The historical ontology of language

Seargeant, Philip (2010). The historical ontology of language. Language Sciences, 32(1) pp. 1–13.



This article examines the ontology of language from a historico-cultural perspective. Acknowledging the importance of pre-ontological assumptions for setting the epistemic parameters within which scientific disciplines operate, the article discusses the elements of a methodological framework for theorising such assumptions, based upon Foucault’s conception of ‘historical ontology’ [Foucault, M., 1991. In: Rabinow, P. (Ed.), The Foucault Reader. Penguin, London]. By using a genealogical method that analyses ontological beliefs as they occur within their historical and cultural context, it is suggested that it is possible to narrow in on what is “singular, contingent and arbitrary” (p. 45) in any specific conceptualisation of language, and use this information as an important variable in the self-reflexive analysis of linguistic research.

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