—or rather, that all utterances have a performative or “illocutionary” aspect. Austin’s analysis of speech as action provides scholars with a way of looking at verbal behavior that relates spoken and written utterances to the circumstances of their production and deployment without reducing their meanings to authorial intentions conceived as mental states. As such, it has intrinsic appeal to scholars of literature, who have since the 1970s often distanced themselves both from psychological and from purely formal conceptions of literature. However, engagements with Speech Act Theory by literary and cultural theorists have often been superficial (for example, in the commonplace but spurious association of Austin’s account of performative utterances with the unrelated idea that gender is performative). Indeed, the fundamental concepts of Speech Act Theory have usually been misunderstood and misrepresented within literary studies because its core concerns are quite alien to that discipline’s central preoccupation: that is, the critical interpretation of literary texts.

Article

Noam Chomsky  

Howard Lasnik and Terje Lohndal

Noam Avram Chomsky is one of the central figures of modern linguistics. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 7, 1928. In 1945, Chomsky enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, where he met Zellig Harris (1909–1992), a leading Structuralist, through their shared political interests. His first encounter with Harris’s work was when he proof-read Harris’s book Methods in Structural Linguistics, published in 1951 but completed already in 1947. Chomsky grew dissatisfied with Structuralism and started to develop his own major idea that syntax and phonology are in part matters of abstract representations. This was soon combined with a psychobiological view of language as a unique part of the mind/brain. Chomsky spent 1951–1955 as a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, after which he joined the faculty at MIT under the sponsorship of Morris Halle. He was promoted to full professor of Foreign Languages and Linguistics in 1961, appointed Ferrari Ward Professor of Linguistics in 1966, and Institute Professor in 1976, retiring in 2002. Chomsky is still remarkably active, publishing, teaching, and lecturing across the world. In 1967, both the University of Chicago and the University of London awarded him honorary degrees, and since then he has been the recipient of scores of honors and awards. In 1988, he was awarded the Kyoto Prize in basic science, created in 1984 in order to recognize work in areas not included among the Nobel Prizes. These honors are all a testimony to Chomsky’s influence and impact in linguistics and cognitive science more generally over the past 60 years. His contributions have of course also been heavily criticized, but nevertheless remain crucial to investigations of language. Chomsky’s work has always centered around the same basic questions and assumptions, especially that human language is an inherent property of the human mind. The technical part of his research has continuously been revised and updated. In the 1960s phrase structure grammars were developed into what is known as the Standard Theory, which transformed into the Extended Standard Theory and X-bar theory in the 1970s. A major transition occurred at the end of the 1970s, when the Principles and Parameters Theory emerged. This theory provides a new understanding of the human language faculty, focusing on the invariant principles common to all human languages and the points of variation known as parameters. Its recent variant, the Minimalist Program, pushes the approach even further in asking why grammars are structured the way they are.

Article

Theological Language in Martin Luther  

Joachim Ringleben

In Christianity, theological language must be understood against the background of the multifaceted semantic field of Logos. “Logos” (as “word” and as “linguistic reason”) is used in multiple contexts: (1) Trinitarian theological (John 1:1); (2) creation (Gen. 1:3) and revelation-theological (Jesus Christ “the Word of God” [ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ]: Rev. 19:13); and (3) soteriological-eschatological (“Word of Life,” 1 John 1:1). These references are mediated through the philosophy of language’s concept of “translation” (Johann Georg Hamann) and the idea of divine condescension into human language. In Luther, religious language as the language of the Bible is to be understood on the one hand by its character as a living address to humankind and on the other as an immediate confession of the believer in spontaneous reaction to it. In biblical language, the Word of God, conveyed in human terms, comes closer to us than we do to our own selves and transforms our earthly existence to the goal of everlasting life. Theological language is intellectual interpretation and conceptual reflection on religious language with a theoretical aim—in other words, its intent is to reach an agreement about itself under the conditions of the overall context; it concerns the truth of religious language and texts. Because Luther—linguistically aware to the highest degree—recognized the specific distinctiveness of biblical language, and of New Testament language in particular, his writings contain an abundance of differentiated reflections on the state of appropriate theological language. The Word of God in our human language requires theology to have a “different” or “new” logic (and philosophy) in its articles of faith. All traditional philosophical terms and logical forms of judgment and conclusion must be “translated” into Christianity—even, for example, the concept of the human being and of the Word itself. In particular, the unity of God and man in Christ compels a new sort of language or way of thinking. The imaginative form of spatial prepositions (such as “in”) must be rethought in determinate negation. In God, opposites coincide. Because God’s Word is directed against the self-conception of the sinner before God, it comes to humankind essentially in the twin linguistic structure of “Law” and “Gospel”; these categories also define theological language in a specifically Reformation sense. New Testament language, in its fundamentals, is eschatologically oriented. Hence, categories such as “substance” or “essence” (essentia) must be rephrased on the condition that nothing has already been defined, and everything is still developing. Luther undertook this with an eschatology of the Word of God. As Luther shows in the case of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “This is my body …,” the new logic is a genuinely linguistic logic, or rather thinking from language. Traditional (formal) logic replaces the logic of real language with an artificial model. Finally, Luther also reflects on the linguistic status of the word “God” as a grammatical subject. Here, too, he wants the word “God” to be comprehended as a fluid substance, understanding it essentially as a verb—as a linguistic expression of movement—thus embodying the Reformation idea of “for me” (pro me). Ultimately, it is always about the important role of two linguistic aspects in theological language: grammar on the one hand, which should receive fundamental attention, and linguistic usage (usus loquendi) on the other, the comprehension of which is also crucial. Thus, Luther’s understanding of theological language could be summarized in this statement: theology, understood linguistically, is a grammar of the language of the sacred scriptures.

Article

Malay Philosophies of Education  

Rosnani Hashim

Malay philosophies of education refer to the educational thoughts of Malay philosophers from the period of the Islamization of the Malay world in the 13th century up to the present. Malay refers to an ethnic group with the Malay language as the major language of communication. The Malay world refers to the region in Southeast Asia comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, southern Thailand, pockets of Indo-China (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), and the southern Philippines. Prior to the introduction of Islam to the region in the 13th century, the Malay people were influenced by Hinduism, and some remnants of Hindu practices such as the conduct of the wedding ceremony and yellow being the color of royalty are still visible today. Islamization revolutionized the Malay worldview with a new ontology, cosmology, and monotheism. Moreover, the Malay language was elevated as a scientific and literary language and became a lingua franca that was widely used for communication, while Jawi script (Arabic) was used in writing, such that the region became known as the Malay world. Malay philosophies of education are very intricately related to Islamic philosophy or the Islamic worldview. Hamka, a 20th century Indonesian scholar, states that his Malayness is totally integrated with Islamic elements. Thus, the Malays’ understanding of Islam determines the goals of education. Historically, the goals of Malay education developed from the focus on the hereafter and sufism due to the nature of Islam received by the Malays at this particular time. Al-Ghazali, al-Shafie, and al-Ash’ari were among the scholars who exerted great influence on Malay scholarship. The philosophy of Malay education changed as a result of colonization by Western powers that established schools offering a liberal, secular education. However, contact with Muslim reformers in Egypt, specifically Muhammad Abduh, led to the reform of Islamic traditional schools. Hence, there was a shift in focus to reason, philosophy, and science with a closer reading of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and the goals of education emphasized the study of the acquired sciences and the use of reason. As a consequence, there were many efforts to change the existing educational institutions in terms of their curriculum. Finally, after independence, attempts were made to integrate the dualistic educational system—liberal, secular public school and traditional, religious schools—through an educational philosophy and curriculum that is holistic, integrated, and balanced, but that is also faith-based. It is not adequate to have both the acquired and revealed sciences merely coexisting but compartmentalized in the curriculum, for their values may still be conflicting. Thus, the concept of the Islamization of contemporary knowledge was deliberated and subsequently attempted. This is the climax of the unity of knowledge that is enshrined in the Islamic worldview. The educational landscape in the Malay world has been shaped by the thought patterns of Muslim scholars and the Islamic worldview.