A Mind for Madness

Musings on art, philosophy, mathematics, and physics

Linguistics vs Phil Lang


What is the difference between linguistics and philosophy of language? Often when posting on one of them or thinking about one of them, I get confused as to if I really know the difference. Here I will try to sort out what I think the difference is.

Taking a purely academia perspective at first, if you look at degree requirements for philosophy of language you get readings like Frege, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Quine, Strawson, Searle, Kripke, and Putnam. If you look at degree requirements, well, I’m mostly finding classes, so sociolinguistics, phonology, psycholinguistics, language acquisition, semantics, and syntax. So there is a lot of overlap, but let’s try to pull some of it apart.

From the list it seems that phil lang is concerned with questions of foundations. Is language fundamental, or do we interpret through language? It seems intimately tied to philosophy of mind. What is a concept? Can we think in conceptual terms and bypass language? How do we attribute meaning to language? These types of things. Linguistics seems to be more interested in the language itself. What are the origins of this word? Is their a father language that all others come from? How do sounds differ between cultures? What are allowable constructions in a language? Can these be modeled mechanically, as in computer translators? These types of things. So there does in fact seem to be a difference.

There is probably more similarity than people would guess, though. Clearly questions dealing with logic apply to both. Is a language a formal system? Also, the effect of language is in both. How do words affect brain chemistry? How does language affect how a social system interacts? Can we determine something about human nature by determining which words are culturally specific and which are universal?

Not sure why I posted this. Just something I was trying to sort out. Also, I know almost nothing about linguistics, so this could be way off. It is interesting that you can tell when I’m mathematically frustrated, because my posts become things like this for awhile. You can tell when I’m having a good math week, because my posts become essentially unreadable to people without a degree in math.

Author: hilbertthm90

I write about math, philosophy, literature, music, science, computer science, gaming or whatever strikes my fancy that day.

2 thoughts on “Linguistics vs Phil Lang

  1. Sorry you’re “mathematically frustrated” (though that’s a great phrase).

    I tend to think of linguistics as a science that looks to answer the “what” and “how” of language, while philosophy of lang. attends to the “why.” That’s probably too simplistic, though.

  2. ^ Actually, that’s a VERY good formulation. Linguistics is more of the science which is in the business of finding out the actuality of how language is used and how we come to learn it and use it in contexts but philosophy wants to find out why this is the case in terms of fundamental concepts of language itself, what constitues it, and the explication of the constituents which comprise it.

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