Idealization in linguistics

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper will deal with the problem of idealization of data in current linguistic discussions. Any linguistic statement involves a certain amount of idealization, but the extent to which it can distort our view of language does not always seem to be fully recognized. Chomsky and those of his followers who accept a syntax-based theory of language claim to be concerned with a theory of language and yet restrict them-selves to one aspect of this vast phenomenon. Much of the current work in linguistics describes data in terms of a written standard language which is assumed as a basic competence for all speakers. Competence isa technical term: it is "the underlying system of rules that has been mastered by the speaker-hearer and that he puts to use in actual performance" (Chomsky, 1965). Performance is the other side of the linguistic coin, and yet little is said about it by those who work with syntax-based theory. If language can be divided into these two parts, competence and performance, how can we know about one without having any regard to the other? If one looks even briefly at ‘what really happens’ when language is being used (i.e. performance), all the notions of a syntax-based grammar come into question.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)295-310
    Number of pages16
    JournalFolia Linguistica
    Issue number1-4
    Publication statusPublished - 1976

    Cite this