Pieter SeurenMar 18, 2015
From Whorf to Montague
Explorations in the Theory of Language
University Press 2013
A colleague once told me that people in linguistics could be divided into two groups: sheep and snipers. I'm not sure whether this is a proper dichotomy - it's certainly not quite canonical - but whether it is or not, Pieter Seuren is an example of a linguist who is most emphatically not a sheep. His book From Whorf to Montague: Explorations in the Theory of Language (Oxford UP, 2013) develops a number of themes concerning aspects of language that are problematic for existing theories, and yet have been accidentally (he stresses) overlooked in the recent intellectual history of the field. Adopting a broadly universalist standpoint, he is critical of approaches that reject the idea of even looking for generalisations and unity, but he is also critical of many aspects of the programmes that have attempted to find order in language. This is not a book that many people will agree with from cover to cover, but it is one that persuasively challenges much of the accumulated "wisdom" of any given school of linguistic thought. I hope this interview gives some idea of the breadth and depth of the undertaking.