Rediscovering the logical analysis of language

Publication Type:

Language:

Transliteration of original Title: 
Otkryvaya logicheskiy analiz yazyka zanovo
Author(s): 
Ekaterina Vostrikova
Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences
Petr Kusliy
Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences
Issue number: 
No.4 (Vol.50)
Pages: 
8-20
Abstract: 

This paper gives an overview of the project of formal description of natural languages and discusses the place and the prospects of this project in contemporary philosophy. This project goes back to the ideas of Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein, however many contemporary philosophers, especially in Russia, believe that it is doomed to failure, because any natural language is vague and context-dependent. The authors argue that Russian philosophy of language could benefit from familiarity with the ideas developed within contemporary formal semantics. In particular, the authors provide some illustrations that denounce some delusions about natural languages and the impossibility of their formal analysis. The authors provide examples of some universal restrictions in syntax (such as condition C of the Chomsky’s theory of binding) to show that, despite some popular philosophical views, the nature of languages is not fully conventional and their grammars are restricted. The authors also discuss evidence from sign languages showing that they are not mere pantomimes and that their grammars are restricted in the same ways that the grammars of the spoken languages are restricted. The authors present contemporary formal semantics of natural language as the modern version of the logical semantics originally developed by Frege, Russell, Tarski and others. They claim that the results of this discipline show that the conclusion that the logical analysis of natural language is a doomed project is not justified.

Keywords: 
formal semantics, universals in language, philosophy of language, contextualism
References: 

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DOI: 
10.5840/eps201650462