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Words

Edited by Guy Longworth (University of Warwick)
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Summary Philosophers and linguists reflect in a variety of ways on the natures of words. One range of issues here concern the metaphysics of words: are words concrete items in the world, kinds of items, or elements of some other category? What are the principles for counting words? Are there ambiguous words, or are there, for example, a variety of words each spelled "bank"? Are words basic, or are they built from more basic elements, like morphemes, features, or letters? Connected with the last question, philosophers and linguists have discussed issues about the internal semantic structure of words, a version of the question whether words are definable. Sometimes this issue is pursued via the question, are there building blocks for words that can only be combined in a limited range of ways and thus make it impossible for there to be certain words, at least in normal human languages?
Key works Kaplan 1990 David Kaplan's important early discussion of the metaphysics of words. Kaplan 2011 Further, more recent discussion by Kaplan, responding to the following two pieces. Hawthorne & Lepore 2011 Important recent discussion of the metaphysics of words. Bromberger 2011 Another useful discussion of the metaphysics of words. Wetzel 2002 Useful discussion of the metaphysics of words and types more generally. Pinker manuscript Useful overview of work on the nature of words within theoretical linguistics.
Introductions Wetzel 2008
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  1. O. S. Akhmanova (1973). Meaning Equivalence and Linguistic Expression. Mgu.
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  2. Virgil C. Aldrich (1962). Two or Three Thoughts on “Use of an Expression”. Philosophical Studies 13 (3):33 - 35.
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  3. P. A. Allen & B. Wallace (1991). Impact of Word Shape on Word Recognition. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 29 (6):526-526.
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  4. Rudi Anders (2015). Beyond Words. Australian Humanist, The 117:11.
    Anders, Rudi A Melbourne suburb A short speech Congratulations..
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  5. Nicholas Asher & James Pustejovsky (forthcoming). The Metaphysics of Words in Context. Journal of Logic, Language and Information.
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  6. Anita Avramides (1992). Studies in the Way of Words. Philosophical Books 31 (4):228-229.
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  7. R. J. B. (1968). The Presence of the Word. Review of Metaphysics 21 (3):559-559.
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  8. R. J. B. (1964). The Words. Review of Metaphysics 18 (2):385-385.
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  9. R. J. B. (1964). The Words. Review of Metaphysics 18 (2):385-385.
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  10. Emmon Bach, On Morphosemantics: The Internal Meanings of Words.
    The term "morphosemantics" in the title of this talk is intended to raise a fundamental question about linguistic expressions and their meanings. When we talk about the meanings of morphemes and their combination into words should we expect to find the same kinds of meanings and combinations of meanings that we associate with the processes of putting together words into phrases? The answers to this question vary widely or even wildly across different linguists and their schools or theories. For example, (...)
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  11. Emmon Bach, ACTL Semantics: Compositionality and Morphosemantics: II: Words, Morphemes, Constructions, Interpretations.
    A language is specified by a Lexicon and a Grammar. A constructive grammar goes like this: The Lexicon provides a set of items. The items are associated with Categories and Denotations. The Grammar gives a recursive specification of the language by defining sets of derived expressions starting with the Lexicon as the base and allowing the combination of lexical items into expressions with their Categories and Denotations, by a rule-to-rule procedure, and so on ad libitum.
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  12. Emmon Bach (2002). On the Surface Verb Q'ay'ai Qela. Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (5-6):531-544.
  13. Terence Ball (1986). When Words Lose Their Meaning:When Words Lose Their Meaning: Constitutions and Reconstitutions of Language, Character, and Community. James Boyd White. Ethics 96 (3):620-.
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  14. M. S. Barbieri & A. Devescovi (1985). Explaining a Word to a Child: Lexical Meaning in Natural Interaction. In G. A. J. Hoppenbrouwers, Pieter A. M. Seuren & A. J. M. M. Weijters (eds.), Meaning and the Lexicon. Foris Publications. 370--379.
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  15. Timothy M. Beardsley (2013). Getting Your Word Out. BioScience 65 (11):843-843.
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  16. Sigrid Beck (2012). Pluractional Comparisons. Linguistics and Philosophy 35 (1):57-110.
    This paper develops a semantic analysis of data like It is getting colder and colder. Their meaning is argued to arise from a combination of a comparative with pluractionality. The analysis is embedded in a general theory of plural predication and pluractionality. It supports a semantic theory involving a family of syntactic plural operators.
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  17. Ophelia Benson (2009). What's in a Word? The Philosophers' Magazine 44:16-17.
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  18. Derek Besner & Anita Jackson (1975). Same-Different Judgments with Words and Nonwords: A Word Superiority/Inferiority Effect. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 6 (6):578-580.
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  19. Claudia Bianchi (2013). How to Do Things with (Recorded) Words. Philosophical Studies 167 (2):485-495.
    The aim of this paper is to evaluate which context determines the illocutionary force of written or recorded utterances—those involved in written texts, films and images, conceived as recordings that can be seen or heard in different occasions. More precisely, my paper deals with the “metaphysical” or constitutive role of context—as opposed to its epistemic or evidential role: my goal is to determine which context is semantically relevant in order to fix the illocutionary force of a speech act, as distinct (...)
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  20. Derek Bickerton (2008). Darwin's Last Word: How Words Changed Cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (2):132-132.
    Although Penn et al. make a good case for the existence of deep cognitive discontinuity between humans and animals, they fail to explain how such a discontinuity could have evolved. It is proposed that until the advent of words, no species had mental representations over which higher-order relations could be computed.
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  21. Derek Bickerton (2001). Okay for Content Words, but What About Functional Items? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (6):1104-1105.
    Though Bloom makes a good case that learning content-word meanings requires no task-specific apparatus, he does not seriously address problems inherent in learning the meanings of functional items. Evidence from creole languages suggests that the latter process presupposes at least some task-specific mechanisms, perhaps including a list of the limited number of semantic distinctions that can be expressed via functional items, as well as default systems that may operate in cases of impoverished input.
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  22. Manfred Bierwisch (1999). Words in the Brain Are Not Just Labelled Concepts. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (2):280-282.
    Pulvermüller assumes that words are represented as associations of two cell assemblies formed according to Hebb's coincidence rule. This seems to correspond to the linguistic notion that words consist of lexemes connected to lemmas. Standard examples from theoretical linguistics, however, show that lemmas and lexemes have properties that go beyond coincidence-based assemblies. In particular, they are inherently disposed toward combinatorial operations; push-down storage, modelled by decreasing reverberation in cell assemblies, cannot capture this. Hence, even if the language capacity has an (...)
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  23. Paul Bloom, Word Learning, Intentions, and Discourse.
    I am very grateful to Aaron Cicourel, Penelope Brown, Max Louwerse, and Matthew Ventrura for their constructive comments. Aaron Cicourel provides a helpful summary of my book and his commentary offers a good place to enter the discussion for readers who have not yet read How Children Learn the Meanings of Words. Brown and Louwerse and Ventura raise some critical questions with regard to the text to which I will speak in turn.
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  24. Paul Bloom (2001). Controversies in the Study of Word Learning. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (6):1124-1130.
    How Children Learn the Meanings of Words (HCLMW) defends the theory that words are learned through sophisticated and early-emerging cognitive abilities that have evolved for other purposes; there is no dedicated mental mechanism that is special to word learning. The commentators raise a number of challenges to this theory: Does it correctly characterize the nature and development of early abilities? Does it attribute too much to children, or too little? Does it only apply to nouns, or can it also explain (...)
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  25. Paul Bloom (2001). Précis of How Children Learn the Meanings of Words. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (6):1095-1103.
    Normal children learn tens of thousands of words, and do so quickly and efficiently, often in highly impoverished environments. In How Children Learn the Meanings of Words, I argue that word learning is the product of certain cognitive and linguistic abilities that include the ability to acquire concepts, an appreciation of syntactic cues to meaning, and a rich understanding of the mental states of other people. These capacities are powerful, early emerging, and to some extent uniquely human, but they are (...)
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  26. Daniela Lenti Boero & Luciana Bottoni (2006). From Crying to Words: Unique or Multilevel Selective Pressures? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (3):292-293.
    In the first year of life, infants' utterances change from high-intensity crying to low-intensity acoustic sound strings, acoustically labelling the first word. This transition implies: (1) decoding of phonetic sounds, (2) encoding of phonetic sounds, and (3) a unique linking of an articulated sound to a specific object. Comparative, ontogenetic, and phylogenetic aspects are considered for multilevel selective pressures.
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  27. Pierrette Bouillon & Federica Busa (eds.) (2001). The Language of Word Meaning. Cambridge University Press.
    This volume is a collection of original contributions from outstanding scholars in linguistics, philosophy and computational linguistics exploring the relation between word meaning and human linguistic creativity. The papers present different aspects surrounding the question of what is word meaning, a problem that has been the center of heated debate in all those disciplines that directly or indirectly are concerned with the study of language and of human cognition. The discussions are centered around the newly emerging view of the mental (...)
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  28. Martin D. Braine (1966). Learning the Positions of Words Relative to a Marker Element. Journal of Experimental Psychology 72 (4):532.
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  29. Sylvain Bromberger (2011). What Are Words? Comments on Kaplan (1990), on Hawthorne and Lepore, and on the Issue. Journal of Philosophy 108 (9):486-503.
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  30. Matthew Brown & Derek Besner (2002). Semantic Priming: On the Role of Awareness in Visual Word Recognition in the Absence of an Expectancy. Consciousness and Cognition 11 (3):402-422.
    By hypothesis, awareness is involved in the modulation of feedback from semantics to the lexical level in the visual word recognition system. When subjects are aware of the fact that there are many related prime–target pairs in a semantic priming experiment, this knowledge is used to configure the system to feed activation back from semantics to the lexical level so as to facilitate processing. When subjects are unaware of this fact, the default set is maintained in which activation is not (...)
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  31. P. Brown, P. Fera & C. Racicot (1990). Lexical Access Without Frequency-Effects in a Word Recognition Task. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 28 (6):514-514.
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  32. Marc Brysbaert & Denis Drieghe (2003). Please Stop Using Word Frequency Data That Are Likely to Be Word Length Effects in Disguise. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (4):479-479.
    Reichle et al. claim to successfully simulate a frequency effect of 60% on skipping rate in human data, whereas the original article reports an effect of only 4%. We suspect that the deviation is attributable to the length of the words in the different conditions, which implies that E-Z Reader is wrong in its conception of eye guidance between words.
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  33. Johan Buitendag (2013). Gaan na die mier, kyk na sy weë en word wys: Metafoor of paradigma? Hts Theological Studies 69 (1):1-9.
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  34. Prof Dr Zdzisław Cackowski & Artur Blaim (1977). The Final Word. Dialectics and Humanism 4 (4):48-52.
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  35. S. W. Calhoon (1934). Relative Seating Position and Ability to Reproduce Disconnected Word Lists After Short Intervals of Time. Journal of Experimental Psychology 17 (5):709.
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  36. Herman Cappelen (1999). Intentions in Words. Noûs 33 (1):92-102.
    Philosophers take a great deal of interest in the study of meaning, reference, truth and other semantic properties, but remarkably little attention has been paid to the entities that have semantic properties. The view that’s typically taken for granted has two closely related components.
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  37. Herman Cappelen & Ernie Lepore (2006). Quotation, Context Sensitivity, Signs and Expressions. Philosophical Issues 16 (1):43–64.
    Can one and the same quotation be used on different occasions to quote distinct objects? The view that it can is taken for granted throughout the literature (e.g. Goddard & Routley 1966, Christensen 1967, Davidson 1979, Goldstein 1984, Jorgensen et al 1984, Atlas 1989, Clark & Gerrig 1990, Washington 1992, García-Carpintero 1994, 2004, 2005, Reimer 1996, Saka 1998, Wertheimer 1999). Garcia-Carpintero (1994, p. 261) illustrates with the quotation expression ''gone''. He says it can be used to quote any of the (...)
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  38. Massimiliano Carrara & Daria Mingardo (2013). Artifact Categorization. Trends and Problems. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (3):351-373.
    The general question (G) How do we categorize artifacts? can be subject to three different readings: an ontological, an epistemic and a semantic one. According to the ontological reading, asking (G) is equivalent to asking in virtue of what properties, if any, a certain artifact is an instance of some artifact kind: (O) What is it for an artifact a to belong to kind K? According to the epistemic reading, when we ask (G) we are investigating what properties of the (...)
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  39. Robert M. Chapman (1999). Function and Content Words Evoke Different Brain Potentials. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (2):282-284.
    Word class-specific differences in brain evoked potentials (EP) are discussed for connotative meaning and for function versus content words. A well-controlled experiment found matching lexical decision times for function and content words, but clear EP differences (component with maximum near 550 msec) among function words, content words, and nonwords that depended on brain site. Another EP component, with a 480 msec maximum, differentiated words (either function or content) from nonwords.
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  40. Rui P. Chaves (2008). Linearization-Based Word-Part Ellipsis. Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (3):261-307.
    This paper addresses a phenomenon in which certain word-parts can be omitted. The evidence shows that the full range of data cannot be captured by a sublexical analysis, since the phenomena can be observed both in phrasal and in lexical environments. It is argued that a form of deletion is involved, and that the phenomena—lexical or otherwise—are subject to the same phonological, semantic, and syntactic constraints. In the formalization that is proposed, all of the above constraints are cast in a (...)
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  41. Karen S. Chen & Larry R. Squire (1990). Strength and Duration of Word-Completion Priming as a Function of Word Repetition and Spacing. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 28 (2):97-100.
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  42. Qi Chen & Daniel Mirman (2015). Interaction Between Phonological and Semantic Representations: Time Matters. Cognitive Science 39 (3):538-558.
    Computational modeling and eye-tracking were used to investigate how phonological and semantic information interact to influence the time course of spoken word recognition. We extended our recent models to account for new evidence that competition among phonological neighbors influences activation of semantically related concepts during spoken word recognition . The model made a novel prediction: Semantic input modulates the effect of phonological neighbors on target word processing, producing an approximately inverted-U-shaped pattern with a high phonological density advantage at an intermediate (...)
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  43. Andy Clark (2000). Word and Action. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 30 (Supplement):267-289.
    Recent work in cognitive science highlights the importance of exemplar-based know-how in supporting human expertise. Influenced by this model, certain accounts of moral knowledge now stress exemplar-based, non-sentential know-how at the expense of rule-and-principle based accounts. I shall argue, however, that moral thought and reason cannot be understood by reference to either of these roles alone. Moral cognition -- like other forms of ‘advanced’ cognition -- depends crucially on the subtle interplay and interaction of multiple factors and forces and especially (...)
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  44. Michael Clark (1978). The Word of God and the Language of Man. Semiotic Scene 2 (2):61-90.
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  45. Axel Cleeremans, Dick J. Bierman.
    In this paper we explore the extent to which implicit learning is subtended by somatic markers, as evidenced by skin conductance measures. On each trial subjects were asked to decide which ‘word’ from a pair of ‘words’ was the ‘correct’ word. Unknown to subjects, each ‘word’ of a pair was constructed using a different set of rules (grammar ‘A’ and grammar ‘B’). A (monetary) reward was given if the subject choose the ‘word’ from grammar ‘A’. Choosing the grammar ‘B’ word (...)
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  46. L. Colombo (1985). Word Recognition and Priming with Physically Similar Words. In G. A. J. Hoppenbrouwers, Pieter A. M. Seuren & A. J. M. M. Weijters (eds.), Meaning and the Lexicon. Foris Publications. 115--123.
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  47. Stephen J. Cowley (2005). In the Beginning: Word or Deed? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (4):493-494.
    Emphasizing that agents gain from culture-based patterns, I consider the etiology of meaning. Since the simulations show that “shared categories” are not based in learning, I challenge Steels & Belpaeme's (S&B's) folk view of language. Instead, I stress that meaning uses indexicals to set off a replicator process. Finally, I suggest that memetic patterns – not words – are the grounding of language.
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  48. D. Alan Cruse (2000). Aspects of the Micro-Structure of Word Meanings. In Yael Ravin & Claudia Leacock (eds.), Polysemy: Theoretical and Computational Approaches. Oxford University Press. 30--51.
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  49. Drzmsra Dellarosa Cummins, The Role of Understanding in Solving Word Problems.
    Word problems are notoriously difficult to solve. We suggest that much of the difficulty children experience with word problems can be attributed to difficulty in comprehending abstract or ambiguous language. We tested this hypothesis by (1) requiring children to recall problems either before or after solving them, (2) requiring them to generate f'mal questions to incomplete word problems, and (3) modeling performance pattems using a computer simulation. Solution performance was found to be systematically related to recall and question generation performance. (...)
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  50. H. B. Curry (1937). On the Use of Dots as Brackets in Logical Expressions. Journal of Symbolic Logic 2 (1):26-28.
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