Practical Norms of Linguistic Entities
Practical Norms of Linguistic Entities


A philosophical analysis of normativity in constituting linguistic units (LU) leads to the study of ontological and epistemological aspects of realization of linguistic entities in the form of LUs as the facts of speech. An ‘internal implicit norm’ (practical and epistemic) of LU is a fundamental hypothesis about the possibility of a linguistic entity, makes it possible together with the other norms of it in a pragmatic context, which regulates its appropriateness externally and provides for its interpretation. The formal definition of the practical norm of LU ‘p’ has the form of the rule of ‘evidence’: accomplishment of the content of p is ‘evident’. For example, practical norm for a statement p, accomplished by A: A knows the content of p. Such norm constitutes p as a type of linguistic entity (statement) and provides criteria for its evaluation (in terms of truth for a statement). In this sense practical norms constitute and regulate LUs.

Table of contents

    The contemporary philosophical analysis of language goes as an analysis of speech, language in use. The analysis of locutionary language is not effective, it is fruitful to analyze illocutionary speech (even descriptions have illocutionary power and it corresponds to the principle of economy in language: we speak about something when what we are speaking about provokes us, is extraordinary). Locutionary language is abstract, in analyzing it one cannot be aware about semantic changes due to the accomplishment of the contents of linguistic units (LU) involved into the speech in a given pragmatic context.

    Speech is an action. It can be considered in the field of Practical Philosophy, as philosophy of action. Practical philosophy presupposes analysis of something in the perspective of its realization (accomplishment) with its goals etc. The rehabilitation of practical philosophy goes, among other factors, under the ‘linguistic turn’, which stresses all the philosophical discipline and traditions. Linguistic turn is connected with methodological and thematic transformations in philosophy and it lead attention of the philosophical investigations to the context of linguistic accomplishment of theoretical argumentation. Linguistic and pragmatic turns show complementary character of theoretical and practical reasons. Linguistic turn can be divided into 3 stages: 1. interest in the artificial language of natural science, attempts to reduce to it everyday language; 2. interest in everyday language, understanding of its irreducibility to the artificial one; 3. interest in speech, understanding that we are not dealing with language, deduced from speech stream. So, further I am using language and speech as synonymous. In this perspective I am investigating the constituting and accomplishing of LUs as speech facts due to norms.

    Language can be differentiated by linguistic entities in the forms of LUs. They are separately functionally defined classes applied to express (realize) complete thought (that is why they can be called entities), for example – utterance, sentence, statement, propositional attitude, etc. The unified typology of them is not defined, and, probably cannot be formulated. The attempts was tried to be given from the time of Austin’s theory of speech acts. As we are dealing with speech and not language in a mentioned sense, it seems ineffective and redundant to give such typology, because we cannot view all the types in possible contexts, they can overlap each other, and it could need routine job. But reflecting about speech can bring some of them to be transparent for us.

    LUs have content in a given context. Whether the LU has a factual content is a subject of its evaluation, which is possible due to practical norm inherent to this unit. LUs express our ideas, for instance, facts about reality. We describe reality by facts. This corresponds to the classical logical atomism of Russell and Wittgenstein and general views of fenomenalism about the possibility of description of the reality by sense data without stating that the previous can be completely reduced to the latter. Facts are descriptions of portions of reality. They represent reality tessellated in a form of mosaic, the elements of which are facts. Such description is intended to be a discovery of something new, unknown before the realizing of this description. In a way we create reality, mentally construct it, but we strive to expose reality, not just to invent it. So, facts do not coincide with reality, but correspond to it. Facts are the contents of appropriate LUs. So, cognition can be defined as modeling of reality in terms of factuality. Language as speech is a constitutive and regulative cognitive description of reality by facts as contents of LU.

    The content of LUs corresponds to their norms as functional constitutive and regulative capacities. The norm constitutes LU as a fact of speech and is a criterion for evaluation of its content. Norms are practical and have ontological significance for LU as entities. The priority role of practical norm is constitutive, it makes LU possible. The norm in its regulative role as a criterion of it evaluation supports accomplishment of LU. Negative value (for example, falsehood for statement) does not destroy the norm and LU, it justifies its inappropriateness in a given context.

    Practical norms are, generally speaking, rules for linguistic actions. They have epistemic sense and are internal: status of norm as a condition of the possibility of LU is provided by internal link between the norm and this LU, they define each other. Internal norm would not be doxa: it is not a subject of belief, it is epistemically necessary.

    Practical norms of LU are not intentions (in meaning widely advocated by Paul Grice). An intention to utter something is external (it does not mean that it has to be explicit), it leads to the utterance, which is possible due to the practical internal norms. The latter epistemically allows LU, supports its “right to be”.

    Practical internal norms are proper inherent to LUs, make LUs possible, necessary accompany LUs. They differ from explicit norms, which only regulate their objects. Practical internal norms are implicit, they constitute their LU by making them possible, they are rules of the accomplishment of LU, but their explication actualizes their regulative role. Available in a given context LUs are not only constituted by their practical norms, but also are regulated by them.

    Allowing LU practical norm of it also allows, but not defines, ‘normative background’ which accompanies LU’s realization. ‘Normative background’ means syntactic, semantic, phonetic, grammatical etc. norms, which together with pragmatic context supply instrumental control of accomplishment of LU by its constitutive practical norm in this context.

    The justification of LU by practical norm does not go before realization of LU. Practical norms are not conventions, they cannot be substituted by alternative conventions. Practical norms make their LUs valid.

    Formal definition of practical norm for LU p – rule of ‘evidence’:

    • accomplishment of the content of p is ‘evident’.

    The speaker, who realizes p implicitly grasps rule of ‘evidence’, analogically to the case when a player implicitly knows the rules of game. ‘Evidence’ is schematic. Speakers are receptively sensible to implicit “rule of ‘evidence’”, they grasp it implicitly when ‘make’ LU. So, it is not evidence in a proper sense, ‘evidence’ is schematic in the rule. Thus, practical norm claims the content of LU to be ‘evident’ for the speaker, who accomplishes this LU.

    Distorted, or false LUs can be realized because their practical norms allow them as such, or we can reflect about them and their practical norms, which were relevant in a context, and conclude about their incorrectness, but they were done with, and because of some ‘evidence’ obvious to their bearers in that context.

    Take statement as an example of the type of LU. Practical norm (rule of ‘evidence’) for a statement p, accomplished by A:

    • accomplishment of the content of p is ‘evident’ for A.

    It means that A should be receptively sensible to the content, he is going to state by p, he should conceive the content of p as if he would have known p. Thus, practical norm for a statement p, accomplished by A:

    • A knows the content of p.
    • This means that to state p presupposes to know p.

    ‘To know p’ here is not conceptually prior to p, the approach is not antirealistic.

    So, the practical norm for a statement is implicit knowledge as ‘evidence’ of what is stated. Knowledge as a practical norm does not presuppose, for example, certainty or some other characteristic as a norm, although it could be condition of knowledge.

    Within the frame of presented conception, a ‘practical norm’ is a fundamental hypothesis about the possibility of a linguistic entity, which makes possible to accomplish a correspondent LU together with the other norms of it in a suitable pragmatic context, which regulates its appropriateness and, in its turn, provides for its interpretation.


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    Anna Laktionova. Date: XML TEI markup by WAB (Rune J. Falch, Heinz W. Krüger, Alois Pichler, Deirdre C.P. Smith) 2011-13. Last change 18.12.2013.
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