semantics Logical Approach

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semantics Logical Approach

?A Philosophical Approach (p144)

    1 The Scope of philosophy of language

     ? The philosophy of language deals with the nature of language. Katz:

    „It is a somewhat paradoxical fact that the conceptual systems that

    give man an understanding of himself and his world are themselves not adequately understood by him. Everyone will readily agree that

    Copernican astronomy, atomic physics, the kinetic theory of heat, relative theory, and other comparable scientific systems have made our universe a far more comprehensive place to live in than it was ever before their construction. Such conceptual systems successfully explain large ranges of complex natural phenomena; yet that stand in need of much explanation themselves. Indeed, it was not too much to say that, as things are presently, there is need for clarification on almost every point concerning the nature of such systems and that even the most elementary questions about them still remain unanswered. For example, we are still unable to say exactly what a scientific theory is, what sorts of explanations are obtained from empirically successful theories, how theories differ from laws, what laws are,or how laws and theories are confirmed by evidence. Thus , we are very far from a full understanding of these conceptual systems taken as objects of theoretical investigation, even though they are understood in the straight forward sense in which an understanding of them is essential to gaining the understanding they afford of their subject matter. Paradoxically, we lack an understanding of what they are, even though, in the straightforward sense, we understand them well enough to say quite a lot about other things.(p.144)

     It is with this need to understand the nature of conceptual systems that philosophical inquiry begins. Philosophy takes the conceptual systems developed by scientists, mathematicians, art critics, moralists, theologians, et al. , as its subject matter and seeks to explain and clarify what has to be explained and clarified about such systems in order to


render them fully comprehensible. Philosophers pursue this task by

    describing the structure of these conceptual systems, analyzing the methods by which such systems are arrived at, and evaluating the validity of the claims made for them. Today such description, analysis, and

    evaluation of particular conceptual systems within various academic disciplines is carried on within the several branches of philosophy: philosophy 6f science, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of art (aesthetics), philosophy of morality (ethics), philosophy of religion, and so forth.

     But the particular conceptual systems considered in each of these special branches of philosophy are far from independent of one another. Rather, not only do such particular conceptual systems overlap so that

    one system in one discipline utilizes the insights of and poses problems for others in different disciplines but together the particular conceptual

    systems from every discipline form an integrated fabric of conceptual knowledge. Thus, philosophy, in its most embracing concern, studies this over-all fabric of conceptual knowledge, seeking to articulate the general structure of conceptual knowledge, to determine 4he intellectual and empirical methods common to all forms of conceptual construction, and to reveal the principles by which genuine cognitive claims can be distinguished from spurious or insubstantial ones-Consequently, although the philosophical investigation of the over-all system of conceptual knowledge and the philosophical investigation of particular conceptual systems are distinguishable, and this distinction is quite important to the division of philosophical labor, they are strongly dependent on each other. The results of each investigation must perforce contribute significantly to those of the other, with the former providing organization and research focus for the latter and the latter providing hidings that serve as evidence for the former. Without such Interconnections and interaction the former's achievements would lack substantiation, while the latter's would lose much of their intellectual significance.

     Philosophy of language is an area in the philosophical investigation if


    conceptual knowledge, rather than one of the several branches of contemporary philosophy, such as philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of art, and so forth. It is that area which seeks to learn what can be learned about conceptual knowledge from the fanner in which such knowledge is expressed and communicated in language.

    Accordingly, the basic premise of the philosophy of language is that there is a strong relation between the form and content of language and the form and content of conceptualization. The special task of the philosophy of language is, therefore, to explore this relation and make whatever inferences about the structure of conceptual knowledge can be made on the basis of what is known about the structure of language.

     Thus, the philosophy of language is a distinct field from the philosophy of linguistics, which is that division of the philosophy of science whose major concern is the examination of the theories, methodology, and practice of the descriptive linguist. There may, of course, be considerable interpenetration between these two fields; but, nonetheless, they have fundamentally different research aims and proceed at different levels of abstraction.

     This conception of the philosophy of language is broad enough to encompass the work of the most diverse philosophers who have occupied themselves with language. It covers Plato's work on language as well as Ariristotle's; it covers the work of rationalists such as Descartes, Cordemoy, Arnauld, and Leibniz as well as that of empiricists such as Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Mill; and it covers the work of such modern philosophers as Frege, Husserl, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Ryle, Austin, and others. Moreover, it represents what is certainly the philosopher's unique concern with language: the desire to acquire information about language that will help him deal with the basic problems of philosophy. Thus, this conception distinguishes the philosopher's concern with language from that of scholars in other disciplines whose concern with language stems from an interest in things other than an understanding of conceptual knowledge per se, that is, from


    the linguist's concern with language for its own sake, the sociologist's concern for the light it sheds on society, the psychologist's concern for the in sight it can give about the development and character of mental processes, the anthropologist's concern for the clarification it can afford about the nature of culture, etc.

     Finally, note that this conception does not place the linguistic questions with which philosophers have often dealt outside the sphere of the philosophy of language; but it does mean that the task of the philosopher of language is not completed once he has obtained the answers to purely linguistic questions, for then the implication of such answers for the solution to questions about the structure of conceptual knowledge still remain to be drawn.

    ? Information about language is thus his starting point only. His goal is to utilize such information to contribute to the solutions of those traditional philosophical problems that stand in the way of a full understanding of conceptual knowledge. '(Katz, 1966:1-6)

     From the description above, we could see that philosophers have been interested in language for a long time and for various reasons. To summarize, first, 'since language seems to be characteristic of human beings, to know about language is to something about being human, second, since certain philosophical problems seem to arise from false beliefs about the structure of language, understanding it may help solve those problems or avoid them altogether. ? 'Third, many philosophers

    have held that language is a reflection of reality, so, if one could

    understand the structure of language, one could understand the structure of reality' (Martinich, 1993:3)

    ?To be more specific, philosophers distinguish three areas of the study of language: syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Syntax is the ' of rules that describe what a well-formed grammatical sentence in purely formal


    terms. As far as the present book is concerned, syntax is out side of our concern here. Pragmatics is the study of what speakers do with language. Speakers do not simply talk. In or by speaking, they, for example, promise, marry, swear, forgive, apologize, insult, and enrage.

     Furthermore, what is communicated is not wholly conveyed by

    what is said; much is implied the implicature of the utterance..

     2 ? Philosophical semantics

     'Semantics from the philosophical point of view concerns the nature of meaning itself. 'Philosophical semantics studies the following basic problems: (a) whether and how meaning is at all possible, and (b) 2 kinds of meanings that are in principle possible. The first problem concerns the

    logical underpinnings of linguistic meaning, that is, can we determine meaning at all and how? The second problem concerns what we should find, assuming that we have judged the pursuit in the first problem possible. These questions are clearly onto logical, in the philosophical sense, in that they concern what must be the case, philosophical semantics is primarily a deductive enterprise, devoted to l examination of what ought to be and from which the actual facts, what I, happily fall out. Linguistic semantics is primarily an empirical discipline, inductive, data-driven, and therefore involved first with what actually exists, what in principle must be.

    3 How is meaning possible?

     To say that something has meaning is to say that it is a sign, a composite unit consisting of a relation between an overt signal, called the signifier, and the information that this overt signal evokes, called the signified. The signifier, signified, and their relation make up the sign. Here we have the basic semiotic definition of meaning (see Barthes 1967; Saussure 1959), ? semiotics is the discipline that studies all meaningful signal exchange, from culture as rules for acceptable

    behavior to literature and art as conventionalized aesthetic meaning. The


    semiotic characterization of meaning has always dominated philosophical semantics, as Katz (1986:159-60) nicely articulates:

     We have had one attempt after another to treat meaning as something else. There have been attempts to reduce it to stereotypes, truth conditions, extensions in possible worlds, use illocutionary act potential, perlocutionary act potential of various sorts, and even physical inscriptions. Indeed, the history of philosophical semantics in this century might well be written as a succession of metaphysically inspired attempts to eliminate the ordinary notion of meaning or sense.

     Katz's point, in semiotic terms, is that the history of philosophical semantics is largely a series of proposals to reduce meaning to an investigation of what the signifier (the overt mark) evokes: behavior,

    mental images, truth, and so forth. In philosophical semantics, meaning is

    possible because there is a relation between a signifier and the signified.

    The rest of the history of semantics is a series of attempts to delineate types of signifieds. But how do these things bear on

    grammatical meaning? How does this relational view of meaning in general shed light on meaning conveyed by the structure of language? What can we expect of particular languages?

     If we look at the history of the study of the relation between signifier and signified, we find that philosophical semantics offers basically programmatic answers to questions about grammatical meaning. Approaches to meaning via the signifier/signified relation divide rather neatly into two camps: One sees a direct relation between linguistic signifiers and signifieds and the other an indirect relation. '(Frawley, 1992:5-6) The direct view

     there is a direct view ,the connection between the signifier and signified is mediated,noniconic,or opaque. most typically represented by Plato (see his dialogue Cratylus), who argued that the world we live in is populated

    by imperfect manifestations of a pure world of ideal forms. The imperfect

    forms reflect the pure forms, so every object in the present world is


    motivated to some extent as a reflex of the world of pure ideal forms. Words and their meanings also derive from ideal forms, so the word table

    reflects its primal connection with the ideal form of ' tableness' to which it refers. Table is therefore an appropriate name for the object because the ideal world of forms infused in the word legitimizes the name. In less ponderous phraseology, in a direct view like Plato's, language is

    iconic. There is a straightforward and necessary connection between the signifier and the signified. All things are appropriately named because

    all linguistic forms, words as signifiers, directly reflect their origin in pure being, their signifieds.

     Centuries of science make this view a bit hard to swallow, unless one also accepts its metaphysical stance and believes in some other world pure being. After all, where is this other world? In his defense, Plato (again in Cratylus) offered a number of etymologies that he said substantiate the iconic relation of signifier and signified. The god Pluto, for instance, is appropriately named because the name Pluto means wealth'. Wealth comes from under the ground (e. g. the wealth of natural resources), and Pluto is appropriately the god of the underworld. (This

    point is deductive )

     Problems quickly surface with this account. If all signifiers iconically reflect pure being (Note by Sam ,pure being must be confined to the given

    linguistic community ;the pure being=existence in Chinese community differs from that in Spanish one.), then why are there different languages?

    Why are there different signifiers? Why is it table in English and mesa in

    Spanish? 149In spite of these obvious problems, a number of versions of the direct view have been held through the years. The early Wittgenstein (1974/1918), for example, argued that propositions are logical pictures of the facts, by which he meant that the forms of propositions reflect what they depict. Truth and falsity are discoverable because of this infusion of the signified, the facts, in the signifier, the proposition. Katz (1981) takes a Platonic position on all aspects of language, arguing that actual linguistic forms derive from a world of pure


    linguistic forms. ?For Katz, meanings are abstract objects that exist independently in the minds that perceive them. Adherents of the

    iconic theory of grammar, for example Haiman (1980, 1983, 1985a, 1985b) and others like him theoretically, argue that linguistic categories a kind of signifier directly reflect ideal semantic forms:

    ? Nouns universally encode entities; verbs encode temporally dynamic relations. All these views share the idea that, like all

    icons, the signifieds (所指 referent) of language (entities, dynamic

    relations, appropriate names, facts) are recoverable from the signifiers ,能指!(nouns, verbs, referent sentences). In short,

    meaning is a transparent relation between signifer and signified. ' (Frawley, 1992:6-7) The indirect view

    'In contrast to the direct view, there is the indirect view: The connection between the linguistic signifier and the signified is mediated, noniconic, or opaque. This position in Western thought is usually traced back to ?

    Aristotle, who, in On Interpretation, claimed that the relation

    between words and their referents is conventional, that social rules determine how meanings are paired with overt forms. The connection between the signifier and signified is not necessary, but symbolic, and unmotivated.

    This position is intuitively more appealing. After all, languages do vary in

    their signifiers and signifieds over time. How else could there be semantic

    change unless the connection between the signifier and signified were non-necessary? A more recent influential version of the indirect view of linguistic meaning is the conceptualist position proposed by Ogden and Richards (1923) in their comprehensive study of the Philosophical definition of meaning. In that work, they characterize meaning as a

    semiotic triangle, a relation between a symbol (word) and referent (an


object), mediated by concept .


     symbol referent

     (Ogden and Richards's semiotic triangle)

    In the conceptualist view, meaning is an indirect association (as indicated by the broken line) between a signifier and signified, with thought playing

    the mediating role.

     The conceptualist position has had numerous followers, though it is by no means the required or dominant view. Two of its contemporary adherents are Jackendoff (1983, 1988) and Lakoff (1987, 1988). Jackendoff ?? claims that semantic analysis is exactly the same as conceptual analysis: "Meaning in natural language is an information structure that is mentally encoded by human beings" (1988: 81).

    Lakoff argues for a totally cognitive semantics, where (meaning is

    coextensive with perceived experience, an "imaginative projection, using mechanisms of schematization, categorization, metaphor, and metonymy to move from what we experience in a structured way with our bodies to abstract cognitive models" (1988: 121).) ?Aristotle, Ogden and

    Richards, Jackendoff, and Lakoff may diverge on the details of the indirect connection between signifier and signified, but they all share the view that meaning itself is an indirect association between the linguistic signal and the information evoked by the signal. '(Frawley, 1992:7-8)

    Grammatical meaning and the possibility of meaning

    'The direct and indirect views of the first ontological question of


    philosophical semantics provide us with metatheory: claims about how we 'ought to proceed rather than analysis itself. Although all meaning is a relation between a signifier and a signified (whether or not this relation is direct), linguistic semantics is very particular about the content of the signifier: only those signifiers that have ramifications on the rest of the language as a formal system.

     We are not obliged to hold either the direct or indirect view to do linguistic semantics, though we do see how a decision for one or the other can affect the units of analysis we propose. A recent influential work in logical semantics, Dowty (1979), spends an entire chapter discussing whether the semantic units proposed in the book have any existence at all outside the system of analysis. ?? The principal task of linguistic

    semantics is to describe what languages actually deploy, not to worry about how meaning is possible, a worry that usually leads to talk about meaning instead of elucidation and analysis of meaning itself. Linguistic semantics is driven metatheoretically by what Lakoff (1988: 123) calls

    basic realism: The world exists, minds exist, other people exist, meaning exists, and our senses provide reliable reports of the status of the external world.

     If the direct view of meaning is correct, for instance, and if the meaning of an expression is its underlying Platonic forms, then its linguistic semantic analysis is not seriously affected. Similarly, if the meaning of an expression is some set of conceptual mediations of the signifier and signified, the analysis still proceeds. The linguistic issues do not disappear because Plato's or Lakoff's metaphysics turns out to support the first question of meaning. We still have to confront the problem of actual meanings. '(Frawley, 1992:8)

? ?A Phonetic Approach ( Sound is a medium of language


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