Journal Article

Knowledge of Grammar and Concept Possession

Edison Barrios

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 63, issue 3, pages 577-606
Published in print September 2012 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online November 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Knowledge of Grammar and Concept Possession

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This article deals with the cognitive relationship between a speaker and her internal grammar. In particular, it takes issue with the view that such a relationship is one of belief or knowledge (I call this view the ‘Propositional Attitude View’, or PAV). I first argue that PAV entails that all ordinary speakers (tacitly) possess technical concepts belonging to syntactic theory, and second, that most ordinary speakers do not in fact possess such concepts. Thus, it is concluded that speakers do not literally ‘know’ or ‘believe’ much of the contents of their grammars, and moreover, that these contents can only be attributed at a subpersonal level.

1The Propositional Attitude View of Linguistic Competence

2The Argument from Concept Possession


  2.2The argument

3Premise 1: Concepts, Thoughts, and Persons

4Premise 2: Naïve Speakers Lack the Required Concepts

  4.1The search for a criterion of tacit concept attribution

  4.2Tacit attitudes, tacit concepts, and cognitive dispositions

  4.3Domain crossing and its manifestations

  4.4The domain-crossing criterion

  4.5Domain crossing and tacit concepts

  4.6Domain crossing and grammatical concepts

  4.7Summing up


  5.1Grammatical concepts cross domains

  5.2Objection: concept talk is pleonastic


Journal Article.  12179 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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