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Traditionally, a categorematic term is any term that stands alone, as a meaningful constituent of a proposition, while syncategorematic terms need others to make a meaningful unit. A more precise definition can be given for a formal language, where the distinction corresponds roughly to those expressions that are assigned objects, functions, and relations in the interpretation of a formula, and those that are not. For instance, the parentheses in ‘(3+4)×2’ are not interpreted as referring to anything when this expression is evaluated, although they play a role in determining how it is evaluated. But modern logic assigns an interpretation to terms like ‘and’ and ‘not’ which are traditionally syncategorematic. The distinction loses some of its bite in post-Fregean theories of meaning, which tend to make the sentence into the smallest meaningful piece of language, with all word-meaning described in terms of contribution to sentence-meaning.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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