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Mon Aug 02 2010

Review: Philosophy of Language: Lepore and Smith (2006)

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        1.    Anne Reboul, The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language

Message 1: The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language
Date: 02-Aug-2010
From: Anne Reboul <>
Subject: The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language
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EDITORS: Lepore, Ernest; Smith, Barry C.TITLE: The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of LanguagePUBLISHER: Clarendon PressYEAR: 2006

Anne Reboul, L2C2 CNRS-UMR5230, Institute for Cognitive Sciences, Lyons, France,


The book is divided into 8 unequal parts, on historical context, the nature oflanguage, the nature of meaning, the nature of reference, semantic theory,linguistic phenomena, varieties of speech acts and the epistemology andmetaphysics of language.

The editors defend their approach (i.e., presenting the philosophical debatesconcerning language by asking the protagonists themselves to express theirviews) and outline the book organization in a brief ''Preface''. The first part,THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, opens with a chapter (by Heck and May) devoted to''Frege's contribution to philosophy of language''. The authors point out Frege'sinnovations, beginning with the ''notions of scope and binding and how they areused to represent generality'' (4) in his logicist program, with its emphasis oncompositionality and on the strong relation between logic and truth. Thishighlights compositionality not only between predicates and arguments, butbetween truth-functional (sentential) operators and the truth-values of thesentences on which they apply (the referents of the sentences for Frege). Thus,reference itself is ''essentially compositional'' (19). This leads to thedistinction between sense and reference as a Fregean, ''a distinction withincontent'' (23), sense being taken by Frege to determine reference. This is themain point of contention between Fregeanism and contemporary philosophy oflanguage, few contemporary philosophers accepting that sense determines reference.

Chapter 2, by Beaney, deals with ''Wittgenstein on language: from simples tosamples''. The famous ''linguistic turn'' of the first half of the twentiethcentury can be traced back to Wittgenstein and the TractatusLogico-Philosophicus. While Wittgenstein first held (in the Tractatus) that themeaningfulness of language is grounded in the existence of simple objects, hecame to hold that it rests in fact in use. Propositions are organized in systems(e.g., 'A is green/red/yellow/etc.'), only one of them being usable in a givensituation. Thus, the meaning of a word is not its bearer, but its use indifferent language-games and Wittgenstein extends his conception of languagefrom logic to grammar. A rule is not an ordinary proposition or sentence but atautological proposition lacking sense. Beaney concludes with a distinctionpermanently held by Wittgenstein, despite his intellectual evolution, betweenmeaningful propositions and logical propositions (= tautologies).

Chapter 3, ''Philosophy of language in the twentieth century'', by Baldwin, dealswith the central place language has occupied in philosophy during the twentiethcentury, largely replacing epistemology, which had been central since Descartes.Baldwin traces the history of philosophy of language through Frege (emphasis ona ''logically reconstructed language''), Wittgenstein's Tractatus and Russell'stheory of description, logical empiricism (Carnap's ''logical syntax oflanguage''), Quine's ''indeterminacy of translation'', Davidson's principle ofcharity and anomalous monism, and the later Wittgenstein, and his contentionthat most, if not all, philosophical problems stem from ''misunderstandings ofour everyday language'' (87), ultimately leading to Austin's speech act theory,Strawson's notion of presupposition, and Grice's non-natural meaning and logicof conversation. Baldwin then turns to recent times, and to the possibility,proposed by Chomsky, that natural language does not have a semantics, but only asyntax and a pragmatics, a position Baldwin links to contemporary post-Griceanpragmatics, such as Relevance Theory.

Part II, ''THE NATURE OF LANGUAGE'', opens with chapter 4: ''Psychologism'', byTravis, relating the accusation of ''psychologism'' (a negative word in philosophysince Frege) to a concern with ''answerability'', which, in the end, translates toa concern with ''truth''. The correctness of a judgment has to depend on the waythings are, INDEPENDENTLY of any thinker. This leads Travis to what he calls''The Martian Principle'', according to which ''No thinker, or stance, could beanswerable to anything to which any other thinker, in principle, could not be''(114). However, some logical laws may apply to some thoughts but not to others.This leads Travis to the conclusion that ''Frege's picture of logic is a verysubtle form of psychology'' (126).

Bezuidenhout, in the 5th chapter, speaks about ''Language as internal'', definingChomsky's internalist view of language as the idea that ''languages areproperties of the mind/brains of individuals and supervene entirely on theinternal states of these mind/brains'' (127). Bezuidenhout then reminds us thatChomsky's anti-externalist crusade has two targets, which she dubs ''languageexternalism'' (denying that languages supervene on mind/brain states) and''semantic externalism'' (where reference of mental representations depends on thephysical environment and not on the brain states of language users). Finally,Bezuidenhout shows that Chomsky's internalism is linked to his scientificindividualism (his insistence on the primacy of the individual and his or heridiolect and rejection of the very notion of ''languages'' as socially sharedconstructs). Idiolects are the only possible objects of scientific investigations.

Higginbotham, in chapter 6 (''Languages and their idiolects: their language andours''), pursues the same topics, outlining a dialectic between the fact thatlanguage is a social phenomenon, subject to variations across space, time andindividuals, and the individualist view, emphasizing the individual and his/heridiolect, independently of his/her social surroundings. The social view does nothave to deny the existence of idiolects in a given social environment, or theconventionality of language. That, however, does not mean that these socialaspects of language are relevant to a scientific investigation of language.

Part III, THE NATURE OF MEANING, opens with a chapter by Wilson on''Rule-following, meaning, and normativity''. It thus turns back to Wittgensteinand the notion of rule in applying a word, formulating the Wittgensteinianproblem as a paradox: ''The paradox says that, since any action can beinterpreted as being either in accord or conflict with the rule, it makes nosense to suppose of any action that it is in accord or conflict with the rule,i.e., either the expression of the rule or the substantive rule that is meant todetermine the instances of accord and conflict'' (152). This is of course askeptical argument and Wilson outlines different ways it can be understood.However, non-factualism about meaning can be seen as self-defeating and anyaccount of meaning should ''validate our intuitive conception of the objectivityof judgment'' (168). Anti-realist accounts may fail to satisfy that constraint,though Wilson argues that this basically boils down to the fundamentalphilosophical dissensions about the notion of ''truth''.

Papineau centers the 8th chapter on the currently very influential ''Naturalisttheories of meaning''. These theories try to account for representations in anaturalist framework (as defined by the natural sciences), usually takinglinguistic representations as derivative on (basic) mental representations, thususually subscribing to some version of the language of thought hypothesis.Basically, the naturalist program is based on the possibility of reducingrepresentation to other scientific categories. One approach is ''inferential rolesemantics'', where representational content of a concept is taken to be itsinferential role. This approach meets with several problems and Papineau thenturns to causal theories, accounting for the content of mental states in termsof what causes them, and outlines Millikan's teleosemantics. This bottom-upview distinguishes between mechanisms which produce representations from thosewhich ''consume'' them, thereby linking behaviour to pursuit of biologicalfunctions, where biological functions are defined in historical terms (of eitherphylogenetic or ontogenic evolution).

Segal, in the 9th chapter, turns to ''Truth and meaning'', beginning, inevitably,with Frege's establishing an indefeasible link between truth and logic. Tarskiintroduced a semantics in terms of truth definitions, along the line ofConvention T (''s'' is true iff p), using the notion of translation in that theconsequent of the conditional is a translation of its antecedent (''s'').Davidson drew from Quine the notion that there may be several equally goodtranslations for a given expression, but eschewed drawing skeptical conclusionsfrom that. He developed a truth theory from Tarski's T-theory (based onConvention T), adding to it an instrumentalist (and social) approach toreference, based on assent and dissent. As Segal points out, this iscontradictory with the (highly non-social) linguistic theory developed byChomsky, and Segal goes on to develop a cognitivist perspective on Davidsoniansemantics, approaching the problem of reference from the Chomskian distinctionbetween competence and performance. Finally, Segal defends such a semanticapproach against a possible objection based on the context relativity of wordmeaning (e.g., color words), advocating an indexical account supplementary tothe semantics.

Chapter 10, by Pagin, is devoted to ''Meaning holism'', the view that the meaningof a given linguistic expression depends on its relations with the meanings ofother linguistic expressions in the same language, and possibly with themeanings of all the expressions in that language. Pagin traces the origins ofmeaning holism to logical empirism (notably to its verificationism) and itsaftermath, noting the central roles in later times of Quine, Sellars andDavidson, in the emergence of various types of meaning holism, inferential rolesemantics, and belief holism. Pagin then turns to counter-arguments to meaningholism, before giving arguments in its favor.

Chapter 11, by Weir, is devoted to Quine's well-known notion of “Indeterminacyof translation”. Quine sees language as a social art, and indeterminacy oftranslation is the conclusion of an argument which begins with the thoughtexperiment of ''radical translation'' (i.e., the ''gavagai'' thought experiment).Basically Quine's argument is that two behaviourally equivalent sentences(produced in the same situations) can be intuitively non-synonymous and indeeddistinct in truth-value, extending the idea to the ontological relativity orinscrutability of reference for names and predicates. Weir points out thatQuine's position, in the end, is a relativist and anti-realist one, incontradiction to his endorsement of realism.

In chapter 12, Borg discusses ''Intention-based semantics'' and begins bydistinguishing a mild form of intention-based semantics, which acknowledges thefact that semantics is based on both intention and conventions, dubbed ''A-styleintention-based semantics'' and a much stronger form according to whichintentional speakers play an active role in determining semantics in thatmeaning depends on their current state of mind, dubbed ''B-style intention-basedsemantics''. The main difference, according to Borg, between A-style and B-stylesemantics is that B-style semantics takes interpretation arrived at withouttaking into account the speaker's current intentions as yieldingnon-propositional or non-truth-evaluable items, i.e., propositional schemas orincomplete logical forms. Borg criticizes B-style semantics precisely on theground that it considers that a theory of literal truth-conditional meaningshould be ''simply subsumed within a theory of communication'' (260). She defendsthe specificity of linguistic meaning on the basis of linguistic convention(i.e., the codic nature of language) and promotes sentences as the bearers ofsemantic content.

In chapter 13, Schiffer discusses ''Propositional content'', beginning with anapproximate definition of propositional content as what that-clauses contributeto what is ascribed in such sentences as ''Ralph believes/says/etc. that TonyCurtis is alive''. Face-value approaches of belief reports (A believes that S)take them to be true when A stands in the belief relation to S and considersthat that-clauses (''S'' in the present case) are propositions. Schiffer examinesnon-propositional alternatives, non-relational accounts of believing (notplausible, according to him), and relational but non-propositional accounts ofbelieving (no more satisfactory than the non-relational accounts). Schifferconcludes that propositional content remains a problematic notion.

Greenberg and Harman tackle ''Conceptual role semantics'' (CRS) in chapter 14,linking it with the Wittgensteinian notion that meaning is determined by use, inthis specific case use in thinking. Specifically, meaning can be DETERMINED byconceptual role, without being EQUIVALENT to conceptual role. Though one'smeaning is determined by one's uses, one's understanding of one's meaning doesnot consist in understanding one's uses. CRS is compatible with both translationand compositionality, The authors discuss a few objections to CRS, concluding tothe pursuit of the ongoing debate regarding these different objections to CRS.

Farkas deals with ''Semantic internalism and externalism'' in chapter 15,beginning with the tension inherent in recognition of the fact that ''even if themeaning of an expression is determined by social agreement, grasping the meaningof the word is an individual psychological act'' (323). He describes the TwinEarth argument, as highlighting the incompatibility between thinking, on the onehand, that what a speaker means by a word is not determined by circumstancesoutside of her and thinking, on the other hand, that meaning determinesreference as well as that the content of a sentence determines itstruth-conditions. This ''externalist'' view, according to which, famously,''meaning ain't in the head'' (Putnam 1975), was extended to mental contents.Farkas then proceeds to confront externalism with contradictory, ''internalist''theories, noting that, pace Putnam, there is no incompatibility between ''the twoassumptions that meaning determines reference, and that meaning is internal'' (333).

Carston and Powell outline ''Relevance theory -- new directions and developments''in chapter 16, beginning by an outline of relevance theory, and going on to itsview on the semantics-pragmatics distinction, pointing out that relevance theoryhas advocated a strong pragmatic involvement in the determination ofpropositional content, based on the notion that both lexical meaning andpropositional content are context-sensitive. This is seen in the recentdevelopments of relevance theory, not as deriving implicatures, but as processesof mutual adjustment of the meaning of the words in the utterance. Carston andPowell then quickly describe recent results in experimental pragmatics, notablyregarding scalar implicatures, which vindicate the Relevance Theory ''nonce''approach to implicatures over the neo-Gricean ''default'' approach. Finally, theyoutline some future directions, having to do with early communication anddevelopmental pathologies (autism, Williams syndrome).

Szabo returns to ''The distinction between semantics and pragmatics'' in chapter17. He bases his discussion on the very possibility of agreement anddisagreement which depends on mutual understanding, which, in turn, depends on acommon interpretation of the linguistic expressions used. Noting that mutualunderstanding does not require agreement about paraphrase, Szabo points outthat the distinction between verbal and substantive disagreements is notexhaustive, given the existence of contextual disagreement. Verbal disagreementconcerns the semantics of expressions, while contextual disagreement concernspragmatics. Thus ''semantics and pragmatics [are] subfields within the generalstudy of utterance interpretation'' (379). Szabo argues in favour of theinclusion of some information about speaker's intentions in the context, andadvocates abandonment of the dubious notion of what is said.

Part IV, THE NATURE OF REFERENCE, opens with a chapter (the 18th) by Sainsburyon ''The essence of reference'', which begins by noting that reference impliesagents, words or concepts and things (the referents). Referring expressions havea number of properties: semantic simplicity, uniqueness of referent,understanding as knowledge of the referent, scopelessness, being rigiddesignators. Singular referring expressions have at most one referent(uniqueness) and this leads to the notion that understanding a referringexpression involves knowing its referent. Sainsbury then goes on to discusswhether definite descriptions are or are not referential, introducingDonnellan's distinction between referential and attributive uses. He notes thatthe crucial debate is on whether referential uses are to be accounted for insemantic or pragmatic terms, refusing to take a stand on this issue.

In chapter 19, MacBride investigates ''Predicate reference'', asking whetherpredicates are, or not, referring expressions. Russell viewed predicates aseither referring expressions or reflecting the activity of the mind, and, giventhat the second possibility would be tantamount to abandoning objectivity,predicates should be referring expressions. MacBride notes however that Quinequestioned whether Russell's list of possibilities was exhaustive and proposed adisquotational account, though Quine's disquotational theory falls foul of aproblem familiar from discussions of Tarski's theory, the difficulty of applyingthe concept 'predicate' to novel strings (it fails to say what a predicate is).MacBride discusses Frege's insight that intersubstitutability salva veritate isthe controlling principle of referring expressions. He however points out thatthis Reference Principle itself is subject to well-known difficulties having todo with failures of substitution, which leads him to the conclusion thatfailures of substitution between predicates and names should not be taken asindicating lack of co-reference. This, however, does not establish thatpredicates refer and his conclusion acknowledges the persistence of a mysteryconcerning the nature of predication.

Sosa speaks of ''Rigidity'' in chapter 20, defining it as the fact that anexpression refers ''to one and the same thing WITH RESPECT TO any POSSIBLESITUATION'' (476, Sosa's emphasis). His first endeavor is to specify what ismeant by the expression 'with respect to', and he says that ''this specificationtakes place in the actual situation, in which the expression is used''. Propernames are rigid, while definite descriptions are not. From the fact that Kripkeextended the notion of rigidity to natural kind terms, and the fact that anygeneral term can indeed be used rigidly, Sosa raises the possibility that oneshould think of a term as rigid only if it has this feature essentially (ratherthan as a matter of use).

Braun pursues the same type of questions in chapter 21 on ''Names and naturalkind terms''. He begins with the Millian Theory of proper names, according towhich what proper names contribute to the proposition expressed are theirreferents. The four objections to that theory are the Objection from CognitiveSignificance (i.e., identity judgments are not trivial), the Objection fromBelief Ascription (i.e., one can believe that Mark Twain is Mark Twain and notbelieve that Mark Twain is Samuel Clemens), the Objection from MeaningfulSentences Containing Non-Referring Names, and the Objection from NegativeExistentials. This theory, together with fatal objections against alternative''descriptive'' accounts, has led to a new proposal, the Causal Theory ofReference, which claims that proper names get their reference from a causalchain beginning at the baptism of the referent. The Millian Theory was extended,by Kripke, from proper names to natural kind terms (e.g., 'water', 'gold','tiger', etc.).

Bach, in chapter 22, pursues the topic of reference, asking ''What does it taketo refer?''. He begins by restricting reference to singular reference. He thendistinguish between speaker reference (what speakers do when they are said torefer) and linguistic reference, listing properties for each of them, which hethen develops one by one, beginning with those associated with speakerreference. His basic point is that ''much of what speakers do that passes forreference is really something else, and much of what passes for linguisticreference is really nothing more than speaker reference'' (518). This is because''it is one thing for a speaker, when using an expression in a certain way, toexpress a thought about a certain object and quite another for the expression tostand for that object, even relative to the context'' (552).

Part V, SEMANTIC THEORY, opens with a chapter (the 23rd) by King, on ''Formalsemantics'', tracing its beginning to Tarski's theory of truth. After a review ofCarnap's and Kripke's work, he turns to Montague who ''assigned intensions,functions from world and times to extensions, to English expressions'' (567).Kaplan introduced two indices where Montague had a single one, one representingthe context of utterance, while the second represents its circumstance ofevaluation, linking them to two kinds of meaning. King then outlines thedevelopment of dynamic semantics, through a concern for ''conversationaldynamics'', by, notably, Kamp and Heim and its modifications by Groenendijk andStokhof, through ''dynamic predicate logic'', rather than ''DiscourseRepresentation Theory'' or ''File Change Semantics''.

Chalmers, in chapter 24, introduces ''Two-dimensional semantics'', tracing itssource to the Fregean distinction between sense and reference. He reworks thesetwo notions as, respectively, intensions (functions from possible worlds toextensions) and extensions. As he reminds us, two expressions can share theirextensions without sharing their intensions, as shown by the old example of'cordate' and 'renate'. A natural suggestion is that two such expressions wouldhave the same extension in, e.g., the actual world but different extensions insome possible worlds (where not all renate organisms, for instance, would havehearts, contrary to what happens in our world). This is cashed out in a matrixin which the left column represents what turns out in the actual world (roughly,the world of the speaker) while the second column represents what turns out in acounterfactual world (not the world of the speaker). The core of two-dimensionalsemantics is that every expression token has a primary intension, a secondaryintension and a two-dimensional extension. Applications of two-dimensionalismare Fregean senses, contents of thoughts, belief ascriptions, indicativeconditionals, and conceivability and possibility.

Bar-On and Simmons deal with ''Deflationism'' in chapter 25. Deflationism is theposition according to which truth is not a genuine property and this raises thequestion of how to ''make sense of our pervasive truth TALK'' (607, authors'emphasis). Bar-On and Simmons begin by enumerating varieties of deflationism,from disquotationalism to illocutionary deflationism, through minimalism,redundancy theory and the prosentential theory of truth, and then discuss a fewobjections to deflationism: the possibility that it is self-defeating, that itis not stateable, the problem of its scope, the fact that it presupposes somesemantic notions. The consequence of this last problem is that truth is not anautonomous notion, contrary to what deflationists pretend, raising the worrythat deflationism might fail at deflating all truth.

Part VI, LINGUISTIC PHENOMENA, begins with ''Compositionality'' (chapter 26, byDever). Compositionality is at the root of generativity (the possibility ofproducing an infinite number of different — and new — sentences from a limitednumber of components), and can be simply defined as the fact that the meaningsof complex expressions are derived from the meaning of their parts. Dever thenreviews two varieties of compositionality theories, compositionality asfunctionality and compositionality as substitutability, turning then to discusshow compositionality can be non-trivial in a mathematical sense, i.e., how itcan be a stringent constraint on the grammar of a language. He concludes that''compositionality thus enforces a variety of honesty in semantic theory'' (663).

Chapter 27, by Richard, focusing on ''Opacity'', pursues the intersubstitutabilityproblem. Richard notes ''that there seems to be a lot of opacity in our language''(667), raising the questions of whether this is indeed so, and, if it is, of whyit should be so. The term 'Opacity' was introduced by Quine, to characterizesome linguistic contexts in which substitution salva veritate of coreferentialexpressions is not possible, making opacity a case of nonextensionality. Settingaside quotational contexts, Richard asks whether there is such a thing asopacity, concluding that indeed there is, but that it is not clear that it is anhomogeneous phenomenon (opacity in quotation and opacity in complements seemquite different).

In chapter 28, Ludlow treats ''Tense'', asking whether tense is a property of ourlanguage and thoughts or ''a property of aspects of the external world'' (688). Hebegins by noting that tense marking seems scarce outside of Indo-Europeanlanguages, which of course does not mean that tenseless languages do not expresspast, present or future, suggesting that tense might be in the world, after all.He opposes two different approaches, dubbing the defenders of the first the'detensers' (they reject tenses from the metalanguage) and the defenders of thesecond the 'tensers' (they don't). In the first approach, tenses are representedby a semantic value of some kind in the metalinguistic semantic formulacorresponding to the utterance; in the second, tenses are eliminated in favourof a ''relative ordering of events on a time line'' (693), on the basis of aprimitive temporal relation 'earlier-than/later-than'. Ludlow then reviewsarguments for and against each type of approach, showing the advantages andinconveniences of both, and concluding that ''by having a firm enough grasp onBOTH approaches we afford ourselves a deeper insight into the nature of tenseitself'' (714, Ludlow's emphasis).

Schein turns to the problem of ''Plurals'' in chapter 29, linking it to theintricate questions raised by the distinction between mass and count terms, aswell as by the porosity of that distinction. He extends the question to events(quantifiable in a Davidsonian approach).

Edgington examines ''The pragmatics of the logical constants'' in chapter 30,i.e., 'and', 'or', 'if', 'not', 'all' and 'some'. The question is whether oneshould, following Grice, consider that the linguistic terms have the samemeaning as the corresponding logical constants, or whether the discrepanciesbetween their linguistic use and their logical characterization (in terms oftruth tables, for instance) indicates differences in meaning. She points outthat this question is linked to that of the semantics-pragmatics distinction:its answer is directly related to an answer to the question of whetherdiscrepancies are matters of use (pragmatics) or of meaning (semantics). Througha discussion, mainly, of conditionals, conjunction and negation, and ofdifferent approaches in addition to Grice's, Edgington comes to the conclusionthat pragmatic approaches may have been overrated in the specific case oflogical constants.

Glanzberg discusses ''Quantifiers'' in chapter 31, introducing GeneralizedQuantifier Theory, where expressions of generality (e.g., 'everything','nothing') are treated as second-level properties (properties of properties:thus 'everything' contributes to sentences ''the second-level property of being aproperty under which everything falls'' (796)). Properties apply to sets ofindividuals and this is cashed out inside a universe of discourse. Naturallanguages have more quantifiers than the universal and the existential (andtheir negations), including such quantifiers as 'few', 'both', 'enough', etc.These usually correspond to relations between sets inside a universe ofdiscourse. Glazberg lists some constraints which quantifiers satisfy andconcludes to the effect that quantifiers have ''significant semantic andgrammatical implications'' (818).

In chapter 32, Pietrovski deals with ''Logical form and LF'', beginning with acomparison between patterns of reason and traditional grammar. The main questionis whether ''all valid inferences are valid by virtue of propositional structure''(823), as was traditionally thought from Aristotle's treatment of syllogismsuntil Frege and Russell, who divorced between logical form and grammaticalstructure. The emergence of transformational grammar in the seventies, with thedistinction between surface and deep structures, and the resultantidentification between logical form and deep structure meant that ''many apparentexamples of grammar/logic mismatches were rediagnosed as mismatches betweendifferent aspects of GRAMMATICAL structure'' (836, Pietroski's emphasis).

Part VII, VARIETIES OF SPEECH ACT, opens with a chapter on ''Metaphor'' by Reimerand Camp. The authors begin by noting that metaphors are currently consideredsome sort of conceptual phenomena, in that, though intelligible, they produce aconceptual tension. Contemporary accounts share a tendency to downplaydifferences among tropes as well as differences between figurative andnonfigurative language. The authors conclude that recent research has taken astrong pragmatic turn and that contemporary investigation sees metaphor as aspecies of context-sensitive communication.

Boisvert and Ludwig concentrate in chapter 34 on ''Semantics fornon-declaratives'', and begin by pointing out that mood and force should bedissociated in that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between asentence's grammatical mood and a corresponding utterance's illocutionary force.Yet a semantics for non-declaratives should explain the connection between moodand force, while giving a uniform and compositional description of thecontribution of mood to sentences, explaining why non-declarative sentences arenot truth-evaluable, accounting for mixed-mood sentences, for quantificationinto mood markers, and explaining the distribution patterns in mixed-moodsentences (e.g., the impossibility of imperatives in the antecedents ofconditionals). The authors advocate an approach in terms of satisfaction andsincerity conditions, thus obtaining the right measure between a too tight ortoo loose link between mood and force.

Hornsby dedicates the 35th chapter to ''Speech acts and performatives'', beginningwith the classification of speech acts and the relations between force, indirectspeech and implicatures, before turning to illocution. She describes thealliance proposed by Strawson between Austin's notion of illocution and Grice'snotion of non-natural meaning, closing the section with a look at taxonomies ofspeech acts. The chapter ends with an analysis of the notion of ''performativity''and its possible application in politics.

Part VIII, THE EPISTEMOLOGY AND METAPHYSICS OF LANGUAGE, opens with Stainton's36th chapter on ''Meaning and reference: some Chomskian themes'', supportingChomsky's claim that a scientific approach of semantic reference is impossible.Having reviewed two major insights of Chomsky, the innateness and modularity oflanguage, he then describes the view he intends to reject, that is, the notionthat there are word-world semantic relations, outlining three negativearguments: the ''radical'' argument from ontology (there are no public languages,but only individual idiolects and hence no public words to relate to the world);the ''moderate'' argument from ontology (there are public words, but there can beno science of the relata -- words and world objects -- because neither arerecognised as such by science); the failure of compositional referentialsemantics (sentences fail to express propositions which can be attributed truthvalues INDEPENDENTLY of -- non-linguistic -- world knowledge). Stainton proposesa positive alternative to referential semantics, in terms of an internal semantics.

In chapter 37, Smith, once again relying on a Chomskian position, tries toclarify ''What I know when I know a language'', intimately linking questions aboutthe nature of linguistic knowledge to questions about the nature of language(this is where Chomsky comes in). Smith begins by noting that language IS asource of knowledge, but that knowledge of language itself remains mysterious,especially given language generativity which implies that we understand myriadsof utterances which we have never been confronted with before. Smith thendiscusses linguistic acquisition, insisting that inductive approaches just willnot do, and endorses Chomsky's proposal in terms of an innate languageacquisition device. He then comes back to the possibility of knowing publiclanguages and shows that it is difficult to account for such knowledge, because,at best, such public languages are abstractions for individual idiolects, whichmakes not only speakers' knowledge, but also the very notion of public languagesin the sense of speaker's languages, elusive.

In Chapter 38, Miller talks about ''Realism and antirealism'', opening his paperby noting that Dummett, taking the centrality of philosophy of language forgranted, replaced the debate between realism and antirealism inside philosophyof language, attacking semantic realism. Semantic realism is the claim that evenundecidable sentences can be understood through a grasp of theirtruth-conditions, and, hence that these truth-conditions areevidence-transcendent. Dummett's two arguments against semantic realism are theacquisition argument (we could not acquire a language whose truth-conditions areevidence-transcendent) and the manifestation argument (we could not manifest ourunderstanding of language through our use of it if truth-conditions areevidence-transcendent). Miller discusses arguments for or against Dummett'sview, but notes that all supporting arguments beg the question in as much asthey presuppose that realism is an ESSENTIALLY SEMANTIC theory, a dubious viewat best.

Glüer deals with ''Triangulation'' in chapter 39, a central notion in Davidsoniansemantics. Basically, triangulation has to do with the view that to think,entertain propositions, etc., a creature must have the concept of objectivetruth, which, in turn, supposes that it has experienced a specific sort ofinteraction, in which it and other creatures ''sufficiently like itself'' (1006)interact with objects in the world. This is taken as a criterion of correctnessof a sort, both in order to attribute thought to a creature, and in order toassess the correctness of our own thought, a requirement which, according toGlüer, leads to infinite regress. As well, she spots an antirealism or idealismin the requirement of triangulation. She notes that triangulation is poorlysocial in that it does not imply interaction between the creatures, but mereobservation. She advocates a stronger requirement, such as mutual knowledge,noting the strong circularity in the triangulation argument.

Cappelen and Lepore coauthored chapter 40 on ''Shared content'', noting a strongtension between the generally acknowledged context-sensitivity of sentences andthe obvious fact that the same sentence basically means the same thing ''across awide range of different contexts'' (1020), using reported speech as the basis fortheir arguments. They defend their own view, pluralistic minimalism, based on arejection of speech act monism, the (implicit) constraint that a given utterancecorresponds to a single thing (proposition or thought). Pluralistic minimalismis thus a combination of speech act pluralism (a given utterance can express awhole bunch of propositions) and semantic minimalism. Same-saying corresponds tothe overlap between utterances.

The final and 41st chapter, written by the late Donald Davidson, bears on ''Theperils and pleasures of interpretation''. Davidson begins by noting thedifference between ''the difficulties that stand in the way of explaining indetail how we manage to find out what is in other people's minds and therelative ease with which we do it in practice'' (1057). This leads him to apessimistic view of the project of naturalization of the mind: ourinterpretation of other minds will not be reduced ''to a branch of the naturalsciences'' (1056). Davidson begins with the skeptic's concern about our certaintythat others have minds, let alone minds like our own, and remarks that answeringthat concern is linked to saying how we interpret other minds. The maindifficulty regarding that second question is the holism of conceptual thought,''for what we observe is the product of many cognitive factors'' (1058). However,''the difficulty is not in the practice, but in the theory'' (1061). Here Davidsonintroduces the notion of triangulation, as a key factor for a creature's havingthe notion of error, which helps us attribute thoughts to other minds if wetrust others to, on the whole, be not only truthful but correct about currentsituations.


This mammoth book (1,083 pages including the index) should be read by anyonewith an interest not only in philosophy of language, but in semantics andpragmatics, and even, though less centrally, in syntax. Though not introductoryin the sense that it could be read by a first year student, it is well worth theeffort of reading and, given the overall clarity of the chapters, accessible.The quality of the papers is sustained throughout and is of the highest standard.

Thus, the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language should be in any universitylibrary, and, indeed, should be on the bookshelves of anyone with an educatedinterest in language.

REFERENCESPutnam, Hilary (1975) Mind, Language and Reality: Philosophical Papers, volume2, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.


Anne Reboul is a Senior Researcher at the French Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. She has a Ph.D. in Linguistics (EHESS, Paris) and a Ph.D. in philosophy (University of Geneva, Switzerland). She has written some books, among which are an Encyclopedic Dictionary of Pragmatics and quite a few papers in French and English, on pragmatics and/or philosophical subjects. She has developed an interest in recent years in both language evolution and animal cognition and communication and has recently published a book on Language and human cognition. A longer version of this review is available on her web site (

Page Updated: 02-Aug-2010