Philosophy of language is the reasoned inquiry into the nature, origins, and usage of language. As a topic, the philosophy of language for analytic philosophers is concerned with four central problems: the nature of meaning, language use, language cognition, and the relationship between language and reality. For continental philosophers, however, the philosophy of language tends to be dealt with, not as a separate topic, but as a part of logic, history or politics. (See the section "Language and Continental Philosophy" below.)
First, philosophers of language inquire into the nature of meaning, and seek to explain what it means to "mean" something. Topics in that vein include the nature of synonymy, the origins of meaning itself, and how any meaning can ever really be known. Another project under this heading of special interest to analytic philosophers of language is the investigation into the manner in which sentences are composed into a meaningful whole out of the meaning of its parts.
Second, they would like to understand what speakers and listeners do with language in communication, and how it is used socially. Specific interests may include the topics of language learning, language creation, and speech acts.
Third, they would like to know how language relates to the minds of both the speaker and the interpreter. Of specific interest is the grounds for successful translation of words into other words.
Finally, they investigate how language and meaning relate to truth and the world. Philosophers tend to be less concerned with which sentences are actually true, and more with what kinds of meanings can be true or false. A truth-oriented philosopher of language might wonder whether or not a meaningless sentence can be true or false, or whether or not sentences can express propositions about things that do not exist, rather than the way sentences are used.
Did you know...
- …that Francisco de Vitoria (pictured), a Spanish Renaissance Roman Catholic theologian, was the founder of the tradition in philosophy known as the School of Salamanca?
- ...that Collective Intentionality is a topic in the Philosophy of Mind that has been explored by John Searle, Margaret Gilbert, and J. David Velleman, among others?
- …that a 2001 discovery of lost manuscripts by Majorcan philosopher and writer Ramon Llull showed that he had indeed discovered the Borda count and Condorcet criterion, and as a result he has been called the father of computation theory?
- …that although the paradox, Buridan's ass, is named after French priest Jean Buridan, it had already been previously stated in De Caelo by Aristotle?
- …that besides being a philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz was an engineer, lawyer, philologist, sinophile, and a famed mathematician who co-invented calculus?
- …that while most Enlightenment scholars criticized the Byzantine system of the Eastern Roman Empire, Konstantin Leontiev, a scholar from the Russian Empire praised it for the very same reasons?
- …that Marc Sautet started the philosophical cafe known as Café Philosophique?
- …that criteria of truth are standards and rules used to judge the accuracy of statements and claims?
- …that a deductive fallacy is an argument that has true premises, but may still have a false conclusion?
- …that Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers is the first dated book printed in England?
- …that Wikipedia has information on everything?
- …that a successful experimental system must be stable and reproducible enough for scientists to make sense of the system's behavior, but unpredictable enough that it can produce useful results?
- …that the ancient Chinese text Huangdi Yinfujing, attributed to the mythical emperor Huangdi in the 3rd century BCE, may have been a forgery from the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE)?
- …that Time magazine editor Otto Fuerbringer was responsible for the controversial 1966 Is God Dead? cover?
- …that alternative theories of speciation besides natural selection include Lamarckism and orthogenesis?
- …that before the 17th century it was believed that all organisms grew from miniature versions of themselves that had existed since the beginning of creation, a theory called preformationism?
- …that children have trouble attributing implicit meaning to aspect verbs implicating non-completion such as start, but find implicit meaning in degree modifiers such as half, as in half-finished?
- …that Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya (pictured), a blind Hindu religious leader, has observed nine Payovrata, a six-month diet of only milk and fruits, per the fifth verse of the Dohāvalī composed by Tulasidāsa, which says that chanting the name of Rāma subsisting on a diet of milk and fruits for six months will result in all the auspiciousness and accomplishments in one's hand?