The Meaning of Names

Scott Soames

in Beyond Rigidity

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780195145281
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833702 | DOI:
 The Meaning of Names

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A conception of language use is developed according to which an unambiguous, noncontext‐sensitive sentence may be used to assert and convey more than one proposition in a single context, and different propositions in different contexts, depending on the presuppositions of conversational participants. The meaning of such a sentence in the language of which it is a part – the proposition it semantically expresses – is information that is included in what would be asserted and conveyed by an assertive utterance of it in virtually any normal context in which competent language users speak literally, nonmetaphorically, and without canceling conversational implicatures. On this conception, the meaning of a linguistically simple proper name – that which it contributes to propositions semantically expressed by sentences containing it – is simply its referent. Hence, two sentences that differ only in the substitution of coreferential names mean the same thing, and semantically express the same proposition. Nevertheless, these (synonymous) sentences may frequently be used to assert different things and convey different information.

Keywords: assertion; context; conversational implicature; meaning; presuppositions; proper names; propositions; synonymy

Chapter.  16749 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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