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Philosophy of Language

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The Classics Explained

Many beginning students in philosophy of language find themselves grappling with dense and difficult texts not easily understood by someone new to the field. This book offers an introduction to philosophy of language by explaining ten classic, often anthologized, texts. Accessible and thorough, written with a unique combination of informality and careful formulation, the book addresses sense and reference, proper names, definite descriptions, indexicals, the definition of truth, truth and meaning, and the nature of speaker meaning, as addressed by Frege, Kripke, Russell, Donnellan, Kaplan, Evans, Putnam, Tarski, Davidson, and Grice. The explanations aim to be as simple as possible without sacrificing accuracy; critical assessments are included with the exposition in order to stimulate further thought and discussion.

Philosophy of Language will be an essential resource for undergraduates in a typical philosophy of language course or for graduate students with no background in the field. It can be used in conjunction with an anthology of classic texts, sparing the instructor much arduous exegesis.

Frege on Sense and Reference
Kripke on Names
Russell on Definite Descriptions
Donnellan’s Distinction
Kaplan on Demonstratives
Evans on Understanding Demonstratives
Putnam on Semantic Externalism
Tarski’s Theory of Truth
Davidson’s Semantics for Natural Language
Grice’s Theory of Speaker Meaning

Word Learning and the Embodied Mind

Ostension is bodily movement that manifests our engagement with things, whether we wish it to or not. Gestures, glances, facial expressions: all betray our interest in something. Ostension enables our first word learning, providing infants with a prelinguistic way to grasp the meaning of words. Ostension is philosophically puzzling; it cuts across domains seemingly unbridgeable—public–private, inner–outer, mind–body. In this book, Chad Engelland offers a philosophical investigation of ostension and its role in word learning by infants.

Engelland discusses ostension (distinguishing it from ostensive definition) in contemporary philosophy, examining accounts by Quine, Davidson, and Gadamer, and he explores relevant empirical findings in psychology, evolutionary anthropology, and neuroscience. He offers original studies of four representative historical thinkers whose work enriches the understanding of ostension: Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty, Augustine, and Aristotle. And, building on these philosophical and empirical foundations, Engelland offers a meticulous analysis of the philosophical issues raised by ostension. He examines the phenomenological problem of whether embodied intentions are manifest or inferred; the problem of what concept of mind allows ostensive cues to be intersubjectively available; the epistemological problem of how ostensive cues, notoriously ambiguous, can be correctly understood; and the metaphysical problem of the ultimate status of the key terms in his argument: animate movement, language, and mind. Finally, he argues for the centrality of manifestation in philosophy. Taking ostension seriously, he proposes, has far-reaching implications for thinking about language and the practice of philosophy.

Willard Van Orman Quine begins this influential work by declaring, "Language is a social art. In acquiring it we have to depend entirely on intersubjectively available cues as to what to say and when." As Patricia Smith Churchland notes in her foreword to this new edition, with Word and Object Quine challenged the tradition of conceptual analysis as a way of advancing knowledge. The book signaled twentieth-century philosophy's turn away from metaphysics and what Churchland calls the "phony precision" of conceptual analysis.

In the course of his discussion of meaning and the linguistic mechanisms of objective reference, Quine considers the indeterminacy of translation, brings to light the anomalies and conflicts implicit in our language's referential apparatus, clarifies semantic problems connected with the imputation of existence, and marshals reasons for admitting or repudiating each of various categories of supposed objects. In addition to Churchland's foreword, this edition offers a new preface by Quine's student and colleague Dagfinn Follesdal that describes the never-realized plans for a second edition of Word and Object, in which Quine would offer a more unified treatment of the public nature of meaning, modalities, and propositional attitudes.

These fifteen original essays address the core semantic concepts of reference and referring from both philosophical and linguistic perspectives. After an introductory essay that casts current trends in reference and referring in terms of an ongoing dialogue between Fregean and Russellian approaches, the book addresses specific topics, balanc
ing breadth of coverage with thematic unity.

The contributors, all leading or emerging scholars, address trenchant neo-Fregean challenges to the direct reference position; consider what positive claims can be made about the mechanism of reference; address the role of a theory of reference within broader theoretical context; and investigate other kinds of linguistic expressions used in referring activities that may themselves be referring expressions.

The topical unity and accessibility of the essays, the stage-setting introductory essay, and the comprehensive index combine to make Reference and Referring, along with the other books in the Topics in Contemporary Philosophy series, appropriate for use in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses.

Speakers, in their everyday conversations, use language to talk about language. They may wonder about what words mean, to whom a name refers, whether a sentence is true. They may worry whether they have been clear, or correctly expressed what they meant to say. That speakers can make such inquiries implies a degree of access to the complex array of knowledge and skills underlying our ability to speak, and though this access is incomplete, we nevertheless can form on this basis beliefs about linguistic matters of considerable subtlety, about ourselves and others. It is beliefs of this sort--de lingua beliefs--that Robert Fiengo and Robert May explore in this book.Fiengo and May focus on the beliefs speakers have about the semantic values of linguistic expressions, exploring the genesis of these beliefs and the explanatory roles they play in how speakers use and understand language. Fiengo and May examine the resources available to speakers for generating linguistic beliefs, considering how linguistic theory characterizes the formal, syntactic identity of the expressions linguistic beliefs are about and how this affects speakers' beliefs about coreference. Their key insight is that the content of beliefs about semantic values can be taken as part of what we say by our utterances. This has direct consequences, examined in detail by Fiengo and May, for explaining the informativeness of identity statements and the possibilities for substitution in attributions of propositional attitudes, cases in which speakers' beliefs about coreference play a central role.

Despite a recent revival of interest in pragmatist philosophy, most work in the analytic philosophy of language ignores insights offered by classical pragmatists and contemporary neopragmatists. In Pragmatism and Reference, David Boersema argues that a pragmatist perspective on reference presents a distinct alternative—and corrective—to the prevailing analytic views on the topic. Boersema finds that the pragmatist approach to reference, with alternative understandings of the nature of language, the nature of conceptualization and categorization, and the nature of inquiry, is suggested in the work of Wittgenstein and more thoroughly developed in the works of such classical and contemporary pragmatists as C.S. Peirce and Hilary Putnam.

Boersema first discusses the descriptivist and causal theories of reference—the received views on the topic in analytic philosophy. Then, after considering Wittgenstein's approach to reference, Boersema details the pragmatist approach to reference by nine philosophers: the "Big Three" of classical pragmatism, Peirce, William James, and John Dewey; three contemporary American philosophers, Putnam, Catherine Elgin, and Richard Rorty; and three important continental philosophers, Umberto Eco, Karl-Otto Apel, and Jürgen Habermas. Finally, Boersema shows explicitly how pragmatism offers a genuinely alternative account of reference, presenting several case studies on the nature and function of names. Here, he focuses on conceptions of individuation, similarity, essences, and sociality of language. Pragmatism and Reference will serve as a bridge between analytic and pragmatist approaches to such topics of shared concern as the nature and function of language.

Functional Categories and Hierarchical Structure

Recent research on the syntax of signed languages has revealed that, apart from some modality-specific differences, signed languages are organized according to the same underlying principles as spoken languages. This book addresses the organization and distribution of functional categories in American Sign Language (ASL), focusing on tense, agreement, and wh-constructions.

Signed languages provide illuminating evidence about functional projections of a kind unavailable in the study of spoken languages. Along with manual signing, crucial information is expressed by specific movements of the face and upper body. The authors argue that such nonmanual markings are often direct expressions of abstract syntactic features. The distribution and intensity of these markings provide information about the location of functional heads and the boundaries of functional projections. The authors show how evidence from ASL is useful for evaluating a number of recent theoretical proposals on, among other things, the status of syntactic agreement projections and constraints on phrase structure and the directionality of movement.

On the Forgetting of Language

Just as speech can be acquired, so can it be lost. Speakers can forget words, phrases, even entire languages they once knew; over the course of time peoples, too, let go of the tongues that were once theirs, as languages disappear and give way to the others that follow them. In Echolalias, Daniel Heller-Roazen reflects on the many forms of linguistic forgetfulness, offering a far-reaching philosophical investigation into the persistence and disappearance of speech. In twenty-one brief chapters, he moves among classical, medieval, and modern culture, exploring the interrelations of speech, writing, memory, and oblivion.

Drawing his examples from literature, philosophy, linguistics, theology, and psychoanalysis, Heller-Roazen examines the points at which the transience of speech has become a question in the arts, disciplines, and sciences in which language plays a prominent role. Whether the subject is Ovid, Dante, or modern fiction, classical Arabic literature or the birth of the French language, structuralist linguistics or Freud's writings on aphasia, Heller-Roazen considers with clarity, precision, and insight the forms, the effects, and the ultimate consequences of the forgetting of language. In speech, he argues, destruction and construction often prove inseparable. Among peoples, the disappearance of one language can mark the emergence of another; among individuals, the experience of the passing of speech can lie at the origin of literary, philosophical, and artistic creation.

From the infant's prattle to the legacy of Babel, from the holy tongues of Judaism and Islam to the concept of the dead language and the political significance of exiled and endangered languages today, Echolalias traces an elegant, erudite, and original philosophical itinerary, inviting us to reflect in a new way on the nature of the speaking animal who forgets.

Essays on the Philosophy of John Perry

John Perry, Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, is one of a handful of contemporary analytic philosophers to combine the focused approach of most current work in analytic philosophy with the more expansive systems-building of earlier analytic philosophers and contemporary philosophers in other disciplines. Perry, like W.V.O. Quine, Donald Davison, David Lewis, and Hilary Putnam, focuses on narrow topics across a broad range of subjects. In this volume, leading contemporary analytic philosophers contribute original essays in each of the areas that have been most influenced by Perry's work—metaphysics, language, and mind. Perry himself contributes detailed and original replies. After a comprehensive introduction to Perry's work by the editors that places semantics at the heart of Perry's philosophical strategy, the essays discuss Perry's contributions to the metaphysics of identity, the philosophy of language—in particular, contributions related to reference and unarticulated constituents—and the philosophy of mind. The essays and replies provide new perspectives on Perry's philosophical contributions over the last four decades, and yield insights into contemporary debates on these topics.

Contributors: Robert Audi, Kent Bach, Patricia Blanchette, Herman Cappelen, Eros Corazza, Ernie Lepore, Brian Loar, Peter Ludlow, Genoveva Marti, Michael McKinsey, Stephen Neale, Michael O'Rourke, John Perry, François Recanati, Cara Spencer, Kenneth A. Taylor, Corey Washington

The 2002 Jean Nicod Lectures

Many different things are said to have meaning: people mean to do various things; tools and other artifacts are meant for various things; people mean various things by using words and sentences; natural signs mean things; representations in people's minds also presumably mean things. In Varieties of Meaning, Ruth Garrett Millikan argues that these different kinds of meaning can be understood only in relation to each other.

What does meaning in the sense of purpose (when something is said to be meant for something) have to do with meaning in the sense of representing or signifying? Millikan argues that the explicit human purposes, explicit human intentions, are represented purposes. They do not merely represent purposes; they possess the purposes that they represent. She argues further that things that signify, intentional signs such as sentences, are distinguished from natural signs by having purpose essentially; therefore, unlike natural signs, intentional signs can misrepresent or be false.

Part I discusses "Purposes and Cross-Purposes"—what purposes are, the purposes of people, of their behaviors, of their body parts, of their artifacts, and of the signs they use. Part II then describes a previously unrecognized kind of natural sign, "locally recurrent" natural signs, and several varieties of intentional signs, and discusses the ways in which representations themselves are represented. Part III offers a novel interpretation of the way language is understood and of the relation between semantics and pragmatics. Part IV discusses perception and thought, exploring stages in the development of inner representations, from the simplest organisms whose behavior is governed by perception-action cycles to the perceptions and intentional attitudes of humans.

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