The Future of General Linguistic Theory

  • Jared Desjardins University of Colorado Boulder


This paper argues that contemporary theories of language do not adequately account for the relationship between human language and cognition. It begins with an overview of generative linguistic theory and its connection to modern cognitive science, focusing on the role and status of linguistic description. This connection is then refined by outlining the major goals of theories of language, specifically, theories that purport to account for the human language faculty. I claim that theories meeting such goals ultimately account for nothing of substance, since generative linguistic theory maintains an unfeasible conception of mind, along with unreliable methods of investigating it. If our goal is to understand human language in general, we must change how we look at the relation between language and thought. This entails a change in how we view the data comprising language-particular theories, and the construction of a new sort of general linguistic theory.