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Language and Human Understanding

David Braine

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-xii

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pp. xiii-xviii

This book has been over twenty-one years in the writing, the fruit of fifty years’ preoccupation with language. For the final result, I have to thank first the chief teachers and authors who led me to realize the necessity of achieving an integration of linguistics, psychology, and philosophy if any account of the meaning and structure of language was to carry conviction. Secondly, I have...

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Introduction and Overview

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pp. 1-68

A right account of language is, I believe, the key to a right account of the nature of human understanding and thought, and thereby the key to a right understanding of human nature as a whole. Yet the whole theory of language is in considerable disorder, and my aim must therefore be first to seek to remedy this. This will take me into the heart of current debates in...

Part One. Words and Their Dynamism in the Expression of Meaning

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I. Two Levels of Meaning: The Level of Language-Possession and the Level of Language-Use

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pp. 71-112

The Notion of Linguistic Understanding: Preliminary Remarks

In the introduction and overview I gave a key place to our capacity to use a word in a multiplicity of different senses or discourse-significances, even though it was being taken in the same meaning at the level of language-possession. It is the task of this chapter to develop these ideas merely sketched...

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II. The Salience of Words and Our Adventurousness in Using Them

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pp. 113-157

Section 1. Words and Basic Lexical Factors

(a) The strategic situation of words or expressions of comparable rank
(i) Words as the loci of stability within languages and as roots of linguistic creativity

Units of different “rank”, in the way that “narrative”, “argument”, “conversation”, and “exchange” signify units of discourse of higher rank than “sentence” and...

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III. Sentences, Sense, and the Objects of Linguistic Science

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pp. 158-218

The Concepts of Sentence and Sense Belong at the Speech-Act Level

This chapter draws out the consequences of recognizing that the primary place of the concepts of sense and sentence in linguistic science is at the level of speech and the speech-act.
This is required for the application of logic and by the functional connection of language with communication. It accords with the speech-related approaches...

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IV. The Indivisibility of the Human Capacity for Language

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pp. 219-242

The Interdependence of the Various Semantic Structures within Language

The many meanings of the word “holism”
The conception of a whole with an essential, not merely accidental, unity was first made explicit by Aristotle in his treatment of the relationships of the whole animal to its matter or material parts1 and of the spoken syllable to its phonetic...

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V. Scientific Method and the Significance of Mathematics for Linguistics

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pp. 243-292

Section 1. Mistaken Presumptions about What “Scientific Method” Requires

This chapter shows the indispensability of informal rules to mathematical practice and scientific method and development. The requirement of conformity to mechanically applicable rules arises only in certain specialized contexts. The deceptive plausibility of arguments that such mechanically applicable rules...

Part Two. The Shape of the Psychology Required for Explaining the Learning and Use of Language

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VI. Human and Animal Organisms as Systems Dynamically Geared to the Environment

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pp. 295-345

“Mechanisms” in a Holistic and Teleological Framework

The holistic approach of J. J. Gibson and some other recent psychologists is key to understanding the shape of the psychology required for explaining the learning and use of language, including the part played by the brain and by our human evolutionary background.
Gibson’s environment-geared or “ecological” model...

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VII. Extending the Dynamic and Environment-Geared Model of Human Functioning to the Psychology of Language

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pp. 346-365

Section 1. Difficulties in Applying the Idea of Modularity to Language

(a) “Module” as in origin an engineering design concept
In psychology it has become the norm to presume the existence of mechanisms with various roles in advance of any definite knowledge of how they may be physically realized, often referring to them as “modules”.
The word “module” was first...

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VIII. Understanding as Essential to Explaining Speech: Resisting the Drag Towards Physicalism

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pp. 366-396

Section 1. The Incoherence in Dividing the Inner from the Outer in Language

In chapters I to III we registered how linguistic understanding of the lexical or langue-meanings of lexical factors grounds the linguistic understanding of their sense or discourse-significance as used in utterances in particular contexts, so that linguistic understanding at two levels is always essential to linguistic...

Part Three. Rewriting the Philosophy of Grammar and Restoring Unity to the Theory of Language

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IX. Explaining the Semantic Unity of the Sentence: The Shared Roots of the Topic/Comment, Subject/Predicate, and Noun/Verb Distinctions

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pp. 399-445

In considering the sentence’s semantic constituents and understanding how they are interlinked and integrated together, we must proceed in the way outlined in the introduction, taking semantics and pragmatics to shape syntactic structure and taking grammars as concerned with sentences as utterances, not as the “context-free” constructs of a grammatical theory. My studies in...

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X. The Gulf between Saying and Naming, the Verbal and the Nominal: "Force"-Potential as Integral to "Sense"

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pp. 446-486

Section 1. Full Sentences Distinguished from Clauses in General: Relation of Force to Sense

On the face of it every complete “speech”-sentence—that is, something whose identity includes its sense and therefore includes everything relevant to sense arising from its context of utterance—is coordinate to an act of utterance or linguistic deliverance—“cognate” to the speech-act in the sense I...

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XI. The Notion of Subject and the Functional Organization of the Clause

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pp. 487-527

We have seen that it is wrong to confine “sense” and semantics to the lexical, and wrong to confine it to what is relevant to a “logic” of matters affecting truth-conditions. Rather all the distinctions presented in Dik’s Functional Grammar and the Czech tradition, between Theme, Predication and Tail, Topic and Focus, Given Topic and New Topic, and so forth, reflect perspective...

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XII. Marrying Philosophy and Grammar in Distinguishing Types of Noun Expression

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pp. 528-574

Section 1. The Varied Types of Meaning of Abstract Nouns

(a) The roots of grammar lie in the semantics of speech: the awareness of langue involved in speech
In chapter IX we saw that in any semantically structured expressive speech, the subordinate sentence constituents must be of different kinds. The distinction between referring or “naming” expressions and saying or “verbal” expressions, the...

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XIII. Varied Systems of Grammaticalization—Reviewing the Phenomena

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pp. 575-642

Semantic syntactic structure is set by the verb, by functional or “pragmatic” roles in discourse, and by the “thematic” roles of different arguments within the verbal framework.
Grammar studies the ways in which this structure takes morphosyntactic form and becomes grammatically explicit by such devices as connectives, inflections, and conventions of word order in the process of...

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XIV. The Verb Gives Sentences Their Dynamic Character and Shapes Their Syntactic Structure

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pp. 643-704

In this chapter and the next I show how, in grammar, sentence and clause theory shape phrase theory, rather than vice versa. In giving primacy to the sentence and clause, I recognize speech as shaping grammatical form.
By contrast, in the Chomskyan approach sentences are composed stage by stage from words or other basic lexical factors, and sentence structure is represented...

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XV. The Distorted Treatment of Phrase Theory in Modern Formal Grammar

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pp. 705-744

In Chapter XIV we saw how discourse and sentence structure shape phrase structure, rather than phrase structure shaping sentence structure.
By contrast, in Chomsky’s minimalist approach, beginning with morphemes, in successive stages, ever larger phrasal groups are formed until sentential “phrases” are reached. In this bottom-up approach the properties of...

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General Conclusion

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pp. 745-754

We saw how language presents itself to us primarily in the activity of speech. Here, from the first acts of understanding speech, our own and that of others, we begin to learn the language spoken—for instance, to learn the meaning and use of particular words. Both language at the level of what is learned, langue, and language at the level of use, “speech”, are public things appreciated...


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pp. 755-776

Index of Names

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pp. 777-782

Subject Index

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pp. 783-797

Production Notes

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p. 798-798

E-ISBN-13: 9780813221755
E-ISBN-10: 0813221757
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813221748
Print-ISBN-10: 0813221749

Page Count: 816
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1