Language: A Biological Model by Ruth Garrett Millikan

By Ruth Garrett Millikan

Ruth Millikan is widely known for having built a strikingly unique approach for philosophers to hunt realizing of brain and language, which she sees as organic phenomena. She now attracts jointly a chain of groundbreaking essays which set out her method of language. Guiding the paintings of such a lot linguists and philosophers of language at the present time is the belief that language is ruled through prescriptive normative principles. Millikan deals a essentially varied method of viewing the partial regularities that language monitors, evaluating them to organic norms that emerge from average choice. This yields novel and particularly radical results for our realizing of the character of public linguistic that means, the method of language knowing, how kids study language, and the semantics/pragmatics contrast.

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I will be using ‘function’ here as short for ‘direct proper function’ as defined in Millikan (1984: ch. 1). This notion is a relative of the notion of function that biologists use when they distinguish between functions and mere effects of an organ or trait or activity. Roughly, the function or functions of a conventional pattern are those effects of it that account for its continued reproduction. More accurately, the pattern is proliferated due in part to a correlation between it and certain of its effects.

1). This notion is a relative of the notion of function that biologists use when they distinguish between functions and mere effects of an organ or trait or activity. Roughly, the function or functions of a conventional pattern are those effects of it that account for its continued reproduction. More accurately, the pattern is proliferated due in part to a correlation between it and certain of its effects. It is selected for reproduction, in accordance with conscious or unconscious intent, owing to its being coincident with these effects enough of the time.

And of course that is not what David Lewis had in mind when he claimed that language conventions exist only where there are regular behaviors. He didn’t mean that spigots are always called ‘spigots’. What he meant was that if someone calls something ‘a spigot’, then it is regular that that thing is a spigot, which looks quite a lot more plausible. Troubles with regularity theories show up not here but, first, with the problem of how to delimit the relevant groups within which the regularities supposedly occur.

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Language: A Biological Model by Ruth Garrett Millikan
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