According to Chomsky, to learn a language is to develop a grammar for it – a generative grammar which assigns a definite structure and a definite meaning to each of a definite set of sentences. This forms the speaker’s linguistic competence, which represents a distinct faculty of the mind, called the faculty of language. This view has been widely criticised, from many separate angles and by many different authors, including some of Chomsky’s pupils. As one of the earliest and most persistent critics, Professor Matthews is especially well placed to tie these arguments together. He concludes that Chomsky’s notion of competence finds no support within linguistics. It can be defended, if at all, only by assuming a traditional philosophy of mind. The notion of grammar should therefore be restricted to descriptive linguistics, and should not have psychological interpretations foisted on it. Peter Matthews’ book covers a variety of topics, from morphology to speech acts, from word meaning to the study of language variation, and from blending in syntax to the relation of language and culture. This wide range of subject matter is incisively handled in a style which is both elegant and economical.
Preface. Introduction. 1. ‘Language is Not Well Defined’ 2. Syntax and Lexicon 3. Competence 4. Variation in Speech Communities 4.1. Introduction 4.2. ‘Variable Rules 4.3. Idiolectal Multilingualism 5. Meaning 5.1. Introduction 5.2. Word Meaning 5.3. Sentence Meaning 6. Rules and Tendencies 7. Grammar and Mind. References. Index