Limiting the Arbitrary: Linguistic Naturalism and Its Opposites in Plato's Cratylus and the Modern Theories of Language

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John Benjamins Publishing, Jan 1, 2000 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 224 pages
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The idea that some aspects of language are 'natural', while others are arbitrary, artificial or derived, runs all through modern linguistics, from Chomsky's GB theory and Minimalist program and his concept of E- and I-language, to Greenberg's search for linguistic universals, Pinker's views on regular and irregular morphology and the brain, and the markedness-based constraints of Optimality Theory. This book traces the heritage of this linguistic naturalism back to its locus classicus, Plato's dialogue Cratylus. The first half of the book is a detailed examination of the linguistic arguments in the Cratylus. The second half follows three of the dialogue's naturalistic themes through subsequent linguistic history natural grammar and conventional words, from Aristotle to Pinker; natural dialect and artificial language, from Varro to Chomsky; and invisible hierarchies, from Jakobson to Optimality Theory in search of a way forward beyond these seductive yet spurious and limiting dichotomies.
 

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Contents

INTRODUCTION NATURAL AND UNNATURAL LANGUAGE
1
Part One Cratylus
11
CHAPTER 1 NATURE AND CONVENTION CRATYLUS 383A1391D1
13
CHAPTER 2 WORDS AND TRUTH CRATYLUS 391D2422E1
39
CHAPTER 3 IMITATION AND ESSENCE CRATYLUS 422E1440E7
59
Part Two After Cratylus
91
CHAPTER 4 NATURAL GRAMMAR AND CONVENTIONAL WORDS FROM ARISTOTLE TO PINKER
93
CHAPTER 5 NATURAL DIALECT AND ARTIFICIAL LANGUAGE FROM VARRO TO CHOMSKY
141
CHAPTER 6 INVISIBLE HIERARCHIES FROM JAKOBSON TO OPTIMALITY THEORY
169
AFTERWORD LINGUISTICS AFTER NATURALISM
201
REFERENCES
205
INDEX
217
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