Opening conference

"Language sciences and Ontology"

Sylvain Auroux
Research Director, CNRS, UMR 7597 "Histoire des théories linguistiques", Université Paris Diderot.

Sylvain Auroux, born in 1947, Research Director at CNRS (Laboratory of History of Linguistic Theories, Université Paris 7), specializes in the philosophy of language and history of science. He has written numerous books and articles on the subject. He edited three volumes of Histoire des Idées linguistiques (Liège, Mardaga, 1989-2000) and a dictionary of philosophical concepts, (Dictionnaire des Notions philosophiques, Paris, PUF, two volumes, 1990). Last book published: La philosophie du langage, Paris PUF, 2009.

Language sciences and ontology

An ontology is the set of assumptions about the latest development of the world, in other words - what ultimately exists. Every science is concerned with ontological assumptions. Linguistics draws on this in two ways. Firstly, through the ontological implications of its categories: do "names" exist and, if so, where? We recall the limitations of the substantialist hypothesis put forward by Chomsky arguing the identity between the structure of verbal exchanges, their mental representation and their theory. The second point concerns the object itself, language, or rather languages. In each vocabulary, there is something like a nomenclature (which does not necessarily have the same structure as a "scientific nomenclature"), in each syntactic construction there is a way to account for the world's organization, as in the predicative structure of the Indo-European languages ​​and the opposition noun vs. verb. Should we admit that it is the structure of the world which is reflected in the languages, but then why the diversity? Can we make a distinction between what our representation owes to the world and what it owes to our languages or must we admit that there is no continuity between the world and the language? Is it the case that language diversity argues in favour of ontological relativism?