Author: Thornburg, Keir
It is the received philosophical view that there are two fundamentally different types of meanings: natural ones and non-natural ones. Linguistic meanings are said to be of the second sort. Properly understood however, language is a physical, biological phenomenon. Indeed, it is an evolved species. In evolutionary biology, the physical significance of items is explained by reference to the physical significance of ancestral items and to features of the biological relationship of engendering. When language is investigated along similar lines, the natural/rion-natural distinction ceases to appear fundamental. More fundamental is the distinction between phenomena capable of explanation within a relatively lower order physical theory and those that require an explanatory theory of relatively higher-order. From this perspective, talk of corivention or non-naturalness in linguistics resembles that ofjunction in biology: it serves only as a conversational shorthand for higher-order explanations.
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