Abstract The theoretical importance and explanatory value of ‘rules’ have frequently been questioned. This article discusses two different lines of criticism presented by the representatives of ethnomethodology and connectionism. It is argued that in both approaches a ‘rule’ is understood in a limited sense. Consequently their criticism does not give grounds to refute the notion of rules. The assumption that the later Wittgenstein proposes to reject ‘rules’ altogether can also be seen as mistaken. Wittgenstein attempts to dissolve the conceptual problems associated with the notion by considering it as praxis. His rule-considerations are compatible with an emergent approach to language, for they both reject rule-reification.