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The most important feature of language is its projectivity , the idea that language is prior to human speech. This means that when one is "thrown" into the world, his existence is characterized from the beginning by a certain pre-comprehension of the world. However, it is only after naming, or "articulation of intelligibility", can one have primary access to Dasein and Being-in-the-World.

Hans-Georg Gadamer expanded on these ideas of Heidegger and proposed a complete hermeneutic ontology. In Truth and Method , Gadamer describes language as "the medium in which substantive understanding and agreement take place between two people. For example, monuments and statues cannot communicate without the aid of language. Gadamer also claims that every language constitutes a world-view, because the linguistic nature of the world frees each individual from an objective environment: The world as world exists for man as for no other creature in the world.

Other philosophers who have worked in this tradition include Luigi Pareyson and Jacques Derrida. Semiotics is the study of the transmission, reception and meaning of signs and symbols in general. In this field, human language both natural and artificial is just one among many ways that humans and other conscious beings are able to communicate.

It allows them to take advantage of and effectively manipulate the external world in order to create meaning for themselves and transmit this meaning to others. Every object, every person, every event, and every force communicates or signifies continuously. The ringing of a telephone for example, is the telephone. The smoke that I see on the horizon is the sign that there is a fire. The things of the world, in this vision, seem to be labeled precisely for intelligent beings who only need to interpret them in the way that humans do.

True communication, including the use of human language, however, requires someone a sender who sends a message , or text , in some code to someone else a receiver. Language is studied only insofar as it is one of these forms the most sophisticated form of communication. In modern times, its best-known figures include Umberto Eco , A. One issue that has troubled philosophers of language and logic is the problem of the vagueness of words. The specific instances of vagueness that most interest philosophers of language are those where the existence of "borderline cases" makes it seemingly impossible to say whether a predicate is true or false.

Philosophy of language

Classic examples are "is tall" or "is bald", where it cannot be said that some borderline case some given person is tall or not-tall. In consequence, vagueness gives rise to the paradox of the heap. Many theorists have attempted to solve the paradox by way of n -valued logics, such as fuzzy logic , which have radically departed from classical two-valued logics.

One debate that has captured the interest of many philosophers is the debate over the meaning of universals. One might ask, for example, "When people say the word rocks , what is it that the word represents? Some have said that the expression stands for some real, abstract universal out in the world called "rocks". Others have said that the word stands for some collection of particular, individual rocks that we associate with merely a nomenclature.

The former position has been called philosophical realism , and the latter nominalism. From the radical realist's perspective, the connection between S and M is a connection between two abstract entities. There is an entity, "man", and an entity, "Socrates".


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These two things connect in some way or overlap. From a nominalist's perspective, the connection between S and M is the connection between a particular entity Socrates and a vast collection of particular things men. To say that Socrates is a man is to say that Socrates is a part of the class of "men". Another perspective is to consider "man" to be a property of the entity, "Socrates". There is a third way, between nominalism and radical realism, usually called "moderate realism" and attributed to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.

Moderate realists hold that "man" refers to a real essence or form that is really present and identical in Socrates and all other men, but "man" does not exist as a separate and distinct entity. This is a realist position, because "Man" is real, insofar as it really exists in all men; but it is a moderate realism, because "Man" is not an entity separate from the men it informs.

Many philosophical discussions of language begin by clarifying terminology. One item which has undergone significant scrutiny is the idea of language itself. Those philosophers who have set themselves to the task ask two important questions: Some semiotic outlooks have stressed that language is the mere manipulation and use of symbols in order to draw attention to signified content. If this were so, then humans would not be the sole possessors of language skills. More puzzling is the question of what it is that distinguishes one particular language from another.

What is it that makes "English" English? What's the difference between Spanish and French? Chomsky has indicated that the search for what it means to be a language must begin with the study of the internal language of persons, or I-languages , which are based upon certain rules or principles and parameters which generate grammars. This view is supported in part by the conviction that there is no clear, general, and principled difference between one language and the next, and which may apply across the field of all languages. Other attempts, which he dubs E-languages, have tried to explain a language as usage within a specific speech community with a specific set of well-formed utterances in mind markedly associated with linguists like Bloomfield.

Another of the questions that has divided philosophers of language is the extent to which formal logic can be used as an effective tool in the analysis and understanding of natural languages. While most philosophers, including Frege , Alfred Tarski and Rudolf Carnap , have been more or less skeptical about formalizing natural languages, many of them developed formal languages for use in the sciences or formalized parts of natural language for investigation.

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Some of the most prominent members of this tradition of formal semantics include Tarski, Carnap, Richard Montague and Donald Davidson. On the other side of the divide, and especially prominent in the s and 60s, were the so-called "Ordinary language philosophers". Philosophers such as P. Strawson , John Langshaw Austin and Gilbert Ryle stressed the importance of studying natural language without regard to the truth-conditions of sentences and the references of terms.

They did not believe that the social and practical dimensions of linguistic meaning could be captured by any attempts at formalization using the tools of logic. Logic is one thing and language is something entirely different. What is important is not expressions themselves but what people use them to do in communication. Hence, Austin developed a theory of speech acts , which described the kinds of things which can be done with a sentence assertion, command, inquiry, exclamation in different contexts of use on different occasions.

Series: Routledge Studies in Twentieth Century Philosophy

While keeping these traditions in mind, the question of whether or not there is any grounds for conflict between the formal and informal approaches is far from being decided. Some theorists, like Paul Grice , have been skeptical of any claims that there is a substantial conflict between logic and natural language. Translation and interpretation are two other problems that philosophers of language have attempted to confront. In the s, W. Quine argued for the indeterminacy of meaning and reference based on the principle of radical translation. In Word and Object , Quine asks readers to imagine a situation in which they are confronted with a previously undocumented, group of indigenous people where they must attempt to make sense of the utterances and gestures that its members make.

This is the situation of radical translation. He claimed that, in such a situation, it is impossible in principle to be absolutely certain of the meaning or reference that a speaker of the indigenous peoples language attaches to an utterance. For example, if a speaker sees a rabbit and says "gavagai", is she referring to the whole rabbit, to the rabbit's tail, or to a temporal part of the rabbit. All that can be done is to examine the utterance as a part of the overall linguistic behaviour of the individual, and then use these observations to interpret the meaning of all other utterances. From this basis, one can form a manual of translation.

But, since reference is indeterminate, there will be many such manuals, no one of which is more correct than the others.

Philosophy of language - Wikipedia

For Quine, as for Wittgenstein and Austin, meaning is not something that is associated with a single word or sentence, but is rather something that, if it can be attributed at all, can only be attributed to a whole language. Inspired by Quine's discussion, Donald Davidson extended the idea of radical translation to the interpretation of utterances and behavior within a single linguistic community.

He dubbed this notion radical interpretation. He suggested that the meaning that any individual ascribed to a sentence could only be determined by attributing meanings to many, perhaps all, of the individual's assertions, as well as their mental states and attitudes. Sanskrit grammatical tradition gives rise to linguistic philosophy beginning in the final centuries BC and early centuries AD, notably in the philosophical schools of Nyaya and Mimamsa. In the dialogue Cratylus , Plato considered the question of whether the names of things were determined by convention or by nature.

He criticized conventionalism because it led to the bizarre consequence that anything can be conventionally denominated by any name. Hence, it cannot account for the correct or incorrect application of a name. He claimed that there was a natural correctness to names. To do this, he pointed out that compound words and phrases have a range of correctness. He also argued that primitive names had a natural correctness, because each phoneme represented basic ideas or sentiments. For example, for Plato the letter l and its sound represented the idea of softness.

However, by the end of the Cronic , he had admitted that some social conventions were also involved, and that there were faults in the idea that phonemes had individual meanings. Aristotle interested himself with the issues of logic , categories, and meaning creation. He separated all things into categories of species and genus.

PHILOSOPHY: Jacques Derrida

He thought that the meaning of a predicate was established through an abstraction of the similarities between various individual things. This theory later came to be called nominalism. The Stoic philosophers made important contributions to the analysis of grammar, distinguishing five parts of speech: Only propositions were considered " truth-bearers " or "truth-vehicles" i. Medieval philosophers were greatly interested in the subtleties of language and its usage.

For many scholastics , this interest was provoked by the necessity of translating Greek texts into Latin. There were several noteworthy philosophers of language in the medieval period. According to Peter J. King, although this has been disputed , Peter Abelard anticipated the modern ideas of sense and reference. The scholastics of the high medieval period, such as Ockham and John Duns Scotus , considered logic to be a scientia sermocinalis science of language.

The result of their studies was the elaboration of linguistic-philosophical notions whose complexity and subtlety has only recently come to be appreciated. Many of the most interesting problems of modern philosophy of language were anticipated by medieval thinkers. The phenomena of vagueness and ambiguity were analyzed intensely, and this led to an increasing interest in problems related to the use of syncategorematic words such as and , or , not , if , and every.

The study of categorematic words or terms and their properties was also developed greatly. It can be proper or improper as when it is used in metaphor , metonyms and other figures of speech. A proper suppositio, in turn, can be either formal or material accordingly when it refers to its usual non-linguistic referent as in "Charles is a man" , or to itself as a linguistic entity as in " Charles has seven letters". Such a classification scheme is the precursor of modern distinctions between use and mention , and between language and metalanguage.

There is a tradition called speculative grammar which existed from the 11th to the 13th century. Leading scholars included, among others, Martin of Dace and Thomas of Erfurth. Linguists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods such as Johannes Goropius Becanus , Athanasius Kircher and John Wilkins were infatuated with the idea of a philosophical language reversing the confusion of tongues , influenced by the gradual discovery of Chinese characters and Egyptian hieroglyphs Hieroglyphica.

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