On the Distinction Between Literal and Non-Literal Language

Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada) (1999)

My topic is the nature and scope of literal language. Broadly stated, my objective is to examine how philosophers in the Western tradition have made use of the concept of literal meaning, in particular, how they have treated the distinction between literal and non-literal language. My approach is historical. I trace how various philosophers, from Plato and Aristotle to Frege to Grice and Davidson, treat this distinction, arguing that it is not until the advent of analytic philosophy in general, and natural language semantics in particular, that it acquires genuine philosophical import. I argue further that although natural language semantics depends on the availability of a principled distinction, its attempt at an identification of literal meaning with context-independent meaning is problematic. Instead, drawing on Davidson's notion of first meaning, I argue that meaning qua meaning is fundamentally intentional and originates with individual acts of communication whereas literal meaning depends for its content on the standards of the linguistic community to which the speaker belongs
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 64,261
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Malapropisms and Davidson's Theories of Literal Meaning.John Michael McGuire - 2007 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 6:93-97.
Davidson, a Metáfora e os Domínios do Literal.Waldomiro José Filho da Silva - 2001 - Utopía y Praxis Latinoamericana 6 (15):30-43.
Is Literal Meaning Conventional?Andrei Marmor - 2008 - Topoi 27 (1-2):101-113.
Revisiting the Contribution of Literal Meaning to Legal Meaning.Brian Flanagan - 2010 - Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 30 (2):255-271.
Meaning and Explanation: Davidson on Metaphor and Malaprops.Kenneth Andrew Dickey - 1993 - Dissertation, University of California, Riverside
Metaphor, Cognitivity, and Meaning-Holism.Michael Hymers - 1998 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 31 (4):266 - 282.
A Philosophical Examination of Metaphor.Patti Diane Nogales - 1993 - Dissertation, Stanford University
Metaphor and Meaning: A Study in Lexical Semantics.Michael Alan Peirce - 1995 - Dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder
What Metaphors Mean.Donald Davidson - 2010 - In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Critical Inquiry. Routledge. pp. 31.


Added to PP index

Total views

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes