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ERIC Number: EJ873342
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Sep
Pages: 18
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0388-0001
Internalism, Externalism and Coding
Carr, Philip
Language Sciences, v29 n5 p672-689 Sep 2007
I examine some of the issues connected with the internalist/externalist distinction in work on the ontology of language. I note that Chomskyan radical internalism necessarily leads to a passive conception of child language acquisition. I reject that passive conception, and support current versions of constructivism [Tomasello, M., 2001. "The item-based nature of children's early syntactic development." In: Tomasello, M., Bates, E. (Eds.), "Language Development: The Essential Readings." Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 169-186; Deuchar, M., Vihman, M.M., 2005. "A radical approach to early mixed utterances." "International Journal of Bilingualism" 9 (2), 137-158], according to which the child actively constructs linguistic knowledge via a process of dynamic interaction with the environment, in which knowledge of social conventions is acquired. This approach to child language acquisition is, I believe, broadly in line with the view of Spurrett and Cowley [Spurrett, D., Cowley, S.J., 2004. "How to do things without words: infants, utterance-activity and distributed cognition." "Language Sciences" 26, 443-466], who take utterance activity to be "jointly controlled by the embodied activity of interacting people." The view I adopt here, based on the Representational Hypothesis proposed by Burton-Roberts [Burton-Roberts, N., 2000. "Where and what is phonology?" In: Burton-Roberts et al. (2000), pp. 39-66], takes phonological knowledge to be knowledge of conventions of physical representation. It thus proposes an intersubjective ontology for the external physical representation of radically mind-internal conceptual content. However, I now seek to abandon radical internalism. I sketch Burton-Roberts's Representational Hypothesis. I suggest that this offers a clear distinction between the roles played by nature and by culture in the range of phenomena broadly referred to as "language". I attempt here to retain B-R's conception of physical representation, but, having rejected his radical internalism,I seek to resolve the main problem thrown up by this attempt (namely, what it is that is being represented, if not elements from an innately-endowed, universal set of semantic primitives). In adopting the idea of physical representation, I reject the idea of specific languages as systems which encode conceptual content. I therefore support the view of Love (this issue) that languages are not codes. But I seek to counter Love's extreme scepticism. I review some of the evidence for an alternative, constructivist, view of child language acquisition from empirical work on child data provided by Brulard and Carr [Brulard, I., Carr, P., 2003. "French/English bilingual acquisition of phonology: one production system or two?" "International Journal of Bilingualism" 7 (2), 177-202] and by Vihman [Vihman, M.M., 1996. "Phonological Development." Blackwell, Oxford], which supports, I suggest, the ideas of emergent modularity [Karmiloff-Smith, A., 2001. "Development itself is the key to understanding developmental disorders." In: Tomasello and Bates (2001), pp. 331-350] and usage-based models of language [Bybee, J., 2001. "Phonology and Language Use." Cambridge University Press, Cambridge]. (Contains 1 table.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A