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Communicative Abilities

Request Username Can't sign in? Forgot your username? Enter your email address below and we will send you your username. His assumption that these similarities are constituted by a real commonality of form , however, also makes him a proponent of Moderate Realism. The Stoic philosophers made important contributions to the analysis of grammar , distinguishing five parts of speech : nouns, verbs, appellatives, conjunctions and articles.

The Scholastics of the Medieval era were greatly interested in the subtleties of language and its usage, provoked to some extent by the necessity of translating Greek texts into Latin, with Peter Abelard , William of Ockham and John Duns Scotus meriting particular mention. They considered Logic to be a "science of language" , and anticipated many of the most interesting problems of modern Philosophy of Language, including the phenomena of vagueness and ambiguity , the doctrines of proper and improper suppositio the interpretation of a term in a specific context , and the study of categorematic and syncategorematic words and terms.


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Linguists of the Renaissance period were particularly interested in the idea of a philosophical language or universal language , spurred on by the gradual discovery in the West of Chinese characters and Egyptian hieroglyphs. For a time, in the 20th Century philosophical branches of Analytic Philosophy and Ordinary Language Philosophy circles, philosophy as a whole was understood to be purely a matter of Philosophy of Language.

One of the most fundamental questions asked in Philosophy of Language is "What is language in general terms? Linguistics is the field of study that asks questions like: What distinguishes one particular language from another e. What is it that makes "English" English? What is the difference between Spanish and French? Linguists like Noam Chomsky - , a figure who has come to define 20th Century linguistics, have emphasized the role of "grammar" and syntax the rules that govern the structure of sentences as a characteristic of any language. Chomsky believes that humans are born with an innate understanding of what he calls "universal grammar" an innate set of linguistic principles shared by all humans and a child's exposure to a particular language just triggers this antecedent knowledge.

Chomsky begins with the study of people's internal language what he calls "I-languages" , which are based upon certain rules which generate grammars , supported in part by the conviction that there is no clear, general and principled difference between one language and the next, and which may apply across the field of all languages. Other attempts, which he dubs "E-languages" , have tried to explain a language as usage within a specific speech community with a specific set of well-formed utterances in mind.

Translation and interpretation present other problems to philosophers of language. In the s, W. Quine argued for the indeterminacy of meaning and reference based on the principle of radical translation e. He claimed that, in such a situation, it is impossible in principle to be absolutely certain of the meaning or reference that a speaker of the primitive tribe's language attaches to an utterance, and, since the references are indeterminate, there are many possible interpretations , no one of which is more correct than the others.

The resulting view is called Semantic Holism , a type of Holism which holds that meaning is not something that is associated with a single word or sentence , but can only be attributed to a whole language if at all. Quine 's disciple, Donald Davidson - , extended this argument further to the notion of radical interpretation , that the meaning that an individual ascribes to a sentence can only be determined by attributing meanings to many, perhaps all , of the individual's assertions as well as his mental states and attitudes. As we have seen, then, the answer to the question, "What is meaning?

Arguably, there are two essentially different types of linguistic meaning: conceptual meaning which refers to the definitions of words themselves, and the features of those definitions, which can be treated using semantic feature analysis and associative meaning which refers to the individual mental understandings of the speaker, and which may be connotative, collocative, social, affective, reflected or thematic. Another important concept in the Philosophy of Language is that of intentionality , sometimes defined as "aboutness". Some things are about other things e.

If we thereby arrive at a common understanding of the meanings of these expressions, it must be because language is structured by substantive and inherent constraints that we are able to exploit. More generally, if our discoveries in the theory of meaning are to help explain how speakers can use language meaningfully, we should expect that the generative mechanisms we postulate as theorists will be compatible with the psychological mechanisms that underlie speakers' abilities.

There are many ways to implement this idea of a compositional meaning theory. One that has been prominent in the philosophical literature is that a theory of meaning for a natural language, L, should consist of a finite set of axioms specifying the meaning of the words and the rules for how they can be composed. These axioms would then permit the derivation of theorems that specify the meaning of complex expressions such as some American musicians and sentences, such as 1 — 7.

So understood, a semantic theory is a formal theory from which we can derive the meaning of an infinity of English sentences. The reason why 1 — 7 mean what they mean in English is that their meanings are encoded, so to speak, in the basic axioms of a correct meaning theory for English. A straightforward way, then, for a philosopher of language to explain productivity and systematicity is to assume that the meanings of particular sentences can be calculated by inference from general facts about meaning in the language.

For example, consider the compositional meaning theory presented in 8 — 10 : 8 Snow is a noun phrase and refers to the stuff snow; 9 White is an adjective phrase and refers to the property whiteness; and 10 If N is a noun phrase and refers to the stuff S and A is an adjective phrase and refers to the property P, then N is A is a sentence and is true if, and only if, S is P. From this theory, we can derive 11 as a logical consequence: "Snow is white" is true if, and only if, snow is white.

Meaning is use: Wittgenstein on the limits of language

Why should we think of 11 as a characterization of the meaning of the English sentence "Snow is white? As theorists of meaning, we can utilize this kind of theory, which Donald Davidson calls an interpretive truth-theory, to provide a general account of how sentences link up with conditions in the world Davidson , ; Lepore and Ludwig We use atomic formulas to axiomatize the meanings for elementary structures in the language and use conditional formulas to describe the meaning of complex structures in the language as a function of the semantics of their constituents.

We then reason logically from the axioms to associate particular sentences with particular conditions in the world. There are two ways to view interpretive truth-theories such as 8 — We can exploit an interpretive truth-theory to formulate a theory of meaning for a new language. For example, we could be pursuing translation. In this case, we are interested in systematically articulating translations of sentences in the object language in terms of sentences in our own; we understand these translations to be derived by inference from the axioms of the theory.

Another way to view interpretive truth-theories and other sorts of compositional theories of meaning , such as 8 — 10 , is as ingredients of the speakers' psychology. On this view, we regard the axioms of a theory of meaning as generalizations that native speakers know tacitly about their own language. When speakers formulate or recognize particular utterances, they reason tacitly from this implicit theory to derive conclusions about specific new sentences. On this understanding, interpretive truth-theories offer an explanation of how speaker knowledge of meaning and inference underlie linguistic competence.

The view we just described invites an analogy between the semantics of natural languages and the semantics of the artificial languages of formal logic.

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Philosophy Of Language | idemovlen.cf

The analogy goes back to Gottlob Frege , who took logic to clarify the features of natural language essential for correct mathematical thought and communication. The work of Richard Montague took the analogy further. Montague explicitly advocated an exact parallel between the semantic analysis of English — what ordinary speakers actually know about their language — and the semantics of intensional higher-order logic. In fact, many techniques originally developed for giving semantics to logical languages turn out to be extremely useful in carrying out semantic analysis.

Interpreting a dream partly involves assigning it meaning, but does this imply that dreams are representational in the way that language is? In one sense, they are obviously so. This is the sense in which we might say of any image that it is representational. An image of a horse is of a horse, and not of sheep.

But this is a notion of representation irrelevant to our current concerns in the philosophy of language, because it appeals to a natural and not a conventional relation between an image and its corresponding object. If dreams are supposed to be representational in the same sense in which photographs or other sorts of images are, then talk of a compositional theory of interpretation or meaning of dreams is not anything like the sort of theory that one invokes for systems of representations such as natural language.

For one, photographic images are neither productive nor systematic, nor are they even fine-grained in the way in which linguistic representational systems are. An image of Bill Clinton is an image of the president of the United States, and nothing short of an election can pull them apart. More famously, an image of John giving Bill a toy is indistinguishable from an image of Bill receiving a toy from John, though these inseparable acts are distinct.

It is clear that the sort of systematicity that occurs so naturally within bona fide linguistic representational systems cannot be applied to images with the same ease.


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When the subject is employing so-called indirect speech acts, then what one means by one's words must take into consideration background factors. So, for example, suppose Janet says, "It's raining outside. When Janet spoke she intended her audience to come to believe what she was trying to get across. In order for her words to have meant that her audience is to take their umbrellas, she must have intended her audience to recognize her ulterior motive. More specifically, what a speaker means by their words depends on what they intend their audience to come to believe, and what he or she intends them to recognize him or her as intending them to come to believe.

Both component intentions, tacitly or not, must accompany an utterance in order for the speaker to mean something by what they say. By Janet's utterance of "It's raining," she means for her listener to bring their umbrella just in case she intends them to come to believe this and she intends them to recognize that she intends them to come to believe this. She intends for them to come to believe they are to bring their umbrella, and she intends them to recognize that she intends them to come to believe they are to bring their umbrella. Implicit in our discussion is, of course, the assumption that speaker meaning can exceed word meaning.

Speaker meaning is determined by word meaning alone just in case it is either expressed or implied by what the words used mean; conversely, it is not determined by literal meaning alone if it is neither expressed nor implied by what the speaker's words literally mean.

Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophy of Language: Key Concepts

A simple test separates the former distinction from the latter. If we try to deny speaker meaning determined by word meaning, then we end up making inconsistent claims. Because Janet can consistently assert that it is raining outside without intending for you to bring any umbrella, what she means is neither expressed nor implied by what her words mean Grice Inquiries about speaker meaning not determined by word meaning are about nonlinguistic motives, beliefs, desires, wishes, fears, hopes, and other psychological states that provoke verbal expression. Speaking is an action; it is what we do with meaningful words.

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This requires reasons, and reasons not entirely about what our words mean. Linguistic and nonlinguistic psychological states both come into play. To sum up: One chief goal of philosophy of language is to show how speaker knowledge of a natural language allows speakers to use utterances of sentences from their language meaningfully. As we have seen, one rough and tentative answer has been: If speakers know a recursive compositional meaning theory for their language, then they can use its rules and axioms to calculate interpretive truth conditions for arbitrarily complex novel sentences.