Language in Cognition argues that language is based on the human construal of reality. Humans refer to and quantify over virtual entities with the same ease as they do over actual entities: the natural ontology of language, the author argues, must therefore comprise both actual and virtual entities and situations. He reformulates speech act theory, suggesting that the primary function of language is less the transfer of information than the establishing of socially binding commitments or appeals based on the proposition expressed. This leads him first to a new analysis of the systems and structures of cognitive language machinery and their ecological embedding, and finally to a reformulation of the notion of meaning, in which sentence meaning is distinguished from lexical meaning and the vagaries and multifarious applications of lexical meanings may be explained and understood.
This is the first of a two-volume foundational study of language, published under the title, Language from Within. Pieter Seuren discusses and analyses such apparently diverse issues as the ontology underlying the semantics of language, speech act theory, intensionality phenomena, the machinery and ecology of language, sentential and lexical meaning, the natural logic of language and cognition, and the intrinsically context-sensitive nature of language - and shows them to be intimately linked. Throughout his ambitious enterprise, he maintains a constant dialogue with established views, reflecting on their development from Ancient Greece to the present. The resulting synthesis concerns central aspects of research and theory in linguistics, philosophy, and cognitive science.