5. Economic Growth and Linguistic Theory
Geoffrey Sampson [+]
Sussex University, Professor Emeritus
Part of the resistance to the idea that language behaviour is creative in a sense that renders it unamenable to scientific theorizing stems from a half-conscious assumption that human beings, after all, are only complicated machines, so surely they cannot be creative in that deep sense. Denying the scientific status of linguistics can sound like romantic waffle rather than a serious intellectual position. To counter this objection, I discuss a parallel with economic theory, a discipline which has many similarities to linguistics though few linguists pay it much attention. The best established, most convincing explanation of the crucial phenomenon of economic growth depends absolutely on humans being accepted as creative in the deepest sense. Yet no-one could dismiss economic growth theory as airy-fairy romanticism. It concerns hard-nosed issues which have direct consequences for human welfare (far more so than anything in linguistics).