PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE
PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE PHIL 154
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This 10 page Class Notes was uploaded by Noemie Kiehn on Monday October 5, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to PHIL 154 at California State University - Sacramento taught by Patti Nogales in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 32 views. For similar materials see /class/218860/phil-154-california-state-university-sacramento in PHIL-Philosophy at California State University - Sacramento.
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Date Created: 10/05/15
POSSIBLE WORLD SEMANTICS Goal To explain the meanings of linguistic expressions without invoking obscure notions like individual concept and proposition to keep senses but make them more public and objective Like Fregean semantics Possible World Semantics is a mediated theory of reference such that 1 each linguistic expression sense has a sense and a referent and 2 the sense determines the referent For example the sense of sings in the car determines all and only those individuals who sing in the car The only difference between Frege and Possible World Semantics is that the latter replaces the notion of an individual concept with a function from possible worlds W to individuals and propositions with a set of possible worlds specifically those possible worlds in which the proposition is true Because of the Principle of Compositionality the sense and referent ofthe sentence ie the whole are generated by putting together the sense or referent of the noun phrase and the sense or referent ofthe predicate For example in the Fregean model the sense of the sentence the proposition is generated as output from the predicate function sings in the car when you input the individual concept of Jon Adams In the Possible Worlds model the sense ofthe sentence a set of W in which Jon Adams sings in the car is generated as output by inputting the sense of the noun phrase the set of PW in which Jon Adams exists into the predicate function that inputs the set of possible worlds in which Jon Adams exists Linguistic Fregean Expression Sense Noun phrase the individual Jon Adams concept of Jon Adams Predicate sings in the ear function that inputs individual concepts and yields a proposition that claims that the indi vidual sings in the Sentence Jon sings in the car the proposition that Jon sings in the car Possible World Sense the function that inputs and outputs only the set of individuals that are Jon Adams the function2 that inputs and outputs a function3 from w to individuals or the set of individuals that sing in the car the function that inputs and outputs True if and only if Jon sings in the car the set of in which Jon sings in the car Referent Denotation the designated individual Jon Adams in person the output of its sense when the actual is input the function that inputs individuals and yields a truth value of T iff the individual denoted sings in the car or the set of individuals who sing in the car the truth value of the sentence determined by the sense of the sentence when the actual world is input ARGUMENTS FOR INNATENESS ARGUMENT FROM LOT lf current theories of cognition are correct learning seems to require a powerful representational medium lf learning a language is like other types of learning then people must have that medium before they can learn a language Therefore to learn ones first language one must have a language Therefore not all language can be learned Some language must be innate When Chomsky says that language is innate is he saying that babies already know a lot of their native language ARGUMENT FROM COMMONALITIES Many syntactical features seem to be universal Many rules that do not appear in one language fail to appear in any other language If much of language were innate a built in part of the human brain it would explain how so many different cultures have the same linguistic features POVERTY OF STIMULUS Human languages are deeply complex such that we don t even have an account of English after all this time Children learn language in a small period oftime Children learn language with fragmented evidence Children learn language mostly without any kind oftraining 39We must be born with a lot of language already there innate COUNTERARGUMENT Maybe we are just born smart smarter than creatures that don t have language COUNTERCOUNTERARGUMENT But some people who are not smart are actually retarded still learn language swiftly So learning language can tjust be about being smart but would seem to be a separate faculty Version 2 Poverty of Stimulus A series of examples does not in itself contain the information of what constitutes going on in the same way A child encounters a finite array of language use From this body of cases the child deduces a rule which applies to all past cases and all future cases All children in a given linguistic environment settle on roughly the same rules However there is more than one set of rules that explains the observable data Something must constrain the set of rules Since the data the children work with does not select a unique set of rules there must be something else The only other candidate is something innate Therefore people must have an innate language capacity that constrains the possible set of rules PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE USE THEORIES OF MEANING THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN MEANING AND USE Davidson calls it the Jungle of Use Normally we keep the two separate We have theories of meaning semantics and theories GTE pragmatics 0 An attempt to keep semantics systematic 0 An attempt to keep semantics context free An attempt to keep semantics a matter of linguistic types An attempt to keep semantics independent of intensions An attempt to keep semantics independent of things in the mind An attempt to keep semantics independent of speaker intention Let s get a handle on meaning as something abstract and then get into issues of what the person actually meant by using a certain description or uttering a certain token of an expression with a certain intention and in a certain context THEORIES OF MEANING AS INDEPENDENT OF USE Some are more acceptable than others The ones that require the least in terms of something mentalistic such as Russell s theory of Direct Reference cannot handle all the data for example descriptions that cannot refer or fictional entities THE PHENOMENA Expressions containing indexicals Martin and Stainton Meaningful utterances about entities that do not exist Strawson Indirect speech acts Searle Figurative language Grice Nondeclarative sentences Wittgenstein Austin Searle Davidson The intuition that meaning is primarily communicative intentiona in nature Grice Radical Translation Quine RESULT 1 Let s put these phenomena in pragmatics and keep our notion of meaning and use separate or 2 let s redefine meaning and semantics USE THEORIES OF MEANING What all instances of speech have in common their basic unit of analysis is not the word but the entire linguistic expression as a token or utterance in a particular context 0 Late Wittgenstein approach 0 Strawson s approach to Reference 0 Speech Act Theory Austin and Searle o Grice s theory 0 Lakoff and Johnson Philosophy in the Flesh EXPRESSIONS CONTAINING INDEXICALS Problem Types of indexical expressions don t actually refer only tokens of expressions actually refer Indexical expressions have a descriptive part and a pointing part Classical and idea theories of meaning can explain the descriptive part But they cannot explain the pointing part Solution Use theories of meaning are all based on tokens rather than on types and are able to take into account environmental features Therefore they are able to explain the pointing part the part that makes every indexical expression indexical by saying that it describes the fact that indexical expressions are used to talk about objects in the environment REFERRING TO NONEXISTENT ENTITIES Problem There are meaningful utterances in the language that contain descriptions of objects that are not currently instantiated in the world For example the sentence The present King of France is bald contains an expression that does not referto a thing in the world Strawson s Solution Recognize that the meaningfulness of all utterances does not depend upon correspondence with a thing in the world Such an expression is meaningful because it has a set of rules habits or conventions that identify when it is appropriate to use such an expression Santa Claus will give toys to you this year Said to a child who has behaved well According to Strawson this expression is meaningful even though its embedded description fails to refer because the speaker uses it according to conventions that identify when it is appropriate to be used INDIRECT SPEECH ACTS Problem Some sentence tokens or utterances can be used to communicate propositions that appearto be different from the proposition expressed or captured by the sentence by itself For example Can you pass the salt Solution Searle s Define the meaningfulness in terms of the action in which the utterance is made using a speech act schema such that utterances are successful iftheir felicity conditions are satisfied see below FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE Problem Some utterances of linguistic expressions ie Margaret Thatcher is a bulldozer seem to express propositions that are not the propositions expressed under a literal interpretation ofthe utterances Davidson s Solution Classify such utterances as matters of use ratherthan of meaning Reject the idea that such utterances express any proposition other than the one expressed under a literal interpretation ofthe utterance That is Davidson believes that an utterance of Margaret Thatcher is a bulldozer is about Margaret Thatcher and the class of bulldozers NONDECLARATIVE SENTENCES Problem Many if not most sentences in the language are not declarative that is their main purpose is not to declare something true or false Yet these sentences which are called performatives are meaningful and need to be accounted for by a theory of meaning The Descriptivist Fallacy The beliefthat all meaningful statements in the language make statements that are true or false Solution Austin and Searle s Define the meaningfulness of expressions in terms of the act in which they appear using a speech act schema such that utterances are successful if their felicity conditions are satisfied Declarative sentences are one of many types of expressions including performatives In declaratives knowing the meaning of an utterance we must know under what conditions the claim it makes is true We call this via Tarski and Davidson knowing the truth conditions of the utterance ln performatives knowing the meaning of an utterance we must know its felicity conditions Felicity conditions The conditions for a certain type of speech act that must be met in order for that type of speech act to be successful A complete theory of meaning using this model will 1 match linguistic expressions with action types and 2 give the conditions under which uttering an expression ofthe appropriate type results in the action s actual performance ie its felicity conditions Speech Act Schema A speaker S performs a linguistic action of type A if and only if aS utters an expression E where E is a device for doing A and bThe felicity conditions C for that type of speech act obtain Speaker S makes a promise by uttering the expression E in the presence of H if and only if aS utters an expression E where E is a device for promising and bThe felicity conditions C for promising obtain 1 Normal conditions obtain I S expresses the proposition that p in the utterance of E 00 In expressing that p S predicates a future act A of S 4 The hearer H would prefer S s doing to S s not doing A S believes H would prefer his doing A 5 It is not obvious to both S and H that S will do A in the normal course of events 6 S intends to do A 7 S intends that the utterance of sentence E will place him or her under an obligation to do A 8 S intends that the utterance of E will produce in H a belief that S intends to do A and that S intends to be placed under the obligation of doing A What s more S intends to induce this belief in H by getting H to see that S intends to induce it COMPARISON TO CLASSICAL SEMANTICS Instead of analyzing expressions in the absence of context we are analyzing speech acts as a type of action such that intentionality is involved This is different not only from Frege and Russell s theory but also from some of the idea theories of meaning You could say that semantics is subsumed under pragmatics which is the study of how linguistic expressions are used The unit of analysis is the action type neitherthe sentence nor the word Since the unit of analysis is the action rather than the word type it is unclear how the theory of meaning would account for semantic productivity which is accounted for by the compositionality and recursiveness of classical theories of meaning
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