Thought Before Language

Michael Devitt

in Ignorance of Language

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199250967
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603945 | DOI:
Thought Before Language

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Starting from the appealing folk idea that “language expresses thought”, this chapter argues that the psychological reality of language should be investigated from a perspective on thought. The idea also leads to the view that conceptual competence partly constitutes linguistic competence, and so is ontologically prior to it. Following Grice, and despite the claims of linguistic relativity, the chapter argues that thought is explanatorily prior to language. These ontological and explanatory priorities have some interesting temporal consequences. Based on these priorities, it is argued that our theoretical interest in thought is prior to that in language.

Keywords: thought; conceptual competence; linguistic competence; psychological reality; ontological priority; Grice; explanatory priority; linguistic relativity; temporal priorities

Chapter.  8536 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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