Linguistics, Psychology and the Scientific Study of Language



In this paper I address the issue of the subject matter of linguistics. According to the prominent Chomskyan view, linguistics is the study of the language faculty, a component of the mind-brain, and is therefore a branch of cognitive psychology. In his recent book Ignorance of Language Michael Devitt attacks this psychologistic conception of linguistics. I argue that the prominent Chomskyan objections to Devitt's position are not decisive as they stand. However, Devitt's position should ultimately be rejected as there is nothing outside of the mind of a typical speaker that could serve to fix determinate syntactic rules of her language or constitute the supervenience base of her connection to any such rules.