I’ve encountered two broad conceptions of language in the philosophical literature. The first is the roughly Wittgensteinian or pragmatist view: the limits of one’s language are the limits of one’s world. The second is the roughly Chomskyan or Horwichian view: language is a natural object that can be studied in a scientific way to produce laws that describe its behavior. I’m not sure if these two views are incompatible, but there seems to be at least some tension between them. The pragmatist sees language as fundamental with no way to get a bird’s eye view on it. The Chomskyan view sees language as an object or organism that can be studied in a detached way the same as, say, a proton or a duck. It might be revealing to see how these two views interact, viewing the limits of one’s world as the object of systematic empirical study.

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