Theory of Language

Gyula Klima

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Theory of Language

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  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Language



Aquinas mentioned some important and interesting ideas on how language (any human language) is related to the world through the mediation of human thought. Aquinas argued that the corresponding function of the predicate is to signify the individualized forms of individuals, whether the forms are the actual or not. Aquinas held that what establishes signification is an act of imposition. A human language primarily consists of utterances, that is, articulate sounds. Aquinas provided an interesting reason for the need to refer to concepts in explaining meaning, in terms of the different ways the same things can be signified on account of the different ways in which they are conceived. For Aquinas, the verb functioning as a copula, besides its obvious syntactical function of linking subject and predicate to form a new syntactical unit, a proposition, also retains the function that it has when it is attached to a subject as an absolute predicate, namely, to signify actual existence. For Aquinas, the primary sense of ‘est’, or its English equivalent ‘is’, is expressed by its use as an absolute predicate of primary beings, that is, primary substances, signifying their actuality absolutely, namely, the actuality of their substantial act of being.

Keywords: human language; imposition; enuntiabile; the analogy of being; primum cognitum

Article.  10351 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language

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