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In
analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy o ...
, philosophy of language investigates the nature of
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and ...

language
, the relations between language, language users, and the world. Investigations may include inquiry into the nature of
meaning Meaning most commonly refers to: * Meaning (linguistics), meaning which is communicated through the use of language * Meaning (philosophy), definition, elements, and types of meaning discussed in philosophy * Meaning (non-linguistic), a general ter ...
,
intentionality ''Intentionality'' is the power of minds to be about something: to represent or to stand for things, properties and states of affairs. Intentionality is primarily ascribed to mental states, like perceptions, beliefs or desires, which is why it has ...
,
reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another object. The first object in this relation is said to ''refer to'' the second object. It is called a ''name ...
, the constitution of sentences, concepts,
learning Learning is the process of acquiring new , , s, s, , attitudes, and s. The ability to learn is possessed by s, s, and some ; there is also evidence for some kind of learning in certain s. Some learning is immediate, induced by a single event (e ...

learning
, and
thought In their most common sense, the terms thought and thinking refer to conscious cognitive processes that can happen independently of sensory stimulation. Their most paradigmatic forms are judging, reasoning, concept formation, problem solving, and ...

thought
.
Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (; ; 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analy ...
and
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British , , , , , , , , and .Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy"Bertrand Russell" 1 May 2003 Throughout his life, Russell considered himself a , a and ...
were pivotal figures in analytic philosophy's "
linguistic turn The linguistic turn was a major development in Western philosophy Western philosophy refers to the philosophy, philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, ...
". These writers were followed by
Ludwig Wittgenstein Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein ( ; ; 26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian Austrian may refer to: * Austrians, someone from Austria or of Austrian descent ** Someone who is considered an Austrian citizen, see Austrian nationalit ...

Ludwig Wittgenstein
(''
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus The ''Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus'' (widely abbreviated and cited as TLP) is a book-length philosophical work by the Austrian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of gene ...
''), the
Vienna Circle The Vienna Circle (german: Wiener Kreis) of Logical Empiricism was a group of philosophers and scientists drawn from the Natural science, natural and Social Sciences, social sciences, logic and mathematics who met regularly from 1924 to 1936 at th ...
as well as the
logical positivists Logical positivism, later called logical empiricism, and both of which together are also known as neopositivism, was a movement in Western philosophy Western philosophy refers to the philosophy, philosophical thought and work of the Western worl ...
, and
Willard Van Orman Quine Willard Van Orman Quine (; known to his friends as "Van"; June 25, 1908 – December 25, 2000) was an American philosopher and logician Logic (from Greek: grc, λογική, label=none, lit=possessed of reason Reason is the capacity of ...
. In
continental philosophy Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awarenes ...
, language is not studied as a separate discipline. Rather, it is an inextricable part of many other areas of thought, such as
phenomenology Phenomenology may refer to: * Empirical research, when used to describe measurement methods in some sciences * An empirical relationship or phenomenological model * Phenomenology (architecture), based on the experience of building materials and the ...
,
structural semiotics In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The te ...
,
language of mathematicsThe language of mathematics is the system used by mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory) ...
,
hermeneutics Hermeneutics () is the theory and methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choice ...
,
existentialism Existentialism ( ) is a form of philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Rea ...
,
deconstruction Deconstruction is an approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning. It was originated by the philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), who defined the term variously throughout his career. In its simplest form it can be ...

deconstruction
and critical theory.


History


Ancient philosophy

In the West, inquiry into language stretches back to the 5th century BC with
Socrates Socrates (; ; –399 BC) was a Greek philosopher from Athens Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is the capital city, capital and List of cities in Greece, largest city of Greece. Athens domi ...

Socrates
,
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the ...

Plato
,
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental quest ...

Aristotle
, and the
Stoics Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophyHellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy Western philosophy refers to the philosophy, philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the ph ...
. Both in India and in Greece, linguistic speculation predates the emergence of grammatical traditions of systematic description of language, which emerged around the 5th century BC in India (see
Yāska Yāska was an early Sanskrit grammarian (7th–5th century BCE). Preceding Pāṇini , era = ;;;6th–5th century BCE , region = Northwest Indian subcontinent , main_interests = Grammar In linguistics, the ...
), and around the 3rd century BC in Greece (see
Rhianus Rhianus ( Greek: Ῥιανὸς ὁ Κρής) was a Greek poet and grammarian, a native of Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern: , Ancient: '','' ) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in ...
). In the dialogue ''
Cratylus Cratylus ( ; grc, Κρατύλος, ''Kratylos'') was an History of Athens, ancient Athenian philosopher from the mid-late 5th century BCE, known mostly through his portrayal in Plato's Dialogues of Plato, dialogue ''Cratylus (dialogue), Cratylus'' ...
'', Plato considered the question of whether the names of things were determined by convention or by nature. He criticized
conventionalism Conventionalism is the philosophical attitude that fundamental principles of a certain kind are grounded on (explicit or implicit) agreements in society, rather than on external reality. Unspoken rules play a key role in the philosophy's structur ...
because it led to the bizarre consequence that anything can be conventionally denominated by any name. Hence, it cannot account for the correct or incorrect application of a name. He claimed that there was a natural correctness to names. To do this, he pointed out that
compound words In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
and phrases have a range of correctness. He also argued that primitive names had a natural correctness, because each
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
represented basic ideas or sentiments. For example, for Plato the letter ''l'' and its sound represented the idea of softness. However, by the end of the ''Cratylus'', he had admitted that some social conventions were also involved, and that there were faults in the idea that phonemes had individual meanings. Plato is often considered a proponent of extreme realism. Aristotle interested himself with the issues of
logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, label=none, lit ...

logic
, categories, and meaning creation. He separated all things into categories of
species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individu ...
and
genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure ...
. He thought that the meaning of a
predicate Predicate or predication may refer to: Computer science *Syntactic predicate (in parser technology) guidelines the parser process Linguistics *Predicate (grammar), a grammatical component of a sentence Philosophy and logic * Predication (philo ...
was established through an abstraction of the similarities between various individual things. This theory later came to be called ''
nominalism In metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of ...
''. However, since Aristotle took these similarities to be constituted by a real commonality of form, he is more often considered a proponent of "
moderate realism Moderate realism (also called immanent realism) is a position in the debate on the metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, ...
". The
Stoic STOIC (Stack-Oriented Interactive Compiler) is a 1970s programming language A programming language is a formal language comprising a Instruction set architecture, set of instructions that produce various kinds of Input/output, output. Progr ...
philosophers made important contributions to the analysis of grammar, distinguishing five parts of speech: nouns, verbs,
appellative A noun (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman ...
s (names or
epithet An epithet (, ) is a byname, or a descriptive term (word or phrase), accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied to seemingly real or fictitious people, divinities, ...
s),
conjunctions ''Conjunctions'' is a biannual American literature, American literary journal based at Bard College. It was founded in 1981 and is currently edited by Bradford Morrow. Morrow received the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing in 2007. The jou ...
and articles. They also developed a sophisticated doctrine of the '' lektón'' associated with each sign of a language, but distinct from both the sign itself and the thing to which it refers. This ''lektón'' was the meaning (or sense) of every term. The complete ''lektón'' of a sentence is what we would now call its
proposition In logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence (linguistics), sentence. In philosophy, "Meaning (philosophy), meaning" is understood to be a non-linguistic entity which is shared by all sentences with the same mea ...
. Only propositions were considered "
truth-bearer A truth-bearer is an entity Entity may refer to: Computing * Character entity reference, replacement text for a character in HTML or XML * Entity class, a thing of interest within an entity–relationship model or diagram * SGML entity, a prim ...
s" or "truth-vehicles" (i.e., they could be called true or false) while sentences were simply their vehicles of expression. Different ''lektá'' could also express things besides propositions, such as commands, questions and exclamations.


Medieval philosophy

Medieval philosophers were greatly interested in the subtleties of language and its usage. For many
scholastics Scholasticism was a medieval school of philosophy that employed a critical method of philosophical analysis predicated upon a Latin Catholic theistic curriculum which dominated teaching in the medieval universities in Europe from about 1100 ...
, this interest was provoked by the necessity of translating
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
texts into
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
. There were several noteworthy philosophers of language in the medieval period. According to Peter J. King, (although this has been disputed),
Peter Abelard Peter Abelard (; french: link=no, Pierre Abélard; la, Petrus Abaelardus or ''Abailardus''; 21 April 1142) was a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, or ...

Peter Abelard
anticipated the modern theories of reference. Also,
William of Ockham William of Ockham (; also Occam, from la, Gulielmus Occamus; 1287 – 1347) was an English Franciscan friar, Scholasticism, scholastic philosopher, and theologian, who is believed to have been born in Ockham, Surrey, Ockham, a small village in ...

William of Ockham
's '' Summa Logicae'' brought forward one of the first serious proposals for codifying a mental language. The scholastics of the high medieval period, such as Ockham and
John Duns Scotus John Duns ( – 8 November 1308), commonly called Duns Scotus ( ; ; "Duns the Scot"), was a Scottish Catholic priest and Franciscan friar The Franciscans are a group of related Mendicant orders, mendicant Christianity, Christian Cath ...

John Duns Scotus
, considered logic to be a ''scientia sermocinalis'' (science of language). The result of their studies was the elaboration of linguistic-philosophical notions whose complexity and subtlety has only recently come to be appreciated. Many of the most interesting problems of modern philosophy of language were anticipated by medieval thinkers. The phenomena of vagueness and ambiguity were analyzed intensely, and this led to an increasing interest in problems related to the use of ''syncategorematic'' words such as ''and'', ''or'', ''not'', ''if'', and ''every''. The study of ''categorematic'' words (or ''terms'') and their properties was also developed greatly.Marconi, D. "Storia della Filosofia del Linguaggio". In ''L'Enciclopedia Garzantina della Filosofia''. ed. Gianni Vattimo. Milan: Garzanti Editori. 1981. One of the major developments of the scholastics in this area was the doctrine of the ''suppositio''. Kretzmann, N.,
Anthony Kenny Sir Anthony John Patrick Kenny (born 16 March 1931) is an English people, English philosopher whose interests lie in the philosophy of mind, ancient philosophy, ancient and Scholasticism, scholastic philosophy, the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenst ...
&
Jan PinborgJan Pinborg (1937–1982) was a renowned historian of medieval linguistics and philosophy of language, and the most famous member of the Copenhagen School of Medieval Philosophy pioneered by Heinrich Roos in the 1940s.Sten Ebbesen and Russell L. Frie ...
. (1982) ''Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
The suppositio of a term is the interpretation that is given of it in a specific context. It can be ''proper'' or ''improper'' (as when it is used in
metaphor A metaphor is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of ...
,
metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of pe ...
s and other figures of speech). A proper suppositio, in turn, can be either formal or material accordingly when it refers to its usual non-linguistic referent (as in "Charles is a man"), or to itself as a linguistic entity (as in "''Charles'' has seven letters"). Such a classification scheme is the precursor of modern distinctions between use and mention, and between language and metalanguage. There is a tradition called speculative grammar which existed from the 11th to the 13th century. Leading scholars included, among others,
Martin of DaciaMartin of Dacia (Martinus Dacus, Martinus de Dacia, Morten Mogensen, ca. 1240 - August 10, 1304) was a Danish people, Danish scholar and theologian. He authored ''De Modi significandi '' (ca. 1270), an influential treatise on grammar. Biograp ...
and
Thomas of ErfurtThe Modistae (Latin for Modists), also known as the speculative grammarians, were the members of a school of grammarian philosophy known as Modism or speculative grammar, active in northern Kingdom of France, France, Holy Roman Empire, Germany, Kingd ...
(see ''
ModistaeThe Modistae (Latin for Modists), also known as the speculative grammarians, were the members of a school of grammarian philosophy known as Modism or speculative grammar, active in northern Kingdom of France, France, Holy Roman Empire, Germany, Kingd ...
'').


Modern philosophy

Linguists of the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
and
Baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a of , , , , and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th century until the 1740s. In the territories of the Spanish and Portuguese empires including the Iberian Peninsula it continued, together with new s ...

Baroque
periods such as
Johannes Goropius Becanus Johannes Goropius Becanus (23 June 1519 – 28 June 1573), born Jan Gerartsen, was a Dutch physician, linguist, and humanist Humanism is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, su ...

Johannes Goropius Becanus
,
Athanasius Kircher Athanasius Kircher (2 May 1602 – 28 November 1680) was a German Society of Jesus, Jesuit scholar and polymath who published around 40 major works, most notably in the fields of comparative religion, geology, and medicine. Kircher has b ...

Athanasius Kircher
and
John Wilkins John Wilkins, (14 February 161419 November 1672) was an Anglican ministry, Anglican clergyman, natural philosophy, natural philosopher and author, and was one of the founders of the Royal Society. He was Bishop of Chester from 1668 until his d ...

John Wilkins
were infatuated with the idea of a
philosophical language A philosophical language is any constructed language that is constructed from first principles. It is considered a type of engineered language. Philosophical languages were popular in Early Modern times, partly motivated by the goal of revising norm ...

philosophical language
reversing the
confusion of tongues The Tower of Babel ( he, , ''Migdal Bavel'') is a narrative found in the Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis,, "''Bərēšīṯ''", "In hebeginning" the first book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is ...
, influenced by the gradual discovery of
Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...

Chinese character
s and
Egyptian hieroglyphs Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent ...
('' Hieroglyphica''). This thought parallels the idea that there might be a universal language of music. European scholarship began to absorb the Indian linguistic tradition only from the mid-18th century, pioneered by Jean François Pons and
Henry Thomas Colebrooke Henry Thomas Colebrooke Royal Society of London, FRS FRSE (15 June 1765 – 10 March 1837) was an English oriental studies, orientalist and mathematician. He has been described as "the first great Sanskrit scholar in Europe". Biography Henr ...
(the ''editio princeps'' of Varadarāja, a 17th-century
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
grammarian, dating to 1849). In the early 19th century, the Danish philosopher
Søren Kierkegaard Søren Aabye Kierkegaard ( , also ; ; 5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855) was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic, and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critica ...
insisted that language ought to play a larger role in
Western philosophy Western philosophy encompasses the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality ...
. He argues that philosophy has not sufficiently focused on the role language plays in cognition and that future philosophy ought to proceed with a conscious focus on language:


Contemporary philosophy

The phrase "
linguistic turn The linguistic turn was a major development in Western philosophy Western philosophy refers to the philosophy, philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical thinking of Western culture, ...
" was used to describe the noteworthy emphasis that contemporary philosophers put upon language. Language began to play a central role in Western philosophy in the early 20th century. One of the central figures involved in this development was the German philosopher
Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (; ; 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analy ...
, whose work on philosophical logic and the philosophy of language in the late 19th century influenced the work of 20th-century
analytic philosopher Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy o ...
s
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British , , , , , , , , and .Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy"Bertrand Russell" 1 May 2003 Throughout his life, Russell considered himself a , a and ...
and
Ludwig Wittgenstein Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein ( ; ; 26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian Austrian may refer to: * Austrians, someone from Austria or of Austrian descent ** Someone who is considered an Austrian citizen, see Austrian nationalit ...

Ludwig Wittgenstein
. The philosophy of language became so pervasive that for a time, in
analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy o ...
circles, philosophy as a whole was understood to be a matter of philosophy of language. In
continental philosophy Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awarenes ...
, the foundational work in the field was
Ferdinand de Saussure Ferdinand de Saussure (; ; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_typ ...

Ferdinand de Saussure
's '' Cours de linguistique générale'',David Kreps, ''Bergson, Complexity and Creative Emergence'', Springer, 2015, p. 92. published posthumously in 1916.


Major topics and subfields


Communication

Firstly, this field of study seeks to better understand what speakers and listeners do with language in
communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to b ...

communication
, and how it is used socially. Specific interests include the topics of
language learning Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, ...
, language creation, and
speech act In the philosophy of language In analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, exist ...
s. Secondly, the question of how language relates to the minds of both the speaker and the interpreter is investigated. Of specific interest is the grounds for successful
translation Translation is the communication of the meaning Meaning most commonly refers to: * Meaning (linguistics), meaning which is communicated through the use of language * Meaning (philosophy), definition, elements, and types of meaning discusse ...

translation
of words and concepts into their equivalents in another language.


Composition and parts

It has long been known that there are different
parts of speech In traditional grammar Traditional grammar is a framework for the description of the structure of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sig ...
. One part of the common sentence is the
lexical word In traditional grammar A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to ...
, which is composed of
nouns A noun () is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) ...
, verbs, and adjectives. A major question in the field – perhaps the single most important question for formalist and structuralist thinkers – is, "How does the meaning of a sentence emerge out of its parts?" Many aspects of the problem of the composition of sentences are addressed in the field of linguistics of
syntax In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

syntax
. Philosophical semantics tends to focus on the
principle of compositionality In semantics Semantics (from grc, wikt:σημαντικός, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of meaning, reference, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct disciplines, includi ...
to explain the relationship between meaningful parts and whole sentences. The principle of compositionality asserts that a sentence can be understood on the basis of the meaning of the ''parts'' of the sentence (i.e., words, morphemes) along with an understanding of its ''structure'' (i.e., syntax, logic). Further, syntactic propositions are arranged into 'discourse' or 'narrative' structures, which also encode meanings through
pragmatics In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the m ...
like temporal relations and pronominals. It is possible to use the concept of ''functions'' to describe more than just how lexical meanings work: they can also be used to describe the meaning of a sentence. Take, for a moment, the sentence "The horse is red". We may consider "the horse" to be the product of a ''
propositional function In propositional calculus, a propositional function or a predicate is a sentence expressed in a way that would assume the value of logical truth, true or false (logic), false, except that within the sentence there is a Variable (mathematics), variab ...
''. A propositional function is an operation of language that takes an entity (in this case, the horse) as an input and outputs a ''semantic fact'' (i.e., the proposition that is represented by "The horse is red"). In other words, a propositional function is like an algorithm. The meaning of "red" in this case is whatever takes the entity "the horse" and turns it into the statement, "The horse is red."Stainton, Robert J. (1996)
Philosophical perspectives on language
Peterborough, Ont., Broadview Press.
Linguists have developed at least two general methods of understanding the relationship between the parts of a linguistic string and how it is put together: syntactic and semantic trees.
Syntactic In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

Syntactic
trees draw upon the words of a sentence with the ''
grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...
'' of the sentence in mind.
Semantic Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another o ...
trees, on the other hand, focus upon the role of the ''meaning'' of the words and how those meanings combine to provide insight onto the genesis of semantic facts.


Mind and language


Innateness and learning

Some of the major issues at the intersection of philosophy of language and philosophy of mind are also dealt with in modern
psycholinguistics Psycholinguistics or psychology of language is the study of the interrelation between linguistic factors and psychological aspects. The discipline is mainly concerned with the mechanisms by which language is processed and represented in the mind ...
. Some important questions are ''How much of language is innate? Is language acquisition a special faculty in the mind? What is the connection between thought and language?'' There are three general perspectives on the issue of language learning. The first is the
behaviorist Behaviorism is a systematic approach to understanding the behavior of humans and other animals. It assumes that behavior is either a reflex In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their ...
perspective, which dictates that not only is the solid bulk of language learned, but it is learned via conditioning. The second is the ''hypothesis testing perspective'', which understands the child's learning of syntactic rules and meanings to involve the postulation and testing of hypotheses, through the use of the general faculty of intelligence. The final candidate for explanation is the innatist perspective, which states that at least some of the syntactic settings are innate and hardwired, based on certain modules of the mind.Pinker, S. (1994) ''L'Istinto del Linguaggio''. Original title: ''The Language Instinct''. 1997. Milan: Arnaldo Mondadori Editori. There are varying notions of the structure of the brain when it comes to language. Connectionism, Connectionist models emphasize the idea that a person's lexicon and their thoughts operate in a kind of distributed, associationism, associative network. Psychological nativism, Nativist models assert that there are language acquisition device, specialized devices in the brain that are dedicated to language acquisition. Computationalism, Computation models emphasize the notion of a representational language of thought and the logic-like, computational processing that the mind performs over them. Emergentism, Emergentist models focus on the notion that natural faculties are a complex system that emerge from simpler biological parts. Reductionism, Reductionist models attempt to explain higher-level mental processes in terms of the basic low-level neurophysiological activity of the brain.


Language and thought

An important problem which touches both philosophy of language and philosophy of mind is to what extent language influences thought and vice versa. There have been a number of different perspectives on this issue, each offering a number of insights and suggestions. Linguists Linguistic relativity, Sapir and Whorf suggested that language limited the extent to which members of a "linguistic community" can think about certain subjects (a hypothesis paralleled in George Orwell's novel ''Nineteen Eighty-Four''). In other words, language was analytically prior to thought. Philosopher Michael Dummett is also a proponent of the "language-first" viewpoint. The stark opposite to the Sapir–Whorf position is the notion that thought (or, more broadly, mental content) has priority over language. The "knowledge-first" position can be found, for instance, in the work of Paul Grice. Further, this view is closely associated with Jerry Fodor and his language of thought hypothesis. According to his argument, spoken and written language derive their intentionality and meaning from an internal language encoded in the mind.Fodor, J. ''The Language of Thought'', Harvard University Press, 1975, . The main argument in favor of such a view is that the structure of thoughts and the structure of language seem to share a compositional, systematic character. Another argument is that it is difficult to explain how signs and symbols on paper can represent anything meaningful unless some sort of meaning is infused into them by the contents of the mind. One of the main arguments against is that such levels of language can lead to an infinite regress. In any case, many philosophers of mind and language, such as Ruth Millikan, Fred Dretske and Fodor, have recently turned their attention to explaining the meanings of mental contents and states directly. Another tradition of philosophers has attempted to show that language and thought are coextensive – that there is no way of explaining one without the other. Donald Davidson, in his essay "Thought and Talk", argued that the notion of belief could only arise as a product of public linguistic interaction. Daniel Dennett holds a similar ''interpretationist'' view of propositional attitudes. To an extent, the theoretical underpinnings to cognitive semantics (including the notion of semantic framing (social sciences), framing) suggest the influence of language upon thought. However, the same tradition views meaning and grammar as a function of conceptualization, making it difficult to assess in any straightforward way. Some thinkers, like the ancient sophist Gorgias, have questioned whether or not language was capable of capturing thought at all. There are studies that prove that languages shape how people understand causality. Some of them were performed by Lera Boroditsky. For example, English speakers tend to say things like "John broke the vase" even for accidents. However, Spanish language, Spanish or Japanese language, Japanese speakers would be more likely to say "the vase broke itself". In studies conducted by Caitlin Fausey at Stanford University speakers of English, Spanish and Japanese watched videos of two people popping balloons, breaking eggs and spilling drinks either intentionally or accidentally. Later everyone was asked whether they could remember who did what. Spanish and Japanese speakers did not remember the agents of accidental events as well as did English speakers. Russian language, Russian speakers, who make an extra distinction between light and dark blue in their language, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue. The Pirahã people, Piraha, a tribe in Brazil, whose language has only terms like few and many instead of numerals, are not able to keep track of exact quantities. In one study German and Spanish speakers were asked to describe objects having opposite gender assignment in those two languages. The descriptions they gave differed in a way predicted by grammatical gender. For example, when asked to describe a "key"—a word that is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish—the German language, German speakers were more likely to use words like "hard", "heavy", "jagged", "metal", "serrated" and "useful" whereas Spanish speakers were more likely to say "golden", "intricate", "little", "lovely", "shiny" and "tiny". To describe a "bridge", which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish, the German speakers said "beautiful", "elegant", "fragile", "peaceful", "pretty" and "slender", and the Spanish speakers said "big", "dangerous", "long", "strong", "sturdy" and "towering". This was the case even though all testing was done in English, a language without grammatical gender. In a series of studies conducted by Gary Lupyan, people were asked to look at a series of images of imaginary aliens. Whether each alien was friendly or hostile was determined by certain subtle features but participants were not told what these were. They had to guess whether each alien was friendly or hostile, and after each response they were told if they were correct or not, helping them learn the subtle cues that distinguished friend from foe. A quarter of the participants were told in advance that the friendly aliens were called "leebish" and the hostile ones "grecious", while another quarter were told the opposite. For the rest, the aliens remained nameless. It was found that participants who were given names for the aliens learned to categorize the aliens far more quickly, reaching 80 per cent accuracy in less than half the time taken by those not told the names. By the end of the test, those told the names could correctly categorize 88 per cent of aliens, compared to just 80 per cent for the rest. It was concluded that naming objects helps us categorize and memorize them. In another series of experiments, a group of people was asked to view furniture from an IKEA catalog. Half the time they were asked to label the object – whether it was a chair or lamp, for example – while the rest of the time they had to say whether or not they liked it. It was found that when asked to label items, people were later less likely to recall the specific details of products, such as whether a chair had arms or not. It was concluded that labeling objects helps our minds build a prototype of the typical object in the group at the expense of individual features.


Meaning

The topic that has received the most attention in the philosophy of language has been the ''nature'' of meaning, to explain what "meaning" is, and what we mean when we talk about meaning. Within this area, issues include: the nature of synonymy, the origins of meaning itself, our apprehension of meaning, and the nature of composition (the question of how meaningful units of language are composed of smaller meaningful parts, and how the meaning of the whole is derived from the meaning of its parts). There have been several distinctive explanations of what a Meaning (linguistics), linguistic "meaning" is. Each has been associated with its own body of literature. * The ideational theory of meaning, most commonly associated with the British empiricism, empiricist John Locke, claims that meanings are mental representations provoked by signs. Although this view of meaning has been beset by a number of problems from the beginning (see the main article for details), interest in it has been renewed by some contemporary theorists under the guise of ''semantic internalism''. * The Truth-conditional semantics, truth-conditional theory of meaning holds meaning to be the conditions under which an expression may be true or false. This tradition goes back at least to Gottlob Frege, Frege and is associated with a rich body of modern work, spearheaded by philosophers like Alfred Tarski and Donald Davidson (philosopher), Donald Davidson.Tarski, Alfred. (1944). "The Semantical Conception of Truth"
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Davidson, D. (2001) ''Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (See also Wittgenstein's picture theory of language.) * The use theory of meaning, most commonly associated with the later Wittgenstein, helped inaugurate the idea of "meaning as use", and a communitarian view of language. Wittgenstein was interested in the way in which the communities use language, and how far it can be taken.Wittgenstein, L. (1958) ''Philosophical Investigations''. Third edition. trans. G. E. M. Anscombe. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. It is also associated with P. F. Strawson, John Searle, Robert Brandom, and others.Brandom, R. (1994) ''Making it Explicit''. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. * The Constructivist epistemology, constructivist theory of meaning claims that speech is not only passively describing a given reality, but it can change the (social) reality it is describing through
speech act In the philosophy of language In analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, exist ...
s, which for linguistics was as revolutionary a discovery as for physics was the discovery that the very act of measurement can change the measured reality itself. Speech act theory was developed by J. L. Austin, although other previous thinkers have had similar ideas. * The reference theory of meaning, also known collectively as ''semantic externalism'', views meaning to be equivalent to those things in the world that are actually connected to signs. There are two broad subspecies of externalism: social and environmental. The first is most closely associated with Tyler Burge and the second with Hilary Putnam, Saul Kripke and others.Kripke, S. (1980) ''Naming and Necessity''. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. * The verificationist theory of meaning is generally associated with the early 20th century movement of logical positivism. The traditional formulation of such a theory is that the meaning of a sentence is its method of verification or falsification. In this form, the thesis was abandoned after the acceptance by most philosophers of the Duhem–Quine thesis of confirmation holism after the publication of W.V.O. Quine, Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism". However, Michael Dummett has advocated a modified form of verificationism since the 1970s. In this version, the ''comprehension'' (and hence meaning) of a sentence consists in the hearer's ability to recognize the demonstration (mathematical, empirical or other) of the truth of the sentence.Dummett, M. (1991) ''The Logical Basis of Metaphysics''. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. * A Pragmatic theory of truth, pragmatic theory of meaning is any theory in which the meaning (or understanding) of a sentence is determined by the consequences of its application. Dummett attributes such a theory of meaning to Charles Sanders Peirce and other early 20th century American philosophy, American pragmatists. * The contrast theory of meaning suggests that knowledge attributions have a ternary structure of the form 'S knows that p rather than q'. This is in contrast to the traditional view whereby knowledge attributions have a binary structure of the form 'S knows that p'. Other theories exist to discuss Meaning (non-linguistic), non-linguistic meaning (i.e., meaning as conveyed by body language, meanings as consequences, etc.).


Reference

Investigations into how language interacts with the world are called theories of reference.
Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (; ; 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analy ...
was an advocate of a mediated reference theory. Frege divided the semantic content of every expression, including sentences, into two components: sense and reference. The sense of a sentence is the thought that it expresses. Such a thought is abstract, universal and objective. The sense of any sub-sentential expression consists in its contribution to the thought that its embedding sentence expresses. Senses determine reference and are also the modes of presentation of the objects to which expressions refer. Referents are the objects in the world that words pick out. The senses of sentences are thoughts, while their referents are truth values (true or false). The referents of sentences embedded in propositional attitude ascriptions and other opaque contexts are their usual senses.Frege, G. (1892). "On Sense and Reference". In ''Frege: Senso, Funzione e Concetto''. eds. Eva Picardi and Carlo Penco. Bari: Editori Laterza. 2001.
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British , , , , , , , , and .Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy"Bertrand Russell" 1 May 2003 Throughout his life, Russell considered himself a , a and ...
, in his later writings and for reasons related to his theory of acquaintance in epistemology, held that the only directly referential expressions are, what he called, "logically proper names". Logically proper names are such terms as ''I'', ''now'', ''here'' and other indexicals. He viewed proper names of the sort described above as "abbreviated definite descriptions" (see ''Theory of descriptions''). Hence ''Joseph R. Biden'' may be an abbreviation for "the current President of the United States and husband of Jill Biden". Definite descriptions are denoting phrases (see "On Denoting") which are analyzed by Russell into existentially quantified logical constructions. Such phrases denote in the sense that there is an object that satisfies the description. However, such objects are not to be considered meaningful on their own, but have meaning only in the
proposition In logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence (linguistics), sentence. In philosophy, "Meaning (philosophy), meaning" is understood to be a non-linguistic entity which is shared by all sentences with the same mea ...
expressed by the sentences of which they are a part. Hence, they are not directly referential in the same way as logically proper names, for Russell. On Frege's account, any referring expression has a sense as well as a referent. Such a "mediated reference" view has certain theoretical advantages over Mill's view. For example, co-referential names, such as ''Samuel Clemens'' and ''Mark Twain'', cause problems for a directly referential view because it is possible for someone to hear "Mark Twain is Samuel Clemens" and be surprised – thus, their cognitive content seems different. Despite the differences between the views of Frege and Russell, they are generally lumped together as Descriptivist theory of names, descriptivists about proper names. Such descriptivism was criticized in Saul Kripke's ''Naming and Necessity''. Kripke put forth what has come to be known as "the modal argument" (or "argument from rigidity"). Consider the name ''Aristotle'' and the descriptions "the greatest student of Plato", "the founder of logic" and "the teacher of Alexander".
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental quest ...

Aristotle
obviously satisfies all of the descriptions (and many of the others we commonly associate with him), but it is not logical truth, necessarily true that if Aristotle existed then Aristotle was any one, or all, of these descriptions. Aristotle may well have existed without doing any single one of the things for which he is known to posterity. He may have existed and not have become known to posterity at all or he may have died in infancy. Suppose that Aristotle is associated by Mary with the description "the last great philosopher of antiquity" and (the actual) Aristotle died in infancy. Then Mary's description would seem to refer to Plato. But this is deeply counterintuitive. Hence, names are ''rigid designators'', according to Kripke. That is, they refer to the same individual in every possible world in which that individual exists. In the same work, Kripke articulated several other arguments against "Frege–Russell view, Frege–Russell" descriptivism (see also Kripke's causal theory of reference). The whole philosophical enterprise of studying reference has been critiqued by linguist Noam Chomsky in various works.


Social interaction and language

A common claim is that language is governed by social conventions. Questions inevitably arise on surrounding topics. One question is, "What exactly is a convention, and how do we study it?", and second, "To what extent do conventions even matter in the study of language?" David Kellogg Lewis proposed a worthy reply to the first question by expounding the view that a convention is a ''rationally self-perpetuating regularity in behavior''. However, this view seems to compete to some extent with the Gricean view of speaker's meaning, requiring either one (or both) to be weakened if both are to be taken as true. Some have questioned whether or not conventions are relevant to the study of meaning at all. Noam Chomsky proposed that the study of language could be done in terms of the I-Language, or internal language of persons. If this is so, then it undermines the pursuit of explanations in terms of conventions, and relegates such explanations to the domain of "metasemantics". "Metasemantics" is a term used by philosopher of language Robert Stainton to describe all those fields that attempt to explain how semantic facts arise. One fruitful source of research involves investigation into the social conditions that give rise to, or are associated with, meanings and languages. ''Etymology'' (the study of the origins of words) and ''Stylistics (linguistics), stylistics'' (philosophical argumentation over what makes "good grammar", relative to a particular language) are two other examples of fields that are taken to be metasemantic. Not surprisingly, many separate (but related) fields have investigated the topic of linguistic convention within their own research paradigms. The presumptions that prop up each theoretical view are of interest to the philosopher of language. For instance, one of the major fields of sociology, symbolic interactionism, is based on the insight that human social organization is based almost entirely on the use of meanings. In consequence, any explanation of a social structure (like an institution) would need to account for the shared meanings which create and sustain the structure. Rhetoric is the study of the particular words that people use to achieve the proper emotional and rational effect in the listener, be it to persuade, provoke, endear, or teach. Some relevant applications of the field include the examination of propaganda and didacticism, the examination of the purposes of Profanity, swearing and pejoratives (especially how it influences the behavior of others, and defines relationships), or the effects of gendered language. It can also be used to study linguistic transparency (or speaking in an accessible manner), as well as performative utterances and the various tasks that language can perform (called "speech acts"). It also has applications to the study and interpretation of law, and helps give insight to the logical concept of the domain of discourse. Literary theory is a discipline that some literary theorists claim overlaps with the philosophy of language. It emphasizes the methods that readers and critics use in understanding a text. This field, an outgrowth of the study of how to properly interpret messages, is unsurprisingly closely tied to the ancient discipline of
hermeneutics Hermeneutics () is the theory and methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choice ...
.


Truth

Finally, philosophers of language investigate how language and meaning relate to truth and Reference, the reality being referred to. They tend to be less interested in which sentences are ''actually true'', and more in ''what kinds of meanings can be true or false''. A truth-oriented philosopher of language might wonder whether or not a meaningless sentence can be true or false, or whether or not sentences can express propositions about things that do not exist, rather than the way sentences are used.


Language and continental philosophy

In
continental philosophy Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awarenes ...
, language is not studied as a separate discipline, as it is in
analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy o ...
. Rather, it is an inextricable part of many other areas of thought, such as
phenomenology Phenomenology may refer to: * Empirical research, when used to describe measurement methods in some sciences * An empirical relationship or phenomenological model * Phenomenology (architecture), based on the experience of building materials and the ...
,
structural semiotics In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The te ...
,
hermeneutics Hermeneutics () is the theory and methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choice ...
,
existentialism Existentialism ( ) is a form of philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Rea ...
, structuralism,
deconstruction Deconstruction is an approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning. It was originated by the philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), who defined the term variously throughout his career. In its simplest form it can be ...

deconstruction
and critical theory. The idea of language is often related to that of logic in its Greek sense as "logos", meaning discourse or dialectic. Language and concepts are also seen as having been formed by history and politics, or even by historical philosophy itself. The field of hermeneutics, and the theory of interpretation in general, has played a significant role in 20th century continental philosophy of language and ontology beginning with Martin Heidegger. Heidegger combines phenomenology with the hermeneutics of Wilhelm Dilthey. Heidegger believed language was one of the most important concepts for ''Dasein''. Heidegger believed that language today is worn out because of overuse of important words, and would be inadequate for in-depth study of Being (''Sein''). For example, ''Sein'' (''being''), the word itself, is saturated with multiple meanings. Thus, he invented new vocabulary and Stylistics (linguistics), linguistic styles, based on Ancient Greek and Germanic language, Germanic Etymology, etymological word relations, to disambiguate commonly used words. He avoided words like consciousness, ego, human, nature, etc. and instead talked holistically of Being-in-the-world, Dasein. With such new concepts as ''Being-in-the-world'', Heidegger constructs his theory of language, centered on Speech communication, speech. He believed speech (talking, listening, silence) was the most essential and pure form of language. Heidegger claims writing is only a supplement to speech, because even readers construct or contribute their own "talk" while reading. The most important feature of language is its ''projectivity'', the idea that language is prior to human speech. This means that when one is "thrown" into the world, his existence is characterized from the beginning by a certain pre-comprehension of the world. However, only after naming, or "articulation of intelligibility", can one have primary access to ''Dasein'' and ''Being-in-the-World''.Heidegger, Martin.(1996) ''Being and Time''. New York: Blackwell, Hans-Georg Gadamer expanded on these ideas of Heidegger and proposed a complete hermeneutic ontology. In ''Truth and Method'', Gadamer describes language as "the medium in which substantive understanding and agreement take place between two people."Gadamer, Hans G. (1989) ''Truth and Method'', New York: Crossroad, 2nd ed., In addition, Gadamer claims that the world is linguistically constituted, and cannot exist apart from language. For example, monuments and statues cannot communicate without the aid of language. Gadamer also claims that every language constitutes a world-view, because the linguistic nature of the world frees each individual from an objective environment: "... the fact that we have a world at all depends upon [language] and presents itself in it. The world as world exists for man as for no other creature in the world." Paul Ricœur, on the other hand, proposed a hermeneutics which, reconnecting with the original Greek sense of the term, emphasized the discovery of hidden meanings in the equivocal terms (or "symbols") of ordinary language. Other philosophers who have worked in this tradition include Luigi Pareyson and Jacques Derrida.Volli, U. (2000) ''Manuale di Semiotica''. Rome-Bari: Editori Laterza. Semiotics is the study of the transmission, reception and meaning of signs and symbols in general. In this field, human language (both natural and artificial) is just one among many ways that humans (and other conscious beings) are able to communicate. It allows them to take advantage of and effectively manipulate the external world in order to create meaning for themselves and transmit this meaning to others. Every object, every person, every event, and every force communicates (or ''signifies'') continuously. The ringing of a telephone for example, ''is'' the telephone. The smoke that I see on the horizon is the sign that there is a fire. The smoke signifies. The things of the world, in this vision, seem to be ''labeled'' precisely for intelligent beings who only need to interpret them in the way that humans do. Everything has meaning. True communication, including the use of human language, however, requires someone (a ''sender'') who sends a ''message'', or ''text'', in some code to someone else (a ''receiver''). Language is studied only insofar as it is one of these forms (the most sophisticated form) of communication. Some important figures in the history of semiotics, are Charles Sanders Peirce, Roland Barthes, and Roman Jakobson. In modern times, its best-known figures include Umberto Eco, A. J. Greimas, Louis Hjelmslev, and Tullio De Mauro. Investigations on signs in non-human communications are subject to biosemiotics, a field founded in the late 20th century by Thomas Sebeok and Thure von Uexküll.


Problems in the philosophy of language


Nature of language

Languages are thought of as sign systems in a semiotics, semiotic tradition dating from John Locke and culminating in Ferdinand de Saussure, Saussure's notion of language as semiology: an interactive system of a semantics, semantic and a symbolic system, symbolic level. Building on Saussurian structuralism, Louis Hjelmslev saw the organisation of the levels as fully computational. Age of Enlightenment philosopher Antoine Arnauld argued that people had created language rationally in a step-by-step process to fulfill a psychological need to communicate with others. 19th century German Romanticism, romanticism emphasised Agency (philosophy), human agency and free will in meaning construction. More lately, Eugenio Coșeriu underlined the role of intention in the processes, while others including Esa Itkonen believe that the social construction of language takes place Unconscious mind, unconsciously. In Saussure's notion, language is a social fact which arises from social interaction, but can neither be reduced to the individual acts nor to human psychology, which supports the autonomy of the study of language from other sciences. Humanism, Humanistic views are challenged by Biology, biological Theory of language, theories of language which consider languages as natural phenomena. Charles Darwin considered languages as species. 19th century evolutionary linguistics was furthest developed by August Schleicher who compared languages to Plant, plants, Animal, animals and Crystal, crystals. In Neo-Darwinism, Richard Dawkins and other proponents of Memetics, cultural replicator theories consider languages as populations of Viruses of the Mind, mind viruses. Noam Chomsky, on the other hand, holds the view that language is not an organism but an Language organ, organ, and that linguistic structures are crystallised. This is hypothesised as having been caused by a single mutation in humans, but Steven Pinker argues it is the result of Human evolution, human and Cultural evolution, cultural Dual inheritance theory, co-evolution.


Problem of universals and composition

One debate that has captured the interest of many philosophers is the debate over the meaning of ''universals''. One might ask, for example, "When people say the word ''rocks'', what is it that the word represents?" Two different answers have emerged to this question. Some have said that the expression stands for some real, abstract universal out in the world called "rocks". Others have said that the word stands for some collection of particular, individual rocks that we associate with merely a nomenclature. The former position has been called ''philosophical realism'', and the latter ''
nominalism In metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of ...
''. The issue here can be explicated if we examine the proposition "Socrates is a Man". From the realist's perspective, the connection between S and M is a connection between two abstract entities. There is an entity, "man", and an entity, "Socrates". These two things connect in some way or overlap. From a nominalist's perspective, the connection between S and M is the connection between a particular entity (Socrates) and a vast collection of particular things (men). To say that Socrates is a man is to say that Socrates is a part of the class of "men". Another perspective is to consider "man" to be a ''property'' of the entity, "Socrates". There is a third way, between nominalism and extreme realism, (extreme) realism, usually called "
moderate realism Moderate realism (also called immanent realism) is a position in the debate on the metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, ...
" and attributed to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. Moderate realists hold that "man" refers to a real essence or form that is really present and identical in Socrates and all other men, but "man" does not exist as a separate and distinct entity. This is a realist position, because "Man" is real, insofar as it really exists in all men; but it is a moderate realism, because "Man" is not an entity separate from the men it informs.


Formal versus informal approaches

Another of the questions that has divided philosophers of language is the extent to which formal logic can be used as an effective tool in the analysis and understanding of natural languages. While most philosophers, including
Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (; ; 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analy ...
, Alfred Tarski and Rudolf Carnap, have been more or less skeptical about formalizing natural languages, many of them developed formal languages for use in the sciences or formalized ''parts'' of natural language for investigation. Some of the most prominent members of this tradition of Formal semantics (linguistics), formal semantics include Tarski, Carnap, Richard Montague and Donald Davidson (philosopher), Donald Davidson. On the other side of the divide, and especially prominent in the 1950s and '60s, were the so-called "ordinary language philosophers". Philosophers such as P. F. Strawson, John Langshaw Austin and Gilbert Ryle stressed the importance of studying natural language without regard to the truth-conditions of sentences and the references of terms. They did not believe that the social and practical dimensions of linguistic meaning could be captured by any attempts at formalization using the tools of logic. Logic is one thing and language is something entirely different. What is important is not expressions themselves but what people use them to do in communication. Hence, Austin developed a theory of
speech act In the philosophy of language In analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, exist ...
s, which described the kinds of things which can be done with a sentence (assertion, command, inquiry, exclamation) in different contexts of use on different occasions. Strawson argued that the truth-table semantics of the logical connectives (e.g., \land , \lor and \rightarrow ) do not capture the meanings of their natural language counterparts ("and", "or" and "if-then"). While the "ordinary language" movement basically died out in the 1970s, its influence was crucial to the development of the fields of speech-act theory and the study of
pragmatics In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the m ...
. Many of its ideas have been absorbed by theorists such as Kent Bach, Robert Brandom, Paul Horwich and Stephen Neale. In recent work, the division between semantics and pragmatics has become a lively topic of discussion at the interface of philosophy and linguistics, for instance in work by Sperber and Wilson, Carston and Levinson. While keeping these traditions in mind, the question of whether or not there is any grounds for conflict between the formal and informal approaches is far from being decided. Some theorists, like Paul Grice, have been skeptical of any claims that there is a substantial conflict between logic and natural language.


Translation and interpretation

Translation and interpretation are two other problems that philosophers of language have attempted to confront. In the 1950s, W.V. Quine argued for the indeterminacy of meaning and reference based on the principle of ''radical translation''. In ''Word and Object'', Quine asks readers to imagine a situation in which they are confronted with a previously undocumented, group of indigenous people where they must attempt to make sense of the utterances and gestures that its members make. This is the situation of radical translation.Quine, W.V. (1960) ''Word and Object''. MIT Press; . 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 indigenous peoples language attaches to an utterance. For example, if a speaker sees a rabbit and says "gavagai", is she referring to the whole rabbit, to the rabbit's tail, or to a temporal part of the rabbit. All that can be done is to examine the utterance as a part of the overall linguistic behaviour of the individual, and then use these observations to interpret the meaning of all other utterances. From this basis, one can form a manual of translation. But, since reference is indeterminate, there will be many such manuals, no one of which is more correct than the others. For Quine, as for Wittgenstein and Austin, meaning is not something that is associated with a single word or sentence, but is rather something that, if it can be attributed at all, can only be attributed to a whole language. The resulting view is called ''semantic holism''. Inspired by Quine's discussion, Donald Davidson (philosopher), Donald Davidson extended the idea of radical translation to the interpretation of utterances and behavior within a single linguistic community. He dubbed this notion ''radical interpretation''. He suggested that the meaning that any individual ascribed to a sentence could only be determined by attributing meanings to many, perhaps all, of the individual's assertions, as well as their mental states and attitudes.


Vagueness

One issue that has troubled philosophers of language and logic is the problem of the vagueness of words. The specific instances of vagueness that most interest philosophers of language are those where the existence of "borderline cases" makes it seemingly impossible to say whether a predicate is true or false. Classic examples are "is tall" or "is bald", where it cannot be said that some borderline case (some given person) is tall or not-tall. In consequence, vagueness gives rise to the paradox of the heap. Many theorists have attempted to solve the paradox by way of ''n''-valued logics, such as fuzzy logic, which have radically departed from classical two-valued logics.Sorensen, Roy. (2006) "Vagueness". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/vagueness/#3


References


Further reading

* Atherton, Catherine. 1993. ''The Stoics on Ambiguity.'' Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. * Denyer, Nicholas. 1991. ''Language, Thought and Falsehood in Ancient Greek Philosophy.'' London: Routledge. * Kneale, W., and M. Kneale. 1962. ''The Development of Logic.'' Oxford: Clarendon. * Modrak, Deborah K. W. 2001. ''Aristotle’s Theory of Language and Meaning.'' Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. * Sedley, David. 2003. ''Plato’s Cratylus.'' Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


External links

* * * * One of five parts, the others foun
here, 2here. 3here, 4here, 5
There are also 16 lectures by Searle, beginning with
Sprachlogik
short articles in the philosophies of logic and language


What is I-language?
– Chapter 1 of I-language: An Introduction to Linguistics as Cognitive Science. * Th
London Philosophy Study Guide
offers many suggestions on what to read, depending on the student's familiarity with the subject

* Carnap, R., (1956). Meaning and Necessity: a Study in Semantics and Modal Logic. University of Chicago Press. * Collins, John. (2001). Truth Conditions Without Interpretation

* Devitt, Michael and Hanley, Richard, eds. (2006) The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Language. Oxford: Blackwell. * Greenberg, Mark and Harman, Gilbert. (2005). Conceptual Role Semantics.

* Hale, B. and Crispin Wright, Ed. (1999). Blackwell Companions To Philosophy. Malden, Massachusetts, Blackwell Publishers. * * Lepore, Ernest and Barry C. Smith (eds). (2006)
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language
Oxford University Press. * Lycan, W. G. (2008)
Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction
New York, Routledge. * Miller, James. (1999)

* Searle, John (2007)
Philosophy of Language
an interview with John Searle. * Stainton, Robert J. (1996)
''Philosophical Perspectives on Language''
Peterborough, Ont., Broadview Press. * Tarski, Alfred. (1944).

. * * Eco, Umberto. ''Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language''. Indiana University Press, 1986, , . {{DEFAULTSORT:Philosophy Of Language Philosophy of language, Semantics Meaning (philosophy of language) Semiotics Philosophy of science by discipline, Language