Is linguistic structure an illusion?

Paul Rastall


The article notes some valuable contributions in Sydney Lamb’s article, “Linguistic structure: A plausible theory” and welcomes his raising some key issues, but points out some epistemological and ontological difficulties. It is suggested that linguistic structure involves explanatory constructs in conceptual frameworks which address only a limited number of aspects of linguistic phenomena. The apparent order of linguistic structure arises from the human tendency to systematise and classify. When the complexity of multiple interacting factors as well as the diversity of linguistic associations are taken into account, the orderliness of linguistic structure is illusory, and a more dynamic multifactorial account of language is needed.


applicability; empirical validity; ontological commitment; analogy; anomaly; linguistic associations; dynamism

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