Linguistic Philosophy of Language

Author: Rastall, Paul
This work draws out the philosophical implications of European functionalist linguistics. It contains an account of human linguistic capacities through considering the role of languages in overall semiotic behavior and the nature of our models of Language and of languages. It is particularly concerned with the nature of linguistically conveyed messages and their role in consciousness and with the methods for their understanding. The implications are related to an emergent anthropocentric philosophy and to metaphysics, epistemology in the wider sense, the philosophy of science and ethics. There is a special consideration of the limitations on human understanding which are due to the nature of our linguistic communication and our methods of analysis. Accordingly, the work presents a synthetic overview of European functionalist linguistics following Saussure, Hjelmslev, Benveniste, Martinet and Mulder. That linguistic tradition is closely related to the philosophical ideas of Kant, Herder, Cassirer and Popper and to the neurological work of Geschwind, Granit, and Eccles. Particular emphases are laid on the purposive nature of linguistic behavior; the culturally determined nature of linguistic conventions; and the important distinctions between speech, languages and Language as a general human capacity or the intension of the class of languages.


“Paul Rastall’s book seems like a breath of fresh air in the field of linguistics A major contention of this book is that American (and hence British) linguists have spent too long a time fairly isolated from the rest of the world. For far too long the analytic approach to language phenomena has supplanted an ability to synthesize material from around the world into a ‘general’ theory of linguistics. With this book, Paul Rastall succeeds in amalgamating ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘European’ linguistics with the theories (sometimes out of touch with reality)propounded by the structuralist school of inquiry. The result is a book filled with enthusiasm and clarity about a reexamination of traditional American linguistic propositions and with a more comprehensive theory that incorporates hitherto-ignored (or, at least –slighted) aspects which actually hark back to the dawn of modern linguistic theory. . . . Rastall summarizes quite handsomely the various bases of modern linguistic thought. With a firm background in the history of his subject, Rastall presents the ideas of more modern thinkers (e. g. Noam Chomsky) in a light which clearly delineates both the differences and the common ground. . . . The result is a synthesis which he propounds in an erudite and forthright manner, and which leaves the reader not only convinced of the rightness of his thesis, but also prepared to view his subsequent chapters (which contain a series of logical extensions of the bases he has built upon) with a favorable and understanding eye. The work is well-referenced (within the text) and exhibits a high degree of scholarship. The organization of the book (supported by an exhaustive bibliography) is complemented by a double index of both authors and subjects. Anyone wishing to substantiate the matters discussed in this book, as well as one seeking to cross-reference his subject matter, is greatly aided by the care that Paul Rastall has taken in presenting his profound by accessible conclusions regarding the nature of language.” – E. Morgan Kelley

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
1. A Functionalist View of Language in a Philosophical Context
2. Major Functionalist Tenets
3. Problems of Tradition and Universalism
4. Common Areas of Interest of Linguistics and Philosophy
5. The Nature of Linguistic Entities
6. Consciousness and Communication
7. Messages
8. Epistemology and Linguistics
9. Linguistics and the Philosophy of Science
10. The Loop of Language
11. Intuition and Indeterminacy
12. Communication Strategies
13. Conclusion
Bibliography; Index of Authors; Index of Subjects