PHIL/LING 445.001 – Philosophy of Language

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Instructor: Dean Pettit. This course meets M 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. in CW 208.

Philosophical interest in language began with the development of formal logic and the study of the foundations of mathematics. It had an enormous influence on philosophy in the mid 20th century and continues to have an influence much contemporary philosophical inquiry. Language has been of philosophical interest for two quite different reasons. One line of philosophical inquiry is motivated by the idea that sentences have an underlying logical form that can be quite different from their surface grammatical form. It is a recurring theme philosophy that language that the linguistic forms employed by a discourse can be deeply misleading as to the underlying nature of the phenomenon, morality or mathematics, for example. The study of language thus promises philosophical insights, either by revealing ways in which language is misleading, or perhaps even by revealing the underlying logical form of the discourse. A quite different line of philosophical inquiry about language is concerned with the foundations of linguistic theory and aims to analyze fundamental concepts of linguistic theory, such as meaning, reference and truth. The theory of meaning has been a focal point of this literature, which seeks to elucidate the concept of meaning by setting out what form a meaning theory should take.