Talk:Philosophy of language

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Former good article Philosophy of language was one of the Philosophy and religion good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for Philosophy of language:
  • Requests
  • Expand
    • "Continental" philosophy of language. (Skubicki)
    • Ordinary Language Philosophy
    • Mind and Language
    • Social Semantics
    • Pragmatism and meaning (consequences)
    • Rhetoric
  • Sift through talk page for more "to do" needs.


quote: "Gottlob Frege was an advocate of a mediated reference theory, which appealed to the sense of a referent" Referents do not have senses. Refering expressions have senses. For instance, logically proper names (refering expressions) have, according to Frege, both a sense and a referent. According to Russell they have only a referent. I think there should be some revisions here. Nerdyweirdo

fixed, thanks Lucidish 20:21, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

May I simplify Frege?

`The Morning Star' is a term which refers to the planet Venus. `The Evening Star' is a term which refers to the planet Venus.

The previous two sentences describe an object (the planet Venus), from two different positions which it can hold in the sky. Venus is not a star, according to my knowledge of astronomy.

My feeling is that philosophy is only useful when it shows up the ambiguities of language. If you require absolute knowledge, you might be advised to stick to mathematics, or any closed belief system which justifies itself.

Any given belief might be described as a philosophy, but even if you do not believe in the existence of the planet Venus, you may be able to understand the logic of sentences which describe its behaviour.

By the way the word `err' derives from the Latin word which also means to wander. is an errer someone who wanders? I wonder.

If you decided to delete or edit me, please give me a good reason..

Artymis :)(:

Venus is not a star, but it may be referred to as one and you will still know exactly what is being talked about. From a closed belief system that justifies itself, can you really derive absolute knowledge, or just beliefs? You suggest that logic is a fundamental basis for any philosophy, but it also justifies itself, doesn't it? Pomte 21:21, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Reply to Pomte.

As I am wandering around Wikipedia, trying to find articles that interest me, I suppose I am a peripatetic, or even an `errer' :).

What I said about Frege was just paraphrasing his article on `Sense and Reference' which I studied. I understand the difference between an object and its description very well, thank you, and I know that the word `apple' is not going to make me feel less hungry.

I don't think logic justifies anything - it is just a tool for finding out if there are any internal contradictions in a statement. I don't believe there is such a thing as absolute truth, at least when it comes to describing the nature of physical phenomena.

If you see only the tail of an elephant you might think it was a snake. I think that's the problem about trying to describe `reality' in any terms, and a central problem of knowledge, although I think it makes the world more exciting.

I actually think that philosophy is very important, whether it leads people to question beliefs, or whether it allows us to challenge the `certainty' of science or religion.

I am trying to understand where you are coming from here. I was not criticising the enterprise of philosophy, but I do wish some of it were more accessible. If philosophy is simply a question of repeating the views of people in the past, then I don't see how it can be much more than a set of doctrines.

If people had to be as accurate as machine code, I think life would be very drab.

What needs to be done[edit]

The categories seem complete, but there's still a need to flesh out the areas of

- "Ordinary Language Philosophy"
- "Mind and Language"
- "Social Semantics"
- Pragmatism and meaning (consequences)
- Rhetoric

There's also a need to address Banno's point about having a brief overview of the discipline. I'll post any ideas I get here. Lucidish 23:56, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Hello team
Looks like the article needs a very big trim. I've been splitting portions out to other articles. Any beefs, write 'em here! Lucidish
  • More work needs to be done on "Continental" philosophy of language. The German Romantics - Schleiermacher, Schlegel, Novalis, etc. - did some deep work in this area, in connection with the Kantian epistemological project. I'm not sure whether the early phenomenologists (Brentano to Heidegger) should get more than a passing mention. Influential - yes, massively. But they weren't expressly concerned with language per se. Derrida definitely needs some discussion. There should also be some discussion on how analytic philosophers have interacted with the Continental tradition in the philosophy of language. --- Skubicki 08:10, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

Old stuff[edit]

Merge with Analytic philosophy?[edit]

Analytic philosophy

No, it should not. B 02:05, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)

The core material is identical, so unless someone wishes to add some content to philosophy of language that would not also be appropriate in analytic philosophy, why not move phil. Lang material to analytic philosophy, and re-direct.

It shouldn't be identical. The meat of this article, the key issues, has not even been written yet. B 02:05, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)
Yeah, there's a difference between them. A merge is neither necessary nor warranted. Lucidish 02:57, 16 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I would argue that it should not be merged with Analytic philosophy. Philosophy of language is a sub-discipline of Analytic, yes, but cramming details about every subsection of Analytic onto one page is extremely cumbersome. Furthermore, Philosophy of language is, in and of itself, a seperate line of inquiry from Analytic and should therefore remain seperate.

I do agree though that the Phil. of language page should mention more about general theories (i.e. an outline of the tradition). As it is currently, the page merely gives a brief "why" and then links to the philosophers involved in the discipline. Maclyn611 00:02, 26 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Seconded. Analytic philosophy is much more than merely the philosophy of language. B 02:05, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)
It should definitely be a separate article, as it is a subset of analytic philosophy. If there is substantial overlap, that should be worked out, but there should definitely be two articles.CDart (talk) 22:33, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

Remarks on reforms[edit]

This page is well written, which makes it harder to correct a few difficulties.

The most obvious problem is that it is written in the first person. To my mind, this undermines the neutral point of view that the article should adopt. If nothing else, given that the page has more than one author, who is the I it refers to?

Secondly, although the page will provide motivation to look further, it does not provide an outline of the topic. A brief account of the basic themes and arguments would be a great help!

Finally, and I suspect as a result of the second point, it does not provide links to related ideas and authorities. Not even a link to Wittgenstein! This could be corrected by including a stronger outline of the field.


By way of explanation, I’ve made the following changes:

  • The introductory text is no longer in the first person.
  • Remove references to “truth” – “meaning” is the central problem of philosophy of language
  • Removed a few paragraphs that appeared not to add to the content
  • Added a brief summary of 20th Century English philosophy of language, including links to some of the proponents.

Hope it is an improvement, or perhaps that it is so bad someone will have to fix it… Banno 22:55, 27 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Better information on the non-English versions?[edit]

If the Analytic bias is a problem, why not simply translate over some of the material from the non-English versions of the page? I don't really speak Spanish, French, or German, but I can see from some of the words (and with the help of the Google translation tool) that there are plenty of references to topics from Continental philosophy there. Some ties to Literary Theory and Literary Criticism could help, too. -- Wclark

What about non-analytic philosophy of language?[edit]

Some areas:

  • Ancient philosophers on philosophy of language, especially from Plato and the Organon;
  • Proto-analytics, eg. Brentano;
  • Continental philsophers, esp. Heidegger, Gadamer.

Beyond my knowledge to write this up myself, I have to say, but we shouldn't be talking as if there is nothing more to philosophy of language than analytic philosophy. ---- Charles Stewart 01:43, 19 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Other fields requiring exposition: - Literary Theory / Hermeneutics - Cultural criticism - Ordinary language philosophy - Mind and language - Ideas and Meaning Lucidish 22:34, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

stupider and stupider[edit]

this article is getting stupider and stupider. the main thread of philosophy of language is realy just Russel's lead and ramifications. But this article, lead by the stupid NPOV juggarnaut, is now becoming some general philosophy of language, literally, to include stupid feminist shits.

the orignal version with the first-person write up is much better in content. Xah Lee 13:10, 2004 Dec 19 (UTC)

What are you talking about? What would you like to see? What is NPOV here? Why should the philosophy of language, as a field, be restricted to the works of Russell and the analytic tradition? Lucidish 18:36, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Limits of understanding[edit]

I've probably got the wrong philosophy article, but I thought that one of the key ideas of Wittgenstein's linguistic turn was the question

Does the language you have learnt and use, limit your ability to formulate new ideas.

Or conversely, 'are some key problems of philosophy just confusions over the language used to phrase the question'.

There seams to be remarkably little discussion of Wittgenstein here, despite the fact that this article is second major link in the opening paragraph of the Wittgenstein article. -- Solipsist 08:17, 26 Dec 2004 (UTC)

It's certainly an article in progress. If you want to follow up by adding more on Wittgenstein (both pre- and post- 'Philosophical Investigations'), go right ahead. Lucidish 01:44, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Thanks! I was beginning to suspect this was some Bizarro world philosophy of language. Wittgenstein is probably, perhaps discounting Russell, THE philosopher of language. He has definitely been more influential than any other philosopher in that area. And until five minutes ago -- when I added him myself -- he wasn't even featured in the "Important Theorists" field, which however does include incredibly tangential figures to the philosophy of language, like Julia Kristeva and Michel Foucault. I'd agree to a rewrite of the whole article if there was a vote. Wittgenstein and his philosophy definitely need its own section, the whole article needs to be trimmed down and be made coherent, and unimportant theorists must not be given so much room. -- Miai
So rewrite it. Be bold, etc. Just don't scrap legitimate material.
Also not really sure what "unimportant theorists" have been given room, here. Everyone who is talked about at any length has made a contribution that is influential, or at least significant. Lucidish 01:31, 8 September 2005 (UTC)

Where are we now?[edit]

I don't really like the sectioning in this article. The role of sense and reference should not be a subsection of meaning. Also, I only skimmed the article, but I don't see a mention of either John Stuart Mill or Saul Kripke. That is blasphemy. KSchutte 18:41, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

S&R should be a part of the meaning subset for artificial system-based philosophers (Frege and Russell), because for them, from what I've learned, meaning is exhausted by reference. (In all honesty, I have my doubts about even that, but if you're wondering about the logic behind my decision, there it is.)
Kripke was indeed mentioned in the direct reference section, which had to be scuttled off into a separate article because of size problems. Mill was never mentioned, so yeah, that's long overdue.
In retrospect, though, I agree with your point: most of the article does appear to be devoted to meaning and not enough to issues of reference, mind, and societies. Much of it, perhaps, may be split off to the article titled "the meaning of meaning". Lucidish
Kripke and Mill were name-dropped. Will work on more substantial descriptions of their work as I learn it. Also, reference now has its own section. Rest of the sectioning seems fine to me. Lucidish

Plagiarism accusation[edit]

Recently an anonymous accusation of plagiarism has been made on the Social Interaction section of this page (by IP

I wrote that section. The phrasing of each paragraph is novel -- I wrote it. The source for the phrase "metasemantics" was Robert Stainton (see citation). The sources for the rest can be found at the respective primary sources and links.

Plagiarism is an extremely serious charge. I do not take it lightly, on the internet or otherwise. If the anonymous person wishes to demonstrate where I supposedly copied the text from, they may do so here, and follow the appropriate steps put forward by Wikipedia. In the meantime, the text will be reverted. Lucidish 17:46, 29 August 2005 (UTC)

Murder, rape or crimes against humanity are extremely serious charges. Plagiarism is a serious charge, but let's try to keep things in perspective, shall we? -- Miai
I am somewhat confused as to what measurement scale you would have one measure the difference between "serious" and "extremely serious". A frown-o-meter? Lucidish
Putting "extremely" in boldface gave your comment a (presumably unintentional) air of self-parody, and I found it so amusing that I just had to make a remark -- that's all. I have unfortunately no suggestions for what an appropriate scale of seriousness would look like, but I'll promise to give the matter some thought. In the interim, let's stick with the frown-o-meter. -- Miai
Shenanigans aside, I do not take accusations of that kind lightly, and was not writing ironically in my comments. However, I no longer take this particular accusation seriously, since the person who posted it is an acknowledged crank. Lucidish 16:15, 10 September 2005 (UTC)


The theorists section is, as of now, very confused. It does list some theorists, but most entries seem to be about theories, which is something else. I don't want to restructure it myself, since I'm unsure of what it was intended for in the first place -- theories or theorists. Nonetheless, it can't be left as it is, as its present state doesn't make any sense. -- Miai

Fair enough. Done and done. Lucidish

Direct Refence Theory[edit]

This page has Bertand Russell credited with Direct Reference Theory. But from everything i know, John Stuart Mill created this theory. Russell dealt with definite descriptions as a realistic explanation of Frege's senses, e.g.

"The present Chairman of the Board of Microsoft is the richest man in the world."

would be analyzed as such according to Russell:

  • (1) There is at least one present Chairman of the Board of Microsoft.
  • (2) There is at least one richest man in the world.
  • (3) There is no more than one present Chairman of the Board of Microsoft.
  • (4) There is no more than one richest man in the world.
  • (5) Whoever satisfies (1) and (3) also satisfies (2) and (4).

Unless someone greatly disagrees, i will edit this wiki soon to reflect this.

Russell is a tough nut to crack, he actually had elements of both Fregeanism and Millianism in his view. In fact, Direct reference is often called the "Russell-Mill" view, and the mediated reference view is often called the "Frege-Russell" view. This comes from Russell's stance of logically proper names (which are few and far between) being a direct reference view, while the view on ordinary proper names was a mediated view. I've tried to make it clearer. Also, I don't think anyone (Mill or Russell) had it that "The president of the United States" was directly referential. 07:07, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
Mill had two basic concepts: connotation and denotation. Connotation is very close to Fregean Sinn

(or sense). It did not apply to proper names, indexicals, demonstratives and so on. These possesed only a denotation or extension (which is not quite the same as intended reference in the sense that is used by Kripke et al). For Russell, proper names (but not indexicals which he called "logically proper nmes") are abbreviated definite descriptions. Definite desciptions are in turn anaylzed away into the famous quantification formulas. They are "denoting phrases" (there is an onject X that satsifes the desciption) , but they do not have the objects they refer to as constituents of the propositions in which they are embedded. So Russell was certainly a descriptivist. I'll get to Frege, Kripke, etc.. tommorow. There are a lot of subtleties here. Kripe refers to his position as Millianism. It is fair to say that Mill was a direct referentialist about proper names, as an approximation. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 17:26, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

Major cleanup[edit]

I've transferred much of the material from the meaning section into its own article, since it was hogging the majority of this one. A more general cleanup will be required in the future as well. Lucidish 22:33, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

speech-act philosophy[edit]

Should this redirect here?--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 21:07, 4 March 2006 (UTC)

It might do well to redirect it to more focused articles on Pragmatics, or speech acts, etc. But I'm not sure why it needs a redirect at all, since the page doesn't exist as of this writing. Lucidish 21:48, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
It's linked from Habermas article. I recently wikified it, and I am wondering if some red links can be piped.--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 01:11, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
It might be better to just modify the Habermas article. I'll do it.Lucidish 01:40, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
Well, I believe in creation of redirects. There are over 500 sites that use the term "speech-act philosophy", and we should have either a redirect or an article on that subject.--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 02:02, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
Sure, whatever you think is best, there's no harm in it. Lucidish 03:11, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
It should redirect to "Speech-Act Theory" which, if it doesn't exist, should, and should be linked from here. Yesterdog 06:07, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

Such a damned huge topic[edit]

This is another one of those topics that are so enormous that you end up tryting to mention everythign without saying anything susbtantive about the things you mentioned. In the first place, I'm going to just discuss analytic philosophy because it's what I know best and because analtyic philosophy of langauge is bacially an infiniyte topic in itself. First suggestion: Don't mind all the critisms and countercriticisms about leaving out this or that. Oh, it is EAAAAAAAAAAAASY to criticize. Why don't YOU whiners fix the inadequacies wrt to semiotics, hermeneutics and so on. You can't or don't want to. Then FO. These things are important, but focus first on getting the fundamentals right: Mill, Frege, Russell, Carnap, Tarski, Montague, Davidson, Grice, Strawson, Wittgenststein, Kripke, Kaplan, Lewis, etc,....

Anyway, 1) the theory of meaning section doesnìt even mention Davidson, Montague, and other grounbrouking semanticists. It doesnìt mention possible-worlds semantics, and several other imprtant schools. 2) In the history section, there should be some more on the medievals (connotation and denotation came from there). Occam and so on. I can find some material for you on that, if you'd like. 3) The overveiw seems a bit personal essayish. I would just start right in with the History. 4) If you are intersted in Good article ot antyhign like that, in-line citations!! If not, don't worry about this. A couple of other thing I would do differently. But I'd prefer that you write the article and I just make some revisions and suggestions in this case. I feel like I'm stepping in someone else's turf.--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 15:23, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

First I should point out that the theory of meaning section has to be short, mostly because most of its material has been offloaded to Meaning (linguistic). You'll find at that site more mentions of possible worlds semantics and Davidson and so on. I'm paralyzed with concern about not being able to identify those theorists who are worthy (and those unworthy) of brief mention as a section in this wiki (PoL). Maybe it would be easier to focus on one or two paragraphs on each big tradition for the purposes of this article, and then focus more on names in the Meaning (linguistic) article.
Any help you can give is appreciated, including on medeivals. It hasn't been entirely neglected; I recall mentioning some of the work of Peter Abelard in one of these articles. Perhaps it was offloaded, too.
Can you say more about the fundamentals? I've studied Frege, Russell, a bit of Tarski, Grice, Strawson, Donnellan, and some of Kripke, but I haven't got enough experience with the others and I would be writing blind if I tried to. First, though, have we missed anything important, or gotten important things wrong, concerning the theorists mentioned right now?
I'd like to focus on content first, then move on to citation stuff. But that's my personal preference in a heirarchy of worries. Lucidish { Ben S. Nelson } 15:45, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
I've added some important historcal stuff on the Stoics and the Scholastics. Then, I played around with expanding the meaning section just a bit to get some improtane names in there. I threw up a few photos. Never hurts on Wikipedia. I'm a bit depressed and tired today though. So, not much. Of coirse, you folks haven't even woken up yet probably. Something needs to be added in "ordinary langauge philosophy", pragmatcis and that sort of thing. But I still don't know where to put it. Perhaps a section also on heermeneutics might help balance things a bit? It's not my thing, but I have some books on semiotics, Umberto Eco and that sort of stuff. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 14:37, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
Anything on hermeneutics and social applications would be stellar. I have a book by Hans-Georg Gadamer, but in all my studies so far I've read nothing but primary sources, and I get the feeling that their inscrutability robs me of an understanding of their points. Secondary sources ahoy.
I have the feeling that the "mind" section is a bit weak, too, as it's currently just a mishmash list. I'll try to concentrate on those later tonight. I wouldn't worry too much about the core meaning stuff / pragmatics on this wiki, because they're dealt with in the Meaning (linguistic) article somewhat extensively. My only worries with respect to the nature of meaning is that I've flubbed something at the M(l) article. Thanks again for your insight and scholarship. Lucidish { Ben S. Nelson } 00:15, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
LOL!! You're absolutely right about primary sources such as Gadamer. I'll see if I can add a useful, generic summary of some of the "continental" ideas later on then. I'll also add some references for those sections that I added to and see if I can come up with other ideas/suggestions. And your welcome for the help. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 07:55, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

Berkeley and idea theories[edit]

Three things. First, although bringing up Berkeley is an interesting idea, I don't think that "idea theories" are entirely what he had in mind. Both he and Hume were quite skeptical of Locke's claims about "abstract ideas", which means that they would have to endorse very different models of meaning. Berkeley would have appealed to a theory of meaning which dealt with both natural and non-natural signs, because of his "Visual language" argument, i.e., the idea that our senses interpret the God-given meanings behind the world (in order to protect ourselves from peril) just as we interpret artificial meanings from words.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it does not seem correct to intimate that these theories are rare today. I am especially thinking of internalistic varieties of conceptual role semantics, here. Lucidish { Ben S. Nelson } 02:10, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

That's fine about Berkeley and Hume. I'm not god. I make errors. Just cut them. When I think of conceptual role semantics, I think of inferential role (which has to with judgements and "assertions" and the noramtive role that these events play in the giving and asksingfor reasons. But it's no big deal. I would suggest conceptual role needs a separate treatment though. Very different and very important in modern disucssions- --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 07:37, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
Everything and anything I know about CRS I learned from the Ned Block article. So, only skin deep. It's too bad that my intro courses didn't cover some of these fundamental areas in philosophy of language; I've had to scrounge details independently. One ends up feeling like an explorer who discovers a new continent, but is afterwards obliged to keep the company of archaeologists who busy themselves with dissection of a small parcel of land.
I can supply more strict references, since most of my sources have been primaries. For now I'll go through the wiki and slap a "citation needed" on the big facts, in order to return to them later.
Incidentally, how much do you know about Lewis and Carnap? And, for that matter, Michael Dummett? Even Meaning(ling) doesn't have (much) stuff on them, which is likely an oversight. Lucidish { Ben S. Nelson } 23:43, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
Micheal Dummett, interstingly enough, is etxremely well-known and studied over here. Two of his students, Eva Picardi and Carlo Penco, are promiment and influcntial philsophers of langauge over here. So I think I actually know a rather good deal about his views. His ideas on meaning are fairly complex and itìs difficult to pin him down to some simple categories. Basically, he rejects truth-conditional semantics becasue it begs the question of which system of logical system we are using: two-valued classical logical, untuitionistic logic, etc.. He is an anti-realist, in ither words, and verificationist/pragmatist about meaning. But, it's rather complex. Carnap's imprortance bascially comes from his article on "meaning and Necessity". This is where he introduced the currently accpeted definition of intentions as functions from possible worlds to truth values and defined possible worlds as "counteractual states of affairs" (or something similar). Carnap suggested that there we contruct conceptual shemes and that there were two sorts of questions that could legitimately be asked with regard to these schemes: internal and extrernal questions. External questions were simply convential questions about the language (conceptual scheme) we choose to use. Hence, the only kinds of questions allowed were context-dependent question. You cannot ask " does onject X exist" but only "does object x belong to the domain of discourse of the langauge of physics or set theory (or whatever)". External statemtents, since they are purel linguistic, are neccesasry (defined as true in all possible worlds) and so on. Quine's attack on analytic/synthetic distcintion was, in turn, a reponse to this important article by Carnap. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 08:11, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Some comments[edit]

This is coming on well. I think the history section is roughly right in terms of coverage and balance. Some comments.

" Just about all of the most interesting problems of modern philosophy of language were anticipated by medieval thinkers." Probably right, but I would struggle for a citation.

  • This may be a bit exaggerated. As you know, I'm not an expert on the medievals. The point was expressed by Diego Marconi (much more knowlegable than I am on the matter) in the Enciclopedia Garzantine. In any case, it could easily be toned down to "many".--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 09:38, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

"One of the major developments of the scholastics in this area was the doctrine of the suppositio." Suggest you refer to Brian's article on Supposition theory which is reasonably accurate. It has the (in my view better) definition " Supposition was a semantic relation between a term and what it is being used to talk about." The conventional distinction was between material supposition (referring to the word), formal and personal. Note there seems to be a conflict between the article I wrote with Sara Uckelmann William of Sherwood which refers to formal supposition, and Brian's one which talks about 'simple'. I have some reference material at home I can dig out. The problem is that different medieval writers were not consistent with their terminology.

I did take a look at Brian's article. It didn't seem to contrats sharply with the reference I was using. the general definition seems better. But, to put it simply, I was attarcted by the idea that the mediavles had antipicated the use-mention distiniton as well as language and meta-langauge (some of the big boasts of modern philosophy). I'll see how I can modify it.--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 09:38, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
I could get some references. The question of how far medieval logic overlaps modern philosophy of language (including the question of whether all the important questions can be resolved by attention to philosophy of language, as Ockham argues, is interesting). Problem is, this article is getting a bit large. Dbuckner 09:51, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

I wonder if the final part of the history section needs expanding just a little?


The idea that Abelard had a theory of 'reference' (or that any medieval philosopher did) has recently been disputed (by Catarina Dutilh-Novaes). The citation you provide to King is fine, but be aware of potential minefields (when this sort of thing happens I think best to create separate subarticle, but that's not going to happen yet).

Hmm... that's potential POV territory perhaps. Could be easily removed or modified.

On the citation for Frege indicating that senses are universal and that they can be grasped by anyone. [citation needed]" I can help with that. Probably the most widely quoted is his letter to Jourdain. See e.g.

Ok, that's fine.

" Now if the sense of a name was something subjective, then the sense of the proposition in which the name occurs, and hence the thought, would also be something subjective, and the thought one man connects with this proposition would be different from the thought another man connects with it; a common store of thoughts, a common science would be impossible. It would be impossible for something one man said to contradict what another man said, because the two would not express the same thought at all, but each his own.

For these reasons I believe that the sense of a name is not something subjective [crossed out: in one's mental life], that it does not therefore belong to psychology, and that it is indispensable."

Note he does not use the word 'universal' but 'common'. I don't think he ever used the word 'universal' (or the German word that would correspond to that!!). Dbuckner 08:55, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

Universal always pops in my mind in relation to non-subjective, but it does not in fact follow. If he write common that is, indeed, a different matter.

Perhaps "Philosophy of language is the branch of philosophy that studies language." A bit lame for an opening sentence? Philosophy of history is the branch of philosophy that studies history &c. Why not compress the first two sentences. Dbuckner 09:16, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

Can be done. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 09:38, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

The following page [1] by Nolan and Read has an excellent overview of what POL is. Dbuckner 09:22, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

Oh, I have a lot of resources. That's not a problem, by any means. the question with an article like this is what to keep out and not what to put in. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 10:47, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
I've addressed most of those concerns. I'll take a look at that other link later. Also, Dummett's book on the origins contains some intersting dicussion of Frege versus Hussurl on meaning and so on. Might Help to give some idea of the relation between continental views and analytic views. Right now, I won't do much more. It's actually my birhtday and my niece isnists in palyaing mt the mouse.--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 10:20, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
Many happy returns! Dbuckner 11:17, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

Couple of suggestions for lucidish[edit]

Semantic trees, eh? I don't think I know anything about this. Please expand on it a bit. This would be helpful to both me and the average reader. It also would make it stand out less as a one-sentence paragraph, IMO. The same applies mutatis mutandis for that one-sentence para at the end of the section on meaning. Needs another sentence or two. --[[User:Lacatosias|Francesco --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 15:57, 13 September 2006 (UTC)Franco aka Lacatosias]] 16:29, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Not a problem. I'll make a diagram and post it when I have some free time / not exhausted / on the way to bed. That should give one an idea. I'm actually surprised there's no article on semantic trees yet. Incidentally, many of my research points (including this one) come from the Stainton resource. A copy of the work can be found online if you're interested and have access.
The difference between semantic and syntactic trees is actually another potentially interesting subject in the philosophy of language. Chomsky believes that the syntactic trees are powerful enough to treat of semantic issues, but by contrast the logician-types prefer another way of analyzing everything. The latter is inspired no doubt by the Russellian argument that certain parts of a sentence are not necessarily of any significance on their own, like the word "the" alone, which is just a fragment.
I'm tempted to add stuff on the logical interpretation of particular linguistic phenomena. Daniel Bonevac wrote my logic text, which is both (relatively) easy to read and also gives delightful insight into the logical interpretation of language (if and when that is possible), going into the importance of the scope of quantifiers, transitivity, intersectivity, and that kind of thing. I'm also tempted to add stuff on grammatical moods. But I'm wondering whether or not this would be any good, I don't want the wiki to burst at the seams. Lucidish { Ben S. Nelson } 04:15, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Oh, and also, have you had a peek at Meaning (linguistic)? Lucidish { Ben S. Nelson } 04:17, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
no, don't put the bulk of it in here. It's already strating to get large. I'm somewhat familiar with Chomskys syntactuc trees, but I think this is the first time I've come across the term "sementic trees". Anyway, a diagram and an addition one or two sentences would be nice. Save the bulk for the semantic tree article, which obviously needs to be written at some point. The same applies to other topics: indexicals, anaphora, wholism vs. atomism, qunatification, etc... the subject is infinite, as I said above. If you can find a way to breifly summarize the points, there is still some room in there. But it's easy to get carried away. You do have one big advantage though. Just remeber: summary and link, summary and link. I don't think this is always necessary, but in overveiw articles like this one, it

is extremely wise counsel. Havenìt had time or opposrutnity to look over the meaning article yet. I will take a look at it and see if I can help out eventually. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 06:52, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the quotes! Hope you're feeling better. Lucidish { Ben S. Nelson } 15:34, 13 September 2006 (UTC)
Sure. I was just looking through my bookshelves and

ran into some old anthologies of the classics that I had kept over from undergraduate days and almost forgotten about. I'm doing a bit better, thanks. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 15:57, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

Damn, there attacking this one too!![edit]

It's hopeless. These nuts (sorry for my incivility) and boneheads ara attacking everything that is linked from the Putnam article. Protect everything!!--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 09:32, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Who are? What's going on? Sorry, I just woke up. Everything's always on red alert at Wikipedia, it seems... Lucidish { Ben S. Nelson } 15:30, 7 September 2006 (UTC)
The brunt of it has passed now, it seems. When I got up this morning, a bunch of vandals and other ___ types were page-moving articles and vandalizing everything linked from Hilary Putnam, which is on today's main page. It got pretty nasty: a couple of outright bans, constant reversion.... They need to protect at least the damned main page of the article, but some of the amins actually think this is helful!!--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 16:13, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Good Article nomination[edit]

Very comprehensive, meets criteria. I suggest a peer review, this could become FA. Tinyboy21 19:45, 25 November 2006 (UTC)

GA status[edit]

Notice the GA status and recommendation to do Peer Review, etc.. Here are some general suggestions before trying to bring this to FA: the lead section obviously needs to be expanded and rewritten so as to encapsuate the article as a whole. Get rid of question mark. Interrogatives are puzzling and should rarely be used in an encylcopedia article. Too many interrogatives, espcially at the beginning and in the overview. There are some weasel words which need to be revised out. Is the overview section really needed? It has no refs and seems more like a sort of lecture notes style. Might need some copyediting. That's about it. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 11:30, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

OK, I got rid of the questions, dumped the final vestiges of Larry Sanger's lecture notes in the "overview" section (*sob!*), integrated links into the narrative, etc. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 20:16, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Branch of Analytic or Philosophy in general[edit]

The opening of the article stated that the "Philosophy of Language" was a branch of Analytic Philosophy. Someone has removed this and just declared it as a branch of philosophy in general. The problem however, is that such a branch of philosophy only exists in Analytic Philosophy. There is no branch called "Philosophy of Langauage" in Eastern Philosophy, nor in Continental nor, historically, in Greek. Declaring it to be merely a branch of philosophy in general is misleading.

Now, even if it is the case that some of the themes of phil of language may share something with some of the themes of Continental philosophy, it cannot be subsumed under such an umbrella. In the end, since a separate philosophical discipline, called "philosophy of language" is rejected by Continental philosophy, it is misleading to suggest it pertains, at the moment, to anything other than, that western philosophy which is not Continental, ie, Analytic.

Aside from this major point, it is also clear that the article is well within the Analytic Tradition, which includes, Plato, Aristotle, medievals, all the way to Kant, after which it parts ways with Continental.


The article contains both. See the section on social interaction and interpretation: it discusses hermeneutics and Hans-Georg Gadamer, which are very much within the Continental rubric. Edit: Lac mentioned Umberto Eco earlier, undoubtedly with the semioticians in mind; and though you are correct that they don't play much a role in this article, it would be mistaken to say that they are either unconcerned with philosophy of language or that they are not continental. Thus, the "analytic only" sort of treatment is what is misleading and POV.
Also, the declaration that Plato, Aristotle, etc. are within the analytic tradition is deeply arguable. IIRC, the Continental/analytic divide is only used to speak of post-Kantian philosophy. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 23:19, 3 December 2006 (UTC)
If you take a look at other Encyclopedias that deal with these things (even so-called Continental philosophy encyclopedias, whatever the hell that means), you will note that they all have extensive articles on, say, things like Leibniz' philosophy of mind, Philosophy of Mind in the Akan tradition of sub-Saharan Africa, and so on and so forth, Philosophy of Language in the semiotic tradition, Gadamerian philosophy of language, etc..

I have here, for example, the Italian (i.e. Continental) Enciclopedia Garzantina della Filosofia edited by, among others, the postmodernist Gianni Vattimo. which begins thus:

Philosophy of language is any set of philosophical doctrines in which human language is the object of study or, more generally, communicative systems developed by man.

The article starts out from Democritus, continues through the medievals, touches on Port Royale, empiricism, etc.., and then the bulk of the rest is dedicated to Frege, Russell, Carnap, Quine, Montague, Grice, Kripke, Putnam, Davdison, Dummett, Evans etc.. In sum, its pretty thoroughly slanted toward the so-called analytics!! (Personally, I hate all these nonsensical distinctions and find them outdated). The point is they don't seem to make any big deal about the BRANCH thing. The real problem with your insistence on emphasizing analytic in the intro is simply that this is Wikipedia, for god's sake. Even if it is not a branch of continental-style philosophy, it will appear to a huge number of non-philosophically educated readers (the overwhelming majority) that you have simply excluded the Asian, African, continental, semiotic, or what have you, tradition right at the outset.

Let me give you some context: When I wrote the FA philosophy of mind article, for example, I got slammed by people insisting the POM started in Asia, that all of the analytic theories had already been formulated ten thousand years ago by such and such Persian philosophers, that continental PHILOPHY OF MIND needed to be discussed much more extensively, etc,. etc.. So, while this is not that big a deal, I tend to side with Lucidish and say "better leave it as broad as possible" or it will be interpreted as POV by the usual folks who interpret EVERYTHING as POV. But, the more I think about this, the more trivial it seems. Do whatever you like, it will almost certainly eventually be changed anyway.--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 10:30, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

thanks for all you comments above. Let me say firstly that I do not have any problem with the page including a summary of what the "Philosophers of Language" (POL) read as the issues raised in continental or eastern philosophy with respect to language or even logic (Gadamer, Eco etc.). The more the better.
And this seems to be the thing most pundits above think proves that the POL is most general by including all philosophies under its umberella. However, this does not make it a branch of philosophy in general (PinG).
And, perhaps, this is a nice ideal, for POL. However, it misapproriates the term PinG. In fact it is only one half of PinG, Analytic Philosophy, that considers it a branch. It is not a branch in contemporary non-Analytic philosophy and so should not be called such even if it contained every mention of "language" from every text of philosophy.
As to this being wikipedia and that calling it a "branch of philosophy" makes surfing easier, all I have to say is, in what sense easier. How can it make something easier if it is incorrect, surely that only wastes time as someone is mislead down a cul-de-sac. In any case, I'm not suggesting changing the name of the article, instead just leaving a word in the first paragraph, "analytic" to check such a mistake.
The purpose of this article has been to identify a topic, not a single tradition. Moreover, as Lac noted, it is in line with the naming conventions. Since both hold true, there is no error in stating it is a branch of philosophy.
In any case, if this state of affairs isn't satisfying to you, then by all means, you may create a separate wiki. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 00:40, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
The purpose of the article is to explain "Phil of Language". And as suggested above, the kind or type or tradition to which the phil of language belongs, is an important part of the overview about it. It is quite silly in my opinion to say that the "philosophy of language is philosophy" but is no doubt in the manner of tautology which you appear to like. Nor is removing the word "analytic", is inline with any naming conventions I'm aware of.
It is not the name of the article I take issue with, but the empty tradition to which it is said to belong. That the "phil of lang" is a separate branch or discipline only in Analytic philosophy, means that it is appropriate to say "Analytic philosophy," and avoid tautology it otherwise implies by the term branch being taken to mean a branch anywhere in any philosophy.
Please read Lac's post again. There is a convention used in Continental texts. This indicates it is a topic, not a subdiscipline. Your opinion runs counter to evidence.
If you think the redundancy is silly to read, we may remove the word "philosophy" entirely from the first paragraph. I don't really care as far as that goes. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 01:17, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I read Lac's post again. The convention Lac refers to is talking of the "Phil of lang". as I repeated above I have no problem with the title of the article or the topic itself. I have a problem with trying to situate "phil of lang".
Even if you remove the word philosophy from the first paragraph except of course form the expression "phil of lang", it is still a good idea to orientate the topic by giving its associations and groupings. Being too familiar with the topic might leave you thinking this unecessary, but otherwise it'd be like describing Nirvana without referring to Buddha or Buddism.
I see. Would it be better if we wrote something like, "The philosophy of language is the reasoned inquiry into certain fundamental aspects of language", and then mention a few of the keywords associated with core traditions (i.e., semiotics, hermeneutics, ordinary language tradition, foundations of analytic philosophy, contemporary linguistics, etc)? { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 20:07, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Well that might be fine for an intro. As an attempt at philosophy it would be good to indicate that, it is only accepted as a separate area by Analytic philosophy and that the article is written mainly from within that.

Most of the article flows from Analytic, and would not appear in some kind of history of philosophy and language in the continental tradition, or at least the main players in the present article, Frege, Russell, Davidson, etc. would not appear. Though Austin, Ryle, Wittgenstein might. Saussure, Dilthey, Husserl, Heidegger amd Derrida would probably feature as the main part of such a hypothetical article.

The subsection called strangely, "Social Interaction and language" (as if the rest of the article were about a-social language, whatever that might be!) tries to give the article some totality includes a few Continental names and a mention of Hermeneutics as if it all were Literary Theory. This is only some effort to catalogue 'that other philosophy' from an Analytic point of view.


Nothing about "asocial language" is implied by emphasizing the aspects of social interaction in language. And anyway there are a number of very deep-rooted and principled treatments of language which de-emphasize the social component, and they are recognized on the page. I take examples of this to include Chomsky's emphasis on I-language, the notion of "idiolects" as an object of analysis, and the logical-systematic approaches.
Searle might appear, because he got in a spat with Derrida which led to the latter's "Limited, Inc." Anyway, of course they would not likely appear much in Continental texts, but that's fine, since we're talking about a topic, not a tradition.
If you want to add more on continental thought, and find the current summary inadequate, you are welcome to. If it seems as though it is a portrayal of Continentals by Analytics, it is because that's what it is. But that's not for any reason involving deep disciplinary boundaries which stretch down deep into the philosophy of language; it's because neither myself nor Franco are especially enamoured with Continental thought, and IIRC we were the main contributors to that section. But I hope that neither of us were unfair, and certainly if the material can be improved then that's all to the good. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 19:51, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Ok, well let us leave aside the idea of "language as asocial", this seems like an oxymoran to me.
Yes Searle might appear. You say that it is fine because we are talking of a topic not a tradition. The topic as given "phil of lang", I contend is mainly a topic for Analytic but that as much work about language is also apparent in the other tradition. The topic is not tradition neutral as you admit. I would say 90% of it, but mainly the discipline itself is from only one tradition.
The opening says, "as a discipline" it has five areas. This is completely Analytic. I suggest saying immediately that it is only an Analytic philosophy discipline. I would further suggest that in the opening we say how the other contemporary tradition, Continental, covers this topic, ie, not as a discipline but as a part of philosophy in general, or something like that.
This is what I'd like to add about Continental, but I would refrain from trying to summarise in this section on "language as social," what Continental says about language. (By the way, does only Continental consider language as social? Still seems odd to put continental alone under that section title).
It cant be separated out so easily as a discipline in Continental because with its historical approach it is seen as embedded and mixed too deeply in all of the traditional branches of philosophy: Logic, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, and Aesthetics.
Asocial approaches to language seem like an oxymorons to me as well, but that doesn't change the facts about how people have approached the subject. And of course it isn't merely the Continental folks who think that language is social; but nothing like that has been implied, so I'm curious as to where one might ground that inference. I mean, it is clear that not all interests in metasemantics, literary theory, and rhetoric are "Continental". I wouldn't put lit theorist Fred Crews in the continental camp, for instance.
You're quite right that introductory mention of "discipline" was a slip of the pen. I'll change it. Can also mention the two traditions up front. Probably the best place would be the History section, because in there, more than a merely passing reference can be made.
Embeddedness with other topics is not unique to Continental thought. I mean, ontological realism in semantics might be considered one of the foundational projects of the analytic tradition. The debate over cognitivism and noncognitivism is both ethical and semantic. Chomskyian approaches to semantics are beholden to an obvious cluster of anthropological positions. Etc. Where the "Continental" types infuse social philosophy, the "Analytic" types infuse logic. But the relevance of this escapes me.
Edit: I mean, Google Scholar gives about 2000 hits for a search for "Derrida" and "philosophy of language" together. But are these just analytic voyeurs who are peeking in at Continental philosophy? I have a hard time getting my mind around that, on conceptual grounds, since I understand a tradition to be a matter of "who reads who, who reacts to who". IE: if you write about a Continental thinker in some depth, for example as an introduction to a collection of essays by Derrida, then you are, for the purposes of that peice, writing in the Continental tradition. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 01:07, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Well this asocial thing, only reason I mentioned it was because under the section in the article on "Social and language" all the Continental stuff appears and no Analytic appears. Just seems like an odd subsection heading. Nor do I think the continental infus social where Analytics infuse logic. Instead I might say that how languages change and how new words and meanings appear or are sedimented is of concern to Continental. Whereas in Analytic it seems to be more about trying to fix a meaning, or logic or taxonomy of language (Russell, Kripke, Wittgenstein mark I,etc.) and within Analytic arguments how this might fail (Wittgenstein mark II, Quine).

When I say "up front", I mean before getting into that stuff specific to Analytic. Already in the first paragraph it needs to be mentioned and separated from this Analytic division into 5 areas.

I agree Analytic also has many connections from "phil of lang" to other areas. I suppose what I try to say is that in Continental it is not a separate discipline and appears more in the context of Ethics or Metaphysics than as something in its own right. And so the topic name "phil of lang" has been used in continental, Structuralism might be something in Continental that might talk of "phil of lang". As to Logic, it is viewed mainly as Logos, or "rational discussion" rather than as formal or symbolic logic, so you might say that Logic is where "phil of lang" is in Continental.

Yes I saw that search, 2,000 results mostly, it seems, from an Anglophone perspective. Perhaps Analytic or Lit Crit. Nowadays, perhaps it is hard to do "phil of lang" even in the U.S., without looking at Derrida.


Of course, an article is only as good as the experience of those who write it. So if analytic philosophers of the social aspect of language have been missed, it should be understood as a result of the relevant editors staying quiet about the things to which we are ignorant, and not because we presume that the material is nonexistent. If you have suggestions on what to include, they would be welcome. There are names that come to mind -- Alvin Goldman is one, perhaps David Lewis's original work on conventions may be another, perhaps the "public language" theorists (Wittgenstein 2 & Davidson) are others -- but I won't pretend to be able to do much more than point my finger vaguely in this or that direction (esp. since I no longer have access to scholarly databases, and so, do not have any convienient means to go beyond my bookshelf).
Structuralism and poststructuralism, certainly, seem to be areas that continental thinkers are attracted to. Also semiotics (though for the life of me I don't understand why that's regarded as "continental") and hermeneutics (of course). But in all my readings -- admittedly, sparse readings -- the issues that come up, time and again, are social, historical, political, aesthetic. Perhaps in the technical work the emphasis is less?
I don't at all understand why a continental thinker would resist a 4-fold classification which basically just says that "Language overlaps with the study into the origins of mind, society, ontology, and meaning." When Derrida or Barthes or a random drunken grad student says that "There is nothing outside the text", then they're ostensibly making an ontological comment. When Mr. so-and-so insists that certain language use is oppressive, paternalistic, or totalitarian, then that's societal. When a Foucaultian insists that our minds can't escape the knowledge and meaning systems of our epoch, then that's both societal and mental. And the term "meaning" has always been up for grabs. So really the only thing that absolutely smacks of analyticity (as far as I can tell) is the issue of compositionality. I also don't understand why an analytic philosopher would tend to be uninterested in novel utterances in some sense or other; sure, they do tend to like to build their systems, but the evidence base is what it is. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 03:48, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes I agree the article is the result of the quality of the editors and most have been Analytic or something like that. What I am trying to do, I hope, is improve it so it takes into account a broader Analytic account and the non-Analytic, Continental, side.
As to leaving out the social side, that is an issue related perhaps to that section on the social side of language. Though, as far as I know Analytics also sees language as social and Continentals do not see it as any more social than an Analytic. Since in a way the foundation of Analytic is a return of philosophy away from abstract idealism toward some kind of social, common-sense way of talking about the big questions.
As to (post)Structuralism this is one aspect of Continental. Then there are all the others, there is no easy way of summarising it here and as I said before it does not fit well into a branch or topic called "philosophy of language".
The four divisions given in the opening just do not reflect the way Continentals go about language/logic. The four given are: origins of mind, society, ontology, and meaning. Now the first question is why pick these four? For a continental they might appear arbitrarily chosen. I dont say they are not the four main areas for Analytic, but the breaking of it up into four areas is of course typical of Analytic, analysis is after all the "loosening up" of a problem into parts. The synthetic aspect of philosophy is what gets left out.
Even look at the words: mind, society, meaning, each of these is contested or problematised in Continental before you can even start talking about them as though they were the givens of language. Mind on the continental is fused with the idea of Spirit and, in Hegel, with history. Society is for others not a group of (atomic) individuals but something that is seen more in terms of plural/singular. Note the shared etymology of atom and individual.
When Derrida says that "there is nothing outside of the [con]text" he is making a statement that is not so much ontological as trying to break the link with the simple Enlightenment idea that words connect directly to a certain meaning or concept. For Derrida, a word's meaning is inextricable from the context in which it appears. Nor does he think you can simply separate a word's meaning from its reference (as Frege might).
If someone suggests, for example, that the idea of the word "autonomy", "ego" etc. comes from an ideology that denies or is in contradiction to how individuals and their ideas are also inherited from their society. This has to do with answering questions like how, for example, stoicism is a philosophy of a certain time and society, and Cartesian ego is of another time. This is often concrete (eg, political rather than societal), ultimately it is Hegelian and historical.
As to Foucault his idea is not only that our words dont escape the systems of politics of our time but also how this might empower the individual.
As to "compositionality", it just sounds foreign to talk of composing language as in isolation to the effects of history, power and ideas. The huge number of neologisms in Continental is also relevant here, this is how some attempt to escape using terms that they consider to be already too heavily invested in a traditional philosophy with which they disagree strongly.
The change I'd propose would be something like this:
As a topic, the philosophy of language for Analytic Philosophers is concerned with four central problems: the nature of meaning, language use, language cognition, and the relationship between language and reality. For Continental philosophers, however, the philosophy of language tends to be dealt with not as a separate topic but as a part of Logic, History or Politics. (see "Language and Continental Philosophy " below).
It remains quite mysterious to me how relatively generic concepts like mind, society, meaning, and so on are inapplicable points of departure for any of the Continental narratives you just laid out. Here we have these topics; they connect the dots between these topics, fuse them together, demand that we cannot understand the one without the other, and so on; yet that involves the discussion of those topics, so that we go on to reveal their true nature.
But whatever. If you want to add a special section on Continental thought, then feel free. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 04:30, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Being myself the curious animal called "continental philosopher", I would support Lucas´ proposal. In a broader sense, "Philosophy of language" means a philosophical (sub)discipline, represented by people like Plato, the Stoics, Ockham, Herder, Humboldt etc., in a narrower sense a certain school, a historical phenomenon in the history of philosophy, running from Frege via Wittgenstein to Rorty etc. --Sokoljan (talk) 00:43, 21 December 2008 (UTC)

Language and Continental Philosophy[edit]

Hi, I am just a wanderer on this page, but I have some comments that you might find helpful. - I am not in general enthusiastic about calling the English philosophical tradition "analytic" and coupling the French tradition an the German tradition on the "continent" ... but it seems to me it is, in the case of philosophy of language, especially confusing or even useless. I guess the defining aspect of English tradition is indeed its dedication to a very formal analysis - so I have no objection to calling it "analytic" - but I guess it is encyclopedic to introduce some distinctions also "in the rest of the world". The French tradition of philosophy of language is very loyal to structuralism and linguistics (with elements of Russian formalism etc. etc.). The German tradition is, quite on the contrary, devoted to the Greek philosopy, the whole "logos" thing, and this tradition is actually the only one mentioned.

So, if this article only deals with philosophy of language in the English tradition, it is perfectly ok to have a section called "the rest of the world" or "continent" or whatever. But it is good to introduce a distinction between the German tradition (explained briefly in the article), the French tradition (missing almost entirely), and perhaps add discussion of influences. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Golioder (talkcontribs) 13:24, 15 February 2007 (UTC).

It would be a mistake to think that this page is only for the analytic tradition, or that the analytic/continental divide is drawn parallel to nationalities (by the mainstream editors, anyway). If there is a relative paucity of information on German and French ideas, more material that delves into such subjects is both welcome and appreciated. I don't know enough about semiotics, structuralism, or post-structuralism to even begin to write anything that wouldn't drop the article quality down a few pegs. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 22:43, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
Don't forget the Italian tradition, then, you racist ***!! (; ...just kidding. Seriously, I have never formally studied semiotics (which is fairly big over here, given the influence of Eco), but I do have a few books lying around like "Manuale di Semiotica" and some stuff written by Eco in various places. I suppose this would be worth adding at some point. The difficulty is to figure out how to integrate this stuff into the present article, without making a hash. The article is pretty solid and and substantive as it is. It may be better just to write two sentences and link to semitiocs, etc..--Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 09:05, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
It'll be a hash no matter what. Still, you're right, it would be more appropriate to go into (modest) detail about these things at Meaning (linguistic). { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 23:19, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
No, the awkward thing about semiotics, in particular, is that it encompasses a much broader phenomenon than simple language. It tries to deal with all systems of signs, signaling and no-verbal communication and transmission/reception of data, as well as natural and artificial human languages. Secondly, there is the distinction between semiotics in the "empirical, linguistic tradition" (Hjelmslev, etc,) and "philosophical" semiotics (Pierce, Eco, and so on). There is already is a whole series of articles on these topics, and sub-topics, somewhere under the general top-level semiotics article. Here I could add two or three sentences on the relationship between it and the philosophy of language as discussed in the rest of the article. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 09:13, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
True, Wikipedia articles are always a hash. Probably by definition. But I will smoke no hash, for all that...just makes me sick to my stomach because of allergies. (. Or maybe I'm just gettin' too old for that shit. --Francesco Franco aka Lacatosias 10:02, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
Aha, right -- semiotics goes beyond language, dealing with non-natural signs. I should've known that. I guess I was thinking of the point of overlap (linguistic semiotics). There is, of course, a Semiotics section on the Meaning (linguistic) page, but it seemed a bit superficial the last time I read it. The thing that really intruiges me is the fundamental characterization of 'what a language is': i.e., whether it is necessarily a rule-governed system which manipulates signs in order to produce propositions, or whether it is only necessarily a set of arbitrary symbols which attach to something significant. Crudely, this seems to be characterizable along the semantics/linguistic-semiotics divide. I'd really like to find out whether or not anything like this characterization has been remarked in the literature. { Ben S. Nelson } Lucidish 22:53, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

Early Modern period[edit]

In the Philosophy of language#Early Modern period, there is a problematic statement: "Language began to play a central role in Western philosophy in the late 19th century, especially with Port Royal in France..." The Logic of Port-Royal was first published in 1662, whereas in the 19th century there was no Port-Royal at all. --Sokoljan (talk) 00:57, 21 December 2008 (UTC) I suggest this whole section be completely started over. Apart from the Port Royale and other mistakes, important developments (Locke, Leibniz, Condillac!) are not even mentioned - and the Early Modern period is usually taken to go roughly up to Kant. Kierkegaard is not early modern. Wadh27NK (talk) 10:38, 29 February 2012 (UTC)


Wouldn't it be better to put the modern period in a more chronological order? In particular, I would suggest that the sections on Wittgenstein be expanded. He's generally rated as one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, after all. Wikidea 12:53, 2 January 2009 (UTC)


That editors who contribute to and watch this article check out this Article for Deletion nomination and comment. Thanks, Slrubenstein | Talk 19:31, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

Syntactic tree[edit]

Which syntactic approach is it that would first analyse "James Brown is crooning" as the three constituents [NP James Brown] [Aux is] [VP crooning]? In those that I know, "is crooning" is a constituent; depending on the theoretical presuppositions, AuxP, VP or perhaps something else. (Incidentally "James Brown" may be DP rather than NP; this again depends on the theory applied.) -- Hoary (talk) 03:45, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

GA Reassessment[edit]

This discussion is transcluded from Talk:Philosophy of language/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the reassessment.

s part of Wikipedia:WikiProject Good articles' Project quality task force, all old good articles are being re-reviewed to ensure that they meet current good article criteria (as detailed at WP:WIAGA. I have determined that this article needs some upkeep to maintain its status, and I have some additional comments:

  • The lead does not adequately summarize the entire article; rather, it puts out a lot of information into the application and four central problems. That's great and all, but what about the history, etc, in the article? Also, is the info about the four central problems actually in the article body? If not, that's a major issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Throughout the article there are lots of one or two-sentence nonparagraphs (a paragraph, by definition, needs at least three or more sentences). These lonely bits need to be expanded, cut, or merged.
  • Why does the history section not cover modern developments? It seems like the 20th century could be split off and expanded into its own dedicated subsection.
  • "According to Peter J. King, although it has been disputed," Who is Peter J. King? Who disputes him? This is a prime example of weasel words and phrases scattered through the article that need to be corrected.
  • "There is a tradition called speculative grammar which existed from the 11th to the 13th century. Leading scholars included among other Martin of Dace and Thomas of Erfurth." Unsourced and alone, see above. More unsourced statements include, but are not limited to:
    • "This thought parallels the idea that there is a universal language of music, a theory that has been proven false."
    • "European scholarship began to absorb the Indian linguistic tradition only from the mid-18th century, pioneered by Jean François Pons and Henry Thomas Colebrooke (the editio princeps of Varadarāja, a 17th century Sanskrit grammarian, dating to 1849)."
    • "A major question in the field – perhaps the single most important question for formalist and structuralist thinkers – is, "How does the meaning of a sentence emerge out of its parts?"
  • There's mixed use of the {{quote}} and <blockquote> templates. One or the other should be used (WP:MOSQUOTE)

These are the main issues I've seen—large swaths of the article are seemingly unsourced original research. I am putting the article on hold for one week pending improvements. Keep me appraised on my talk page or (preferably) here. Thanks, Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs(talk) 18:30, 7 November 2009 (UTC)

    • As there has been no action on the above concerns, I am delisting the article. If you have any questions or comments, take them to my talk page—I'm not watching these old reviews. Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs(talk) 18:39, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Plato's primitive words[edit]

I removed the comparison of Plato's primitive words with morphemes, because I could find no evidence in Cratylus that Plato meant anything other than words which were previously in use. There may be other problems with the section on Cratylus, but I'm not sure. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dranorter (talkcontribs) 01:22, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

External links[edit]

Is it references or external links? Pls someone clean this up --Aleksd (talk) 07:37, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Needs an overhaul[edit]

The article looks like it is in pretty bad shape because "philosophy of language" is defined very broadly. The article should be limited to analytic philosophy. Is there any published precedent for including continental philosophy in an overview of the philosophy of language? It seems like this article includes a variety of language related topics in philosophy instead of focusing on "philosophy of language" as its conventionally defined. Conventional philosophy of language is clearly given too little attention here. Wittgenstein is only mentioned twice and the Tractatus isn't mentioned at all. I think this article should look much more like the IEP article.

Is anyone opposed to refocusing this article? Are there published sources that justify the broad definition of philosophy of language used here?--Bkwillwm (talk) 18:04, 8 July 2012 (UTC)

Where are Indian and Eastern[edit]

Not a single quote from Panini, Pingala, Kumarila Bhatta, Jaimini, Murari, Prabhakara &c. Not even mention of theory of Sphota, Shabda Advaita, Shabda dvaita e.t.c. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pratpandey13 (talkcontribs) 14:34, 20 June 2014 (UTC)