Edited by Guy Longworth (University of Warwick)
About this topic
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. On the Words Πμαλα and Βναυσος.J. Adam - 1893 - The Classical Review 7 (03):102-.
  2. Some Obscure Words in the Divyāvadāna.V. Agrawala - 1966 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 86 (2):67-75.
  3. A Note On The Word Cārika In The Divyāvadāna.V. Agrawala - 1964 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 84 (1):55-56.
  4. A Note on the Word Cārika in the DivyāvadānaA Note on the Word Carika in the Divyavadana.V. S. Agrawala - 1964 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 84 (1):55.
  5. Meaning Equivalence and Linguistic Expression.O. S. Akhmanova - 1973 - Mgu.
  6. Two or Three Thoughts on “Use of an Expression”.Virgil C. Aldrich - 1962 - Philosophical Studies 13 (3):33 - 35.
  7. The "Milk of the Word".W. R. Alger - 1885 - Journal of Speculative Philosophy 19 (2):224 -.
  8. On the Oscan Words Prúffed and Pruftuset.Frederic D. Allen - 1896 - The Classical Review 10 (01):18-19.
  9. Impact of Word Shape on Word Recognition.P. A. Allen & B. Wallace - 1991 - Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 29 (6):526-526.
  10. Between the Lines of Age: Reflections on the Metaphysics of Words.Peter Alward - 2005 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (2):172–187.
  11. Beyond Words.Rudi Anders - 2015 - Australian Humanist, The 117:11.
    Anders, Rudi A Melbourne suburb A short speech Congratulations..
  12. Coordination, Triangulation, and Language Use.Josh Armstrong - 2016 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (1):80-112.
    In this paper, I explore two contrasting conceptions of the social character of language. The first takes language to be grounded in social convention. The second, famously developed by Donald Davidson, takes language to be grounded in a social relation called triangulation. I aim both to clarify and to evaluate these two conceptions of language. First, I propose that Davidson’s triangulation-based story can be understood as the result of relaxing core features of conventionalism pertaining to both common-interest and diachronic stability—specifically, (...)
  13. The Metaphysics of Words in Context.Nicholas Asher & James Pustejovsky - unknown
  14. The Meaning of a Word.John L. Austin - 1961 - In J. O. Urmson & G. J. Warnock (eds.), Journal of Symbolic Logic. Clarendon Press. pp. 23--43.
  15. Studies in the Way of Words.Anita Avramides - 1992 - Philosophical Books 31 (4):228-229.
  16. ACTL Semantics: Compositionality and Morphosemantics: II: Words, Morphemes, Constructions, Interpretations.Emmon Bach - unknown
    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.
  17. On Morphosemantics: The Internal Meanings of Words.Emmon Bach - unknown
    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, (...)
  18. Is Word-Formation Compositional.Emmon Bach - 2005 - In Greg N. Carlson & Francis Jeffry Pelletier (eds.), Reference and Quantification: The Partee Effect. CSLI Publications. pp. 107--112.
  19. On the Surface Verb Q'ay'ai Qela.Emmon Bach - 2002 - Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (5-6):531-544.
  20. Spreading the Word.Kent Bach & Simon Blackburn - 1987 - Philosophical Review 96 (1):120.
  21. Inflectional Identity.Asaf Bachrach & Andrew Nevins (eds.) - 2008 - Oxford University Press UK.
    A recurrent issue in linguistic theory and psychology concerns the cognitive status of memorized lists and their internal structure. In morphological theory, the collections of inflected forms of a given noun, verb, or adjective into inflectional paradigms are thought to constitute one such type of list. This book focuses on the question of which elements in a paradigm can stand in a relation of partial or total phonological identity. Leading scholars consider inflectional identity from a variety of theoretical perspectives, with (...)
  22. The Transitional Breakdown of the Word: Heidegger and Stefan George's Encounter with Language.Jussi Backman - 2011 - Gatherings: The Heidegger Circle Annual 1:54-64.
    The paper studies Heidegger's reading of the poet Stefan George (1868-1933), particularly of his poem "Das Wort" (1928), in the context of Heidegger's narrative of the history of metaphysics. Heidegger reads George's poem as expressing certain experiences with language: first, the constitutive role of language, of naming and discursive determination, in granting things stable identities; second, the unnameable and indeterminable character of language itself as a constitutive process and the concomitant insight into the human being's dependency on language and her (...)
  23. When Words Lose Their MeaningWhen Words Lose Their Meaning: Constitutions and Reconstitutions of Language, Character, and Community. James Boyd White.Terence Ball - 1986 - Ethics 96 (3):620-.
  24. Explaining a Word to a Child: Lexical Meaning in Natural Interaction.M. S. Barbieri & A. Devescovi - 1985 - In G. A. J. Hoppenbrouwers, Pieter A. M. Seuren & A. J. M. M. Weijters (eds.), Meaning and the Lexicon. Foris Publications. pp. 370--379.
  25. Picture Versus Word and Relevant Value "Relatedness" in Rule-Learning Problems.A. Keith Barton - 1972 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 96 (1):208.
  26. Effects of Previous Experience and Information on Performance on a Word-Formation Problem.William F. Battig - 1958 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 56 (3):282.
  27. C (Ha) Osmopolis: Qohelet's Last Words.Timothy K. Beal - 1998 - In T. Linafelt & T. K. Beal (eds.), God in the Fray. Fortress Press. pp. 290--304.
    No categories
  28. Pluractional Comparisons.Sigrid Beck - 2012 - 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.
  29. Estimation of Word Frequency in Continuous and Discrete Tasks.Ian Begg - 1974 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 102 (6):1046.
  30. What's in a Word?Ophelia Benson - 2009 - The Philosophers' Magazine 44:16-17.
  31. Same-Different Judgments with Words and Nonwords: A Word Superiority/Inferiority Effect.Derek Besner & Anita Jackson - 1975 - Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 6 (6):578-580.
  32. How to Do Things with (Recorded) Words.Claudia Bianchi - 2014 - 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 (...)
  33. Darwin's Last Word: How Words Changed Cognition.Derek Bickerton - 2008 - 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.
  34. Okay for Content Words, but What About Functional Items?Derek Bickerton - 2001 - 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.
  35. Words in the Brain Are Not Just Labelled Concepts.Manfred Bierwisch - 1999 - 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 (...)
  36. The Word הדז in the Siloam InscriptionThe Word [He][Dalet][Zayin] in the Siloam Inscription.Frank R. Blake - 1901 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 22:55.
  37. Word and Paradigm Morphology.James P. Blevins - 2016 - Oxford University Press UK.
    This volume provides an introduction to word and paradigm models of morphology and the general perspectives on linguistic morphology that they embody. The recent revitalization of these models is placed in the larger context of the intellectual lineage that extends from classical grammars to current information-theoretic and discriminative learning paradigms. The synthesis of this tradition outlined in the volume highlights leading ideas about the organization of morphological systems that are shared by word and paradigm approaches, along with strategies that have (...)
  38. Word Learning, Intentions, and Discourse.Paul Bloom - manuscript
    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.
  39. Controversies in the Study of Word Learning.Paul Bloom - 2001 - 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 (...)
  40. Précis of How Children Learn the Meanings of Words.Paul Bloom - 2001 - 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 (...)
  41. From Crying to Words: Unique or Multilevel Selective Pressures?Daniela Lenti Boero & Luciana Bottoni - 2006 - 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.
  42. Parallel Distributed Processing and Lexical-Semantic Effects in Visual Word Recognition: Are a Few Stages Necessary?Ron Borowsky & Derek Besner - 2006 - Psychological Review 113 (1):181-193.
  43. The Language of Word Meaning.Pierrette Bouillon & Federica Busa (eds.) - 2001 - 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 (...)
  44. Learning the Positions of Words Relative to a Marker Element.Martin D. Braine - 1966 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 72 (4):532.
  45. On Learning the Grammatical Order of Words.Martin D. S. Braine - 1963 - Psychological Review 70 (4):323-348.
  46. Power Evangelism and the Word of God.Donald Bridge - 1987
  47. What Are Words? Comments on Kaplan (1990), on Hawthorne and Lepore, and on the Issue.Sylvain Bromberger - 2011 - Journal of Philosophy 108 (9):486-503.
  48. Semantic Priming: On the Role of Awareness in Visual Word Recognition in the Absence of an Expectancy.Matthew Brown & Derek Besner - 2002 - 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 (...)
  49. Lexical Access Without Frequency-Effects in a Word Recognition Task.P. Brown, P. Fera & C. Racicot - 1990 - Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 28 (6):514-514.
  50. Please Stop Using Word Frequency Data That Are Likely to Be Word Length Effects in Disguise.Marc Brysbaert & Denis Drieghe - 2003 - 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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