Philosophy of Language
Spring 2006

Course Objectives

How is language related to reality? According to simple referentialism, nouns refer to objects, adjectives refer to properties, verbs refer to actions, and sentences refer to events; moreover, sentences are related to reality by being either true or false. In short, language is about reality and it even reflects the structure of reality. What's more, by understanding its nature we can unravel metaphysical mysteries.

In this course we will scrutinize referentialism. We will investigate theories of reference, theories of truth and meaning, and alternatives to such theories. The goal is threefold. (1) You will leave this course with sophisticated insight into the workings of language. (2) You will appreciate its significance to metaphysics and other branches of knowledge. (3) You will acquire vocabulary and conceptual tools necessary for practicing current philosophy.

Policies & Grading

Course Readings

Required: William Lycan, Philosophy of Language (Routledge, 1999).
Required: Christopher Gauker, Words without Meaning (MIT, 2003).
Required: Gottlob Frege, "On Sense and Reference" (in Hornsby and on-line).
Rec: Jennifer Hornsby, ed. Readings in Philosophy of Language (Blackwell, 2005).


Date Reading Assignment Notes
  W:  Jan 18    Lycan ch 1  
  M:  Jan 23    Lycan ch 2 HW 1 due
  W:  Jan 25    Lycan ch 3  
  M:  Jan 30    Lycan ch 4  
  W:  Feb 1    Lycan ch 5 HW 2 due
  M:  Feb 6    Lycan ch 7  
  W:  Feb 8    Lycan ch 8  
  M:  Feb 13    Lycan ch 9  
  W:  Feb 15    Lycan ch 10  
  M:  Feb 20    Gauker ch 1 HW 3 due
  W:  Feb 22    Gauker ch 2  
  M:  Feb 27    Gauker ch 3  
  W:  March 1    Lycan ch 6  
  M:  March 6    Lycan ch 11 HW 4 due
  W:  March 8    Lycan ch 12  
  M:  March 13    ------ SPRING BREAK
  W:  March 15    ------ SPRING BREAK
  M:  March 20    Frege  
  W:  March 22    ------ No class Wednesday
  M:  March 27    Lycan ch 13 HW 5 due
  W:  March 29    Gauker ch 4  
  M:  April 3    Gauker ch 5  
  W:  April 5    Gauker ch 6  
  M:  April 10    Gauker ch 7 HW 6 due
  W:  April 12    Gauker ch 8  
  M:  April 17    Gauker ch 9  
  W:  April 19    Lycan ch 14  
  M:  April 24    Gauker ch 10  
  W:  April 26    Gauker ch 11 HW 7 due
  M:  May 1    Gauker ch 12  
  May 5, 2-5:00   HW 8 due;
Final Exam, rm 204 AH

Homework 1 (1000 words):  How many words are in the English language? How many sentences? You will be graded on your ability to reframe the questions precisely and either to justify your answers or to describe a sound method for answering the questions.

Homework 2 (750 words): Answer questions 3 and 4 as found on p. 33 in the textbook.

Homework 3 (1000 words): Define "horse" and define "insult"; justify your definitions.

Homework 4 (1000 words): Summarize Gauker, ch 3.

Homework 5 (1000 words). Write an essay on illocutionary force. Suggestions:

Homework 6 (500 words): Answer question 1 or 2 from textbook, p. 202.

Homework 7 (1000 words): Summarize Frege, "On Sense and Reference".

Homework 8 (750 words): Analyze at least one example of figurative language for each of three theories of figurative language from the textbook. In each case, what, if anything, does the theory miss? Regular work due at the exam; for those eligible, grace-period work will be accepted until noon on Monday after the exam.

Syllabus subject to change.
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