By Lia Formigari
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Additional resources for A History of Language Philosophies (Studies in the History of the Language Sciences)
But concerning a stationary inﬁnite, not to speak of a changing one, no human knowledge can be found” (Against the Prof. I, 81–83). As far as I know, this is the ﬁrst statement on the impossibility of reducing language to a theory, an irreducibility that also aﬀects technical grammar. For Sextus, indeed, it is impossible even to enumerate the sounds of a language. Vowels vary in number depending on whether one distinguishes between long and short, acute and grave, smooth and rough vowels, or takes diphthongs into consideration.
II, 3). It is also useless to try to point out objects: this can be done only for names, and only for names of things that are material and in our presence, and even in this case, only in relation to their visible qualities. ) (X, 34). Not even the language of the deaf-and-dumb or of mimes can escape the vicious circle that leads from words to words, from signs to signs, since movements and gestures are also signs (III, 5–6). In the following paragraphs, Augustine presents a series of metalinguistic observations in support of the above theory.
During the same period, long before the elaboration of a proper grammatical theory, the study of discourse had already begun to elaborate notions that were to remain central to linguistic theory. One of these is the notion of parts of speech. This notion has been criticized and revised by some of the most eminent language theorists of the 20th century on account of the heterogeneity and vagueness of its taxonomic criteria (Lagarde 1988: 93). It remains, however, such an ancient and traditional metalinguistic instrument that it can be considered part and parcel of the grammatical common sense of the West.
A History of Language Philosophies (Studies in the History of the Language Sciences) by Lia Formigari