Picture theory of language

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The picture theory of language, also known as the picture theory of meaning, is a theory of linguistic reference and meaning articulated by Ludwig Wittgenstein in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Wittgenstein suggested that a meaningful proposition pictured a state of affairs or atomic fact.[1][2] Wittgenstein compared the concept of logical pictures (German Bild) with spatial pictures.[3] The picture theory of language is considered a correspondence theory of truth.[4]

Wittgenstein claims there is an unbridgeable gap between what can be expressed in language and what can only be expressed in non-verbal ways. Picture theory of language states that statements are meaningful if they can be defined or pictured in the real world.

Wittgenstein's later practice-based theory of meaning laid out in the First Part of Philosophical Investigations refuted and replaced his earlier picture-based theory. However, the second psychology-focused Part of Philosophical Investigations employs the concept as a metaphor for human psychology.[5]


  1. ^ http://www.iep.utm.edu/wittgens/
  2. ^ Keyt, D. (1964). "Wittgenstein's Picture Theory of Language". The Philosophical Review 73 (4): 493. doi:10.2307/2183303. JSTOR 2183303. 
  3. ^ V. Hope (April 1969). "The Picture Theory of Meaning in the Tractatus as a Development of Moore's and Russell's Theories of Judgment". Philosophy 44 (168): 140–148. JSTOR 3750136. 
  4. ^ Edna Daitz (April 1953). "The Picture Theory of Meaning". Mind 62 (246): 184–201. JSTOR 2251383. 
  5. ^ Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1968). Philosophical Investigations. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe (Third ed.). New York: Basil Blackwell & Mott, Ltd. p. 178. The human body is the best picture of the human soul.