Article

Philosophy of Language

Michael P. Wolf

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online May 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0063
Philosophy of Language

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The term “philosophy of language” is generally used more restrictively than newcomers to the discipline might expect. While philosophers of almost every stripe have something to say about language, people who speak of “philosophy of language” generally intend to restrict it to philosophers in the analytic tradition over the last one hundred years or so. This entry reflects that general convention. The entry also breaks the field down by major topic areas, with each later topic including at least one cornerstone work (usually more) and greater attention to recent papers of interest. The topics above (beyond the review of textbooks and supplements) may be thought of as falling into major groups based on a number of larger themes and questions in the field. After some historical review, we consider what our view on what languages must be: how do things become meaningful within a language and how do speakers adhere to the rules governing the language? We then look at how truth should be understood and, more narrowly, whether there are analytic truths (statements that are true in virtue of the meanings of their terms). Questions of how words themselves come to refer to or stand for parts of the world are then considered, both invariantly and in ways that are sensitive to context, including expressions of propositional attitudes. Two sections after that address more pragmatic matters in the philosophy of language: what is it to perform a speech act (and thus communicate with others) and what is it to use an expression metaphorically, deviating from accepted usage and yet being acknowledged by other speakers? We close with a review of an emerging debate between minimalists and contextualists over the degree to which the meanings of most of the language are fixed.

Article.  9191 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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