Dr. Jobin Kanjirakkat is delivering a lecture at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, Oct. 12. The title of the talk is “A “Science” by any Other Name: A Cosmopolitan Critique”. Jobin has recently finished a post-doc with CosmoLocal at Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College, and we are glad to see his continuing work. Read his abstract below.
In this talk, I focus on the word “science” in the definition of “linguistics” as the “science” of language. Out of a handful of approaches for studying language, the “generative linguistics” or “biolinguistics” paradigm is the most vehement in making the science claim. Over the last five decades, the proponents of this paradigm have been making philosophical justifications in support of this claim. These justifications were based on tight definitions of science and language. In recent times, the philosophical position and the accompanying claims about the method have been supplemented by assertions about the evolution of language. Here, the conceptual stance that accompanies “biolinguistics” as well as its take on evolution of language are examined. I note that a careful look at these undermine the science claim. Further, I observe that other approaches to language which do not make some of the idealizations associated with generative linguistics show us the benefits to be gained — with regard to understanding about the object of inquiry — by letting go of an obsession with the “science” label.