Journal Article

Linguistic Intuitions

Gareth Fitzgerald

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 61, issue 1, pages 123-160
Published in print March 2010 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online May 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Linguistic Intuitions

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This paper defends an orthodox model of the linguistic intuitions which form a central source of evidence for generative grammars. According to this orthodox conception, linguistic intuitions are the upshot of a system of grammatical competence as it interacts with performance systems for perceiving and articulating language. So conceived, probing speakers’ linguistic intuitions allows us to investigate the competence–performance distinction empirically, so as to determine the grammars that speakers are competent in. This model has been attacked by Michael Devitt in his recent book and a series of papers. In its place, Devitt advances a model of linguistic intuitions whereby they are speakers’ theory-laden judgements about the properties of languages. In this paper, I try to make clear the rationale behind the orthodox model and the inadequacies of Devitt's model.


Intuitions as Evidence 2.1

An example: intuitions about binding


Acceptability and interpretability


Other evidence

The Orthodox Model: Linguistic Intuitions as Data for Psychological Theories 3.1

How do intuitions bear on competence theories?


Intuitions and judgements


Linguistic intuitions and visual impressions


Are linguistic intuitions the ‘voice of competence’?


Are linguistic intuitions and visual reports disanalogous?

Devitt's Model: Linguistic Intuitions as Theory-laden Judgements 4.1

Devitt's model


Devitt's model and belief-independence


Devitt's model and folk theory


A modification to Devitt's model


Devitt's alternative view of the evidence


Journal Article.  15731 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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