Rules as Resources: An Ecological-Enactive Perspective on Linguistic Normativity

Jasper C. van den Herik
2020 Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences  
In this paper, I develop an ecological-enactive perspective on the role rules play in linguistic behaviour. I formulate and motivate the hypothesis that metalinguistic reflexivityour ability to talk about talkingis constitutive of linguistic normativity. On first sight, this hypothesis might seem to fall prey to a regress objection. By discussing the work of Searle, I show that this regress objection originates in the idea that learning language involves learning to follow rules from the very
more » ... les from the very start. I propose an ecologicalenactive response to the regress objection. The key move is to deny that language learning consists initially in learning rules. A child first engages in regular communicative behaviour, by learning first-order linguistic skills, and then retroactively interprets her own behaviour in normative metalinguistic terms, i.e., as being guided by rules by relying on reflexive or second-order linguistic skills. On this view, metalinguistic reflexivity enables regulation of already regular communicative behaviour, and thereby constitutes linguistic normativity. Finally, I argue that linguistic rules are resources: they are available to participants in order to (re)negotiate properties of situated language behaviour and thereby reorganize linguistic practices. The account developed in this paper thus allows us to understand the constitutive role of metalinguistic reflexivity for linguistic normativity without falling prey to the regress objection. Keywords Rules . Normativity . Ecological-enactive approach . Language . Reflexivity . Metalanguage Many of our everyday activities involve rules that prescribe or prohibit certain behaviours. Think for example of a sign in the park that says 'keep off the grass' or the code of conduct for a company. A paradigmatic activity involving rules is playing a game. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
doi:10.1007/s11097-020-09676-0 fatcat:ke566a44jfe67b4pvyejuplhda