Advertisement

Philosophical Studies

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

A theory of meaning

  • Adrienne Lehrer
Article
  • 286 Downloads

Abstract

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.

Keywords:

Semantics Sense Reference Vectors Dynamic interactions Consensus 

References

  1. Austin, J. L. (1963). How to do things with words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bach, K., & Harnish, R. M. (1979). Language, communication, and speech acts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Kripke, S. (1980). Naming and necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Lehrer, K. (1984). Coherence, consensus, and language. Linguistics and Philosophy, 5, 483–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Lehrer, K., & Lehrer, A. (1998). Semantic fields and vectors of meaning. In B. Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk (Ed.), Lexical semantics, cognition, and philosophy (pp. 123–137). Lódz: Lódz University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Lehrer, K., & Wagner, C. (1980). Rational consensus in science and society. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  7. Lyons, J. (1963). Structural semantics. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  8. Lyons, J. (1977). Structural semantics 1: Semantic fields. In his Semantics, Vol 1 (pp. 230–317). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Mercier, A. (1992). Linguistic competence, convention, and authority: Individualism and anti-individualism in linguistics and philosophy. Unpublished PhD dissertation, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA.Google Scholar
  10. Putnam, H. (1975). The meaning of meaning. Language, mind, knowledge. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 7, 131–193.Google Scholar
  11. Quine, W. V. O. (1951). Two dogmas of empiricism. Philosophical Review, 60, 20–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech acts. London, NewYork: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Vendler, Z. (1967). Verbs and times. In Z. Vendler (Ed.), Linguistics in philosophy (pp. 97–121). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Wittgenstein, L. (1968). Philosophical investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  15. Ziff, P. (1972). Understanding understanding. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations