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Title: Kuhnian incommensurability between two paradigms of contemporary linguistics
Author: Smith, Philip
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2012
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This dissertation proposes a theory of reference for the language of scientific theories. This theory of reference looks at the nature of postulation in scientific theories, and shows that mental posits are metaphorical in nature. It is a hybrid of internalist and extensive reference theories. This, allied with the competing epistemological assumptions of competing schools of linguistics, can account for the existence of incommensurability across two paradigms of linguistics. The relationship between transformational generative grammar and socio- linguistics is vexed. Both claim the same object of study, but with radi- cally different methods and aims. This dissertation shows that the meta- phorical nature of the posits used in each leads to incommensurable vo- cabularies. Thomas Kuhn's notions of paradigms and incommensurability are used to elucidate this relationship. Chapter one proposes and explains the theory of reference. Chapter two defines the major areas of the thesis. Chapter three explores the history of linguists claiming that a particular area of linguistics instantiates a Kuhnian paradigm, and looks at arguments concerning the possibilities for studying language scientifically. Chapter four explores the epistemological bases of TGG and sociolinguistics, starting from Chomsky's claims to do 'Cartesian linguistics', and concludes that opposing epistemological commitments lead to incommensurability. Chapter five demonstrates the inc- ornmensurable concepts and vocabulary items, and shows how my theory of reference can account for that incommensurability, while maintaining a certain amount of the traditional natural science - social science distinction. Because postulation is free and metaphorical. terms borrowed from natural languages into scientific theories can end up with overlapping, but incommensurable, references. Incommensurability is shown to be local and surmountable, through 'language-learning' rather than through 'translation'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available