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Meaning

Edited by Steven Gross (Johns Hopkins University)
About this topic
Summary

Words and phrases have meaning. But what are meanings? Maybe they are the objects and properties that our words are about. But then ‘Mark Twain’ and ‘Samuel Clemens’ would have the same meaning, even though one and the same person can affirm the sentence ‘Mark Twain was a great writer’ but reject the sentence ‘Samuel Clemens was a great writer.’ And what makes it the case that some squiggles or sounds are meaningful? Perhaps it’s because of the mental states of language users, but then in virtue of what do those states have their meaning or content? Might the explanation run in the other direction, so that our mental states have content only because we are language users? Also, can our grasp of what words mean explain our basic logical and mathematical knowledge and otherwise underwrite a compelling conception of the a priori? Perhaps it’s because we know what ‘and’ means that we know that ‘A and B’ is true just in case ‘A’ is true and ‘B’ is true. This category subsumes work that ranges over these and other questions concerning meaning and its bearing on a variety of philosophical topics.

Key works

Frege 1892 and Russell 1905 are seminal works on meaning and reference. Kripke 1980 and Putnam 1975 argue, among other things, that semantic properties are determined by factors external to language users. Grice 1957 and Davidson 1973 explore the relation of language and thought. Quine 1951 rejects the idea of philosophically interesting truths in virtue of meaning and knowledge in virtue of knowledge of meaning.

Introductions Speaks 2010 provides a survey with references. Richard 2003 is a good collection of articles.
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Subcategories:
Intentionality* (4,245 | 140)
History/traditions: Meaning
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  1. Barbara Abbott & Grover Hudson (1981). Making Sense. Linguistics and Philosophy 4 (3):437-451.
    This would have been a better book if Sampson had argued his main point, the usefulness of the Simonian principle as an explanation of the evolution, structure, and acquisition of language, on its own merits, instead of making it subsidiary to his attack on ‘limited-minders’ (e.g., Noam Chomsky). The energy he has spent on the attack he might then have been willing and able to employ in developing his argument at reasonable length and detail. He might then have found that (...)
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  2. Keith Allan (1986). Linguistic Meaning. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
    Chapter Beginning an account of linguistic meaning: speaker, hearer, context, and utterance Pity the poor analyst, who has to do the best he can with ...
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  3. Emil Angehrn, Brigitte Hilmer, Georg Lohmann & Tilo Wesche (eds.) (2006). Anfang Und Grenzen des Sinns: Für Emil Angehrn. Velbrück Wissenschaft.
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  4. Chrudzimski Arkadiusz (1999). Are Meanings in the Head? Ingarden’s Theory of Meaning. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 30 (3):306-326.
    The title question should be construed as an epistemological and not ontological one. Omitting the difficult problems of the ontology of intentionality we will ask, if all, what is needed to explain the phenomenon of meaningful use of words, could be found “in our private head” interpreted as a sphere of specific privileged access, the sphere that is in the relevant epistemological sense subjective, private or non public. There are many “mentalistic” theories of meaning that force us to the answer: (...)
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  5. Richard B. Arnaud (1976). Sentence, Utterance, and Samesayer. Noûs 10 (3):283-304.
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  6. Frank Arntzenius (1991). State-Spaces and Meaning Relations Among Predicates. Topoi 10 (1):35-42.
    It has often been suggested that the meaning of terms is theory dependent. Bas van Fraassen has proposed a particular way of inferring which sentences are true in virtue of meaning, given a theory in so-called state-space format. I examine his claims by means of simple examples.
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  7. Nicholas Asher & Daniel Bonevac (1987). Determiners and Resource Situations. Linguistics and Philosophy 10 (4):567 - 596.
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  8. Nicholas Asher & Alex Lascarides (1998). Questions in Dialogue. Linguistics and Philosophy 21 (3):237-309.
    In this paper we explore how compositional semantics, discourse structure, and the cognitive states of participants all contribute to pragmatic constraints on answers to questions in dialogue. We synthesise formal semantic theories on questions and answers with techniques for discourse interpretation familiar from computational linguistics, and show how this provides richer constraints on responses in dialogue than either component can achieve alone.
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  9. E. J. Ashworth (1985). Studies in Post-Medieval Semantics. Variorum Reprints.
    "For riding is required a horse"--"I promise you a horse"--Chimeras and imaginary objects--Theories of the proposition--The structure of mental language--Mental language and the unity of propositions--"Do words signify ideas or things?"--Locke on language--The doctrine of exponibilia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries--Multiple quantification and the use of special quantifiers in early sixteenth century logic--Thomas Bricot(d. 1516) and the Liar paradox--Will Socrates cross the bridge?
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  10. Ė Atai͡an & A. S. Abrahamyan (eds.) (2011). Nshan, Hamakarg, Haghordaktsʻum: Hodvatsneri Zhoghovatsu Nvirvats Ēdvard Atʻayani Hishatakin. Eph Hratarakchʻutʻyun.
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  11. Jay David Atlas (1988). What Are Negative Existence Statements About? Linguistics and Philosophy 11 (4):373 - 394.
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  12. Emmon Bach & Robin Cooper (1978). The NP-S Analysis of Relative Clauses and Compositional Semantics. Linguistics and Philosophy 2 (1):145 - 150.
    We have sketched how it is possible to give an analysis for adjoined relative clauses which is consistent with the compositionality principle and have shown that the technique which seems necessary for this analysis can be used to provide a compositional semantics for the NP-S analysis of English relative clauses.It is unlikely that anyone working within the framework of a compositional theory would choose the NP-S analysis for English, since it is clearly much less elegant and simple, in some intuitive (...)
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  13. Kent Bach (1982). Semantic Nonspecificity and Mixed Quantifiers. Linguistics and Philosophy 4 (4):593 - 605.
  14. Nandita Bandyopadhyay (1988). Being, Meaning, and Proposition: A Comparative Study of Bhartṛhari, Russell, Frege, and Strawson. Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar.
  15. Dorit Bar-On (2012). Expression, Truth, and Reality : Some Variations on Themes From Wright. In Crispin Wright & Annalisa Coliva (eds.), Mind, Meaning, and Knowledge: Themes From the Philosophy of Crispin Wright. Oxford University Press.
    Expressivism, broadly construed, is the view that the function of utterances in a given area of discourse is to give expression to our sentiments or other (non-cognitive) mental states or attitudes, rather than report or describe some range of facts. This view naturally seems an attractive option wherever it is suspected that there may not be a domain of facts for the given discourse to be describing. Familiarly, to avoid commitment to ethical facts, the ethical expressivist suggests that ethical utterances (...)
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  16. G. S. Baranov (2005). Filosofii͡a Metafory. Kuzbassvuzizdat.
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  17. Juan Barba (2007). Formal Semantics in the Age of Pragmatics. Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (6):637-668.
    This paper aims to argue for two related statements: first, that formal semantics should not be conceived of as interpreting natural language expressions in a single model (a very large one representing the world as a whole, or something like that) but as interpreting them in many different models (formal counterparts, say, of little fragments of reality); second, that accepting such a conception of formal semantics yields a better comprehension of the relation between semantics and pragmatics and of the role (...)
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  18. George Bealer (1989). On the Identification of Properties and Propositional Functions. Linguistics and Philosophy 12 (1):1 - 14.
    Arguments are given against the thesis that properties and propositional functions are identical. The first shows that the familiar extensional treatment of propositional functions -- that, for all x, if f(x) = g(x), then f = g -- must be abandoned. Second, given the usual assumptions of propositional-function semantics, various propositional functions (e.g., constant functions) are shown not to be properties. Third, novel examples are given to show that, if properties were identified with propositional functions, crucial fine-grained intensional distinctions would (...)
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  19. Michael Beaney (ed.) (2007). The Analytic Turn: Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology. Routledge.
    This collection, with contributions from leading philosophers, places analytic philosophy in a broader context comparing it with the methodology of its most ...
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  20. Michael Beaney (2007). The Analytic Turn in Philosophy : Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology. In , The Analytic Turn: Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology. Routledge.
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  21. Nuel Belnap & Mitchell Green (1994). Indeterminism and the Thin Red Line. Philosophical Perspectives 8:365 - 388.
  22. Evert W. Beth (1960). Extension and Intension. Synthese 12 (4):375 - 379.
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  23. Mauricio Beuchot (2007). Semántica de Las Imágenes: Figuración, Fantasía, E Iconicidad. Siglo Xxi Editores.
    La "Semántica de las imágenes" apela al contexto, a los usos, a lo simbólico, y no sólo a las categorías y taxonomías de tipo estructural o lógico. Es probable que dos sean las razones principales de esta rebeldía del sentido visual: la plasticidad de la imagen y el régimen de lo imaginario.
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  24. John Bigelow (1996). Presentism and Properties. Philosophical Perspectives 10 (Metaphysics):35-52.
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  25. Akeel Bilgrami (2012). Why Meaning Intentions Are Degenerate. In Crispin Wright & Annalisa Coliva (eds.), Mind, Meaning, and Knowledge: Themes From the Philosophy of Crispin Wright. Oxford University Press.
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  26. Max Black (1949/1981). Language and Philosophy: Studies in Method. Greenwood Press.
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  27. Simon Blackburn (2012). Some Remarks About Minimalism. In Crispin Wright & Annalisa Coliva (eds.), Mind, Meaning, and Knowledge: Themes From the Philosophy of Crispin Wright. Oxford University Press.
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  28. Johan Blomberg & Jordan Zlatev (2014). Actual and Non-Actual Motion: Why Experientialist Semantics Needs Phenomenology (and Vice Versa). [REVIEW] Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 13 (3):395-418.
    Experientialist semantics has contributed to a broader notion of linguistic meaning by emphasizing notions such as construal, perspective, metaphor, and embodiment, but has suffered from an individualist concept of meaning and has conflated experiential motivations with conventional semantics. We argue that these problems can be redressed by methods and concepts from phenomenology, on the basis of a case study of sentences of non-actual motion such as “The mountain range goes all the way from Mexico to Canada.” Through a phenomenological reanalysis (...)
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  29. Alex Blum (1999). Sentence, Necessity, and Meaning. Philosophia 27 (3-4):521-522.
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  30. Steven E. Boër (1980). Ways of Meaning. Linguistics and Philosophy 4 (1):141-156.
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  31. Paul Boghossian (2006). What is Relativism? In Patrick Greenough & Michael Lynch (eds.), Truth and Relativism. Clarendon Press. 13--37.
    Many philosophers, however, have been tempted to be relativists about specific domains of discourse, especially about those domains that have a normative character. Gilbert Harman, for example, has defended a relativistic view of morality, Richard Rorty a relativistic view of epistemic justification, and Crispin Wright a relativistic view of judgments of taste.¹ But what exactly is it to be a relativist about a given domain of discourse? The term ‘‘relativism’’ has, of course, been used in a bewildering variety of senses (...)
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  32. Paul A. Boghossian (2012). Blind Rule-Following. In Crispin Wright & Annalisa Coliva (eds.), Mind, Meaning, and Knowledge: Themes From the Philosophy of Crispin Wright. Oxford University Press.
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  33. George S. Boolos (ed.) (1990). Meaning and Method: Essays in Honor of Hilary Putnam. Cambridge University Press.
    This volume is a report on the state of philosophy in a number of significant areas.
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  34. E. J. Borowski (1979). Sentence Meaning and Word Meaning-II. Philosophical Quarterly 29 (115):111-124.
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  35. David Bostock (2009). Russell on the in the Plural. In Nicholas Griffin & Dale Jacquette (eds.), Russell Vs. Meinong: The Legacy of "on Denoting". Routledge.
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  36. Manuel Bremer (2008). Conceptual Atomism and Justificationist Semantics. Lang.
    Conceptual atomism of this type is incompatible with many other semantic approaches. One of these approaches is justificationist semantics. This book assumes conceptual atomism.
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  37. Berit Brogaard (2007). Review of Andrea Bottani, Richard Davies (Eds.), Modes of Existence: Papers in Ontology and Philosophical Logic. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2007 (8).
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  38. Berit Brogaard (2006). Two Modal–Isms: Fictionalism and Ersatzism. Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):77–94.
    It is sometimes said that no living philosopher is a genuine modal realist. This is no doubt an exaggeration. But at least this much is true: while we all partake of possible world talk when philosophizing, most of us regard this talk as incurring no commitment to a plurality of concrete worlds.
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  39. Curtis Brown (1992). Direct and Indirect Belief. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (2):289-316.
    The word 'belief' is ambiguous, referring sometimes to what is believed, sometimes to the act or state of believing it. I believe that as I write this it is sunny outside. This belief is true. What is true is what I believe, namely that it is sunny, not my believing it. On the other hand, my belief that it is sunny is rational and unshakeable, and it played a causal role in my deciding not to wear a coat today. What (...)
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  40. Curtis Brown (1986). What is a Belief State? Midwest Studies in Philosophy 10 (1):357-378.
    What we believe depends on more than the purely intrinsic facts about us: facts about our environment or context also help determine the contents of our beliefs. 1 This observation has led several writers to hope that beliefs can be divided, as it were, into two components: a "core" that depends only on the individual?s intrinsic properties; and a periphery that depends on the individual?s context, including his or her history, environment, and linguistic community. Thus Jaegwon Kim suggests that "within (...)
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  41. Anthony L. Brueckner (2003). Contents Just Aren't in the Head. Erkenntnis 58 (1):1-6.
    A. Horowitz has recently argued against semantic externalism. In this paper, I will show that his arguments are unsuccessful, owing to misconceptions regarding the nature of that semantic view.
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  42. Jeremy Butterfield (ed.) (1986). Language, Mind and Logic. Cambridge University Press.
    This is a collection of eleven original essays in analytical philosophy by British and American philosophers, centering on the connection between mind and language. Two themes predominate: how it is that thoughts and sentences can represent the world; and what having a thought - a belief, for instance - involves. Developing from these themes are the questions: what does having a belief require of the believer, and of the way he or she relates to the environment? In particular, does having (...)
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  43. Elisabeth Camp & John Hawthorne (2008). Sarcastic 'Like': A Case Study in the Interface of Syntax and Semantics. Noûs 42 (1):1 - 21.
    The expression ‘Like’ has a wide variety of uses among English and American speakers. It may describe preference, as in (1) She likes mint chip ice cream. It may be used as a vehicle of comparison, as in (2) Trieste is like Minsk on steroids.
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  44. Rudolf Carnap (1952). Meaning Postulates. Philosophical Studies 3 (5):65 - 73.
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  45. Rudolf Carnap (1950). Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology. Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4 (2):20--40.
  46. Sitansu S. Chakravarti (2001). Modality, Reference, and Sense: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.
  47. Siobhan Chapman (2005/2008). Paul Grice, Philosopher and Linguist. Palgrave Macmillan.
    Paul Grice (1913-1988) is best known for his psychological account of meaning, and for his theory of conversational implicature. This is the first book to consider Grice's work as a whole. Drawing on the range of his published writing, and also on unpublished manuscripts, lectures and notes, Siobhan Chapman discusses the development of his ideas and relates his work to the major events of his intellectual and professional life.
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  48. David Charles (2000/2002). Aristotle on Meaning and Essence. Oxford University Press.
    David Charles presents a major new study of Aristotle's views on meaning, essence, necessity, and related topics. These interconnected views are central to Aristotle's metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science, and are also highly relevant to current philosophical debates. Charles aims to reach a clear understanding of Aristotle's claims and arguments, to assess their truth, and to evaluate their importance to ancient and modern philosophy.
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  49. Jose E. Chaves, Of Course, I Don't Say That!
    Grice’s notion of what is said has been challenged in many directions and, since then, there are a lot of new proposals to understand it. One of these new proposals claims that what a speaker said is not part of the speaker meaning. In that sense, the content said by uttering a sentence is not intentioned by the speaker but a purely semantic and syntactic matter. Kent Bach argues for this proposal and is the main exponent of it. My aim (...)
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  50. Gennaro Chierchia (1982). Nominalization and Montague Grammar: A Semantics Without Types for Natural Languages. [REVIEW] Linguistics and Philosophy 5 (3):303 - 354.
    We started from the fact that type theory, in the way it was implemented in IL, makes it costly to deal with nominalization processes. We have also argued that the type hierarchy as such doesn't play any real role in a grammar; the classification it provides for different semantic objects is already contained, in some sense, in the categorial structure of the grammar itself. So, on the basis of a theory of properties (Cocchiarella's HST*) we have tried to build a (...)
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