Topic: meaning by language as a whole

topics > philosophy > Group: meaning and truth

natural language

knowledge as interrelated facts
meaning by social context
meaning of words
natural language as a system
problems with empirical truth
scientific paradigms and research programs
semantic networks
what is truth


If meaning is not in the individual words, perhaps it is in the sentences and propositions. This is the approach of Frege and Russell. But here too meaning is elusive. Context appears to play too large a role. Perhaps meaning is in the entire language. This is the argument of Quine, Hempel, and Davidson. Language is a fabrication, but one that as a whole ties into reality.

This approach appears to be ducking the question, by holding on to the idea of an intrinsic meaning to language. If meaning is in use, in the hurly-burly of life, then the idea of an entire language is itself a fabrication (cbb 5/94).

Subtopic: meaning is the whole, man-made fabric up

Quote: the unit of empirical significance is the whole of science and not statements (Frege) or terms (Locke) [»quinWV1_1951]
Quote: our knowledge is a man-made fabric that matches experience only along the edges [»quinWV1_1951]
Quote: the gods of Homer and physical objects are both irreducible posits of a system of knowledge; instrumentalism [»quinWV1_1951]
Quote: the edge of a system must match experience; for the rest, the objective is simplicity of its laws [»quinWV1_1951]
Quote: if our knowledge contradicts experience, many workable modifications; any one statement can remain true
Quote: understanding an event means fitting it into a preconceived scheme of thought; could be science or a private delusion [»weinGM_1982]

Subtopic: theory vs. statements or terms up

Quote: only entire theoretical systems formulated in a language with a well-determine structure have cognitive significance [»hempCG_1951]
Quote: a statement in isolation has no experiential implications; need other hypothesis, e.g., from science; experiential meaning is elliptical [»hempCG_1951]
Quote: in science we must rise above the level of direct observation; need theoretical constructs to formulate high-level laws and hypotheses [»hempCG_1951]
Quote: strict avoidance of isolated sentences would disallow hypothesis formation and new conceptualizations
Quote: how can one distinguish between science and speculation? Is there a logical evaluation of a theory?

Subtopic: meaning of words and sentences from language as a whole up

Quote: the meaning of any sentence (or word) depends on the meaning of every sentence and word in the language [»daviD_1967]
Quote: the meaning of any part of a sentence's structure is an abstraction from the totality of sentences in which it features
Quote: sense is a name for our background familiarity that makes intelligibility possible; replaces being as ultimate ground [»dreyHL_1991]
Quote: a sentence (sign) gets its significance from the language (a system of signs) that it belongs to [»wittL_1958]
Quote: a word makes an impression which is connected with things in its surroundings and hence with all our language-games
Quote: to explain a word's meaning need to characterize the relevant set of conditions associated with the utterances in its distributive set [»ziffP_1960]
Quote: a word is in a language if, through that language, we can understand the word [»cbb_1973, OK]
Quote: if there is no ultimate context to give significance to facts, fact and situation must be the same [»dreyHL_1979]
Quote: the connotation of an element is the set of similarities noted by hearers of the language about its semantic regularities in the language [»ziffP_1960]
Quote: connotations vary widely because everyone knows different subsets of an element's distributive set in the corpus E [»ziffP_1960]

Subtopic: meaning by conversation up

Quote: dealers could interleave multiple trades across trading floors; the meaning of a number depended on prior conversation; difficult for voice recognition [»jiroM5_2006]

Subtopic: meaning of words from sentence up

Quote: only in a proposition have words really a meaning; even though mental pictures float before us all the while [»fregG_1884]
Quote: only the whole of a conditional statement contains a proposition that is true or false [»fregG_1892]
Quote: replace the concepts of subject and predicate with argument and function respectively [»fregG_1879]
Quote: Frege's reorientation from terms to significant statements underlies the verification theory of meaning; statements are verified

Related Topics up

Group: natural language   (16 topics, 539 quotes)

Topic: knowledge as interrelated facts (23 items)
Topic: meaning by social context (33 items)
Topic: meaning of words (21 items)
Topic: natural language as a system (43 items)
Topic: problems with empirical truth (21 items)
Topic: scientific paradigms and research programs (30 items)
Topic: semantic networks (42 items)
Topic: what is truth
(67 items)

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