Rules, Perception and Intelligibility

“Rules, Perception and Intelligibility.” Proceedings of the British Academy 48 (1962), London, 1963, pp. 321–344.


“The most striking instance of the phenomenon from which we shall start is the ability of small children to use language in accordance with the rules of grammar and idiom of which they are wholly unaware. “Perhaps there is”, Edward Sapir wrote thirty-five years ago, “a far reaching moral in the fact that even a child may speak the most difficult language with idiomatic ease but that it takes an unusually analytical type of mind to define the mere elements of that incredibly subtle linguistic mechanism which is nothing but a plaything in the child’s unconscious.”

The phenomenon is a very comprehensive one and includes all that we call skills.”

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