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On the Wire
Table of Contents
1 Computational Linguistics
5 Theoretical Linguistics
6 Discourse Analysis
The argument from "Two Dogmas" supplies the "missing" argument in the case for the inderminancy of translation. The argument plays a role in the indeterminacy thesis because Quine's reason for thinking that independent controls do not exist in translation takes its force from the argument that there are no linguistically neutral meanings. The absence of linguistically neutral meanings is a prerequiste for the indeterminacy of translation.
"It seems clear that knowledge of grammatical rules is an essential component of the interactive competence that speakers must have to interact and cooperate with others. Thus if we can show that individuals interacting through linguistic signs are effective in cooperating with others in the conduct of their affairs, we have prima facie evidence for the existince of shared grammatical structure. One need not as the nineteenth-century normative grammarians did, and many modern educators continue to do, attempt to judge an individual's basic linguistic ability in reference to an a priori set of grammatical standards." -- Gumperz, Discourse Strategies, p. 19.
In Harris and Taylor's chapter on Plato's "Cratylus" in Landmarks in Linguistic Thought, Cratylus takes the position that the form and meaning of a word are inextricably related. For Cratylus, "everything," including Hermogenes, "has a right name of its own, which comes by nature" even though some people, like Hermogenes, are named incorrectly (Cratylus 383, as quoted in Harris and Taylor, p. 1).
Throughout the essay, I will argue a hard line: the exact meaning of a speaker's utterance in a contextualized exchange is often indeterminate. Within the context of the analysis of the teacher-pupil exchange, I will argue for the superiority of interactional linguistics over speech act theory because it reduces the indeterminacy and yields a more principled interpretation, especially when the interactional approach is complemented by elements from other sociologically influenced methods, namely the ethnography of communication and Labovian sociolinguistics.
This essay seeks to take Wittgenstein's influence on discourse analysis a step further by using his writings as the theoretical foundation for an approach to analyzing discourse that is distinct from speech act theory, which stems from the analytic tradition in philosophy, and to suggest that a Wittgenstein-inspired approach may actually be closer in spirit and content to that of an unlikely candidate whose views, in contrast to the analytic school, harbor a distinctly Continental flavor which has come to influence critical theory: Mikhail Bakhtin.
Ethnomethodology is "the study of common social knowledge, in particular as it concerns the understanding of others and the varieties of circumstance in which it can take place." -- Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, p. 126.
For more on discourse analysis, see the discourse analysis menu.