Semantic Theory and Language: A Perspective (Reprinted in Callaway 2008, Meaning without Analyticity)
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Proceedings of the Southwestern Philosophical Association; Philosophical Topics 1981 (summer):93-103 (1981)
Chomsky’s conception of semantics must contend with both philosophical skepticism and contrary traditions in linguistics. In “Two Dogmas” Quine argued that “...it is non-sense, and the root of much non-sense, to speak of a linguistic component and a factual component in the truth of any individual statement.” If so, it follows that language as the object of semantic investigation cannot be separated from collateral information. F. R. Palmer pursues a similar contention in his recent survey of issues in semantic theory: “...it is impossible even in theory to draw a clear line between the meaning of a word or sentence and all possible relevant information about it.” In spite of such skepticism, and through a variety of theories, devotion to lexical decomposition and truth dependent on language has not abated. The purpose of this paper is to focus related criticism and briefly put forward an alternative conception of empirical semantics.
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