Philosophical Studies

, Volume 161, Issue 1, pp 97–107 | Cite as

A theory of meaning

  • Adrienne Lehrer


A theory of word meaning developed jointly by Adrienne and Keith Lehrer is summarized, which accommodates the empirical facts of natural languages, especially the diversity of types of words. Reference characterizes the application of words to things, events, properties, etc. and sense the relationship among words and linguistic expressions. Although reference and sense are closely connected, neither can be reduced to the other. We use the metaphor of vectors to show how different, sometimes competing forces interact to provide an understanding of what a word in context means. Topics discussed include vagueness, indeterminacy, the role of experts, possible worlds, pragmatic influences, semantic change, semantic networks, fields, and entailments. A formal theory for understanding the relationship of idiolects, dialects, and communal languages is proposed to account for the dynamic interaction of individuals and communities which occurs continuously.


Semantics Sense Reference Vectors Dynamic interactions Consensus 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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