Philosophy of Language

Abstract
Philosophy of language deals with questions that arise from our ordinary, everyday conception of language. (Philosophy of linguistics, in contrast, follows up questions that arise from the scientific study of language.) But saying this does not yet give a clear idea of the sorts of questions that belong distinctively in philosophy of language. Wittgenstein said (1953, §119), ‘The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of plain nonsense and of bumps that the understanding has got by running its head up against the limits of language.’ On this conception, philosophy is about the ways in which we understand and misunderstand language, about how we come to mistake plain nonsense for something that is intelligible, and about what cannot be expressed in language. So, on this view, virtually all of philosophy is concerned with questions about language. It is, indeed, true that language has loomed large in the philosophy of the last hundred years or so. But there is still a specific, recognizable area of the discipline that is philosophy of language. It begins from one absolutely basic fact about language, namely, that expressions of a language have meaning, and can be used to talk about objects and events in the world. For philosophy of language, the central phenomenon to be studied is linguistic meaning. This chapter introduces some of the ways in which that study proceeds. Readers might also like to look at the closely related chapters on PHILOSOPHY..
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