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Philosophy of Language

Beginning with the early works of Aristotle, the interpretation of the verb to be runs through Western linguistic thought like Ariadne's thread. As it unravels, it becomes intertwined with philosophy, metaphysics, logic, and even with mathematics—so much so that Bertrand Russell showed no hesitation in proclaiming that the verb to be was a disgrace to the human race.

The Classics Explained

Many beginning students in philosophy of language find themselves grappling with dense and difficult texts not easily understood by someone new to the field. This book offers an introduction to philosophy of language by explaining ten classic, often anthologized, texts.

Language and Human Nature

Originally published in Italian in 2002, When the Word Becomes Flesh provides a compelling contribution to the understanding of language and its relation to human nature and social relationships. Adopting Aristotle’s definition of the human being as a linguistic and political animal, Paolo Virno frames the act of speech as a foundational philosophical issue—an act that in its purely performative essence ultimately determines our ability to pass from the state of possibility to one of actuality: that is, from the power to act to action itself.

Word Learning and the Embodied Mind

Ostension is bodily movement that manifests our engagement with things, whether we wish it to or not. Gestures, glances, facial expressions: all betray our interest in something. Ostension enables our first word learning, providing infants with a prelinguistic way to grasp the meaning of words. Ostension is philosophically puzzling; it cuts across domains seemingly unbridgeable—public–private, inner–outer, mind–body. In this book, Chad Engelland offers a philosophical investigation of ostension and its role in word learning by infants.

These fifteen original essays address the core semantic concepts of reference and referring from both philosophical and linguistic perspectives. After an introductory essay that casts current trends in reference and referring in terms of an ongoing dialogue between Fregean and Russellian approaches, the book addresses specific topics, balanc
ing breadth of coverage with thematic unity.

In The Connectives, Lloyd Humberstone examines the semantics and pragmatics of natural language sentence connectives (and, or, if, not), giving special attention to their formal behavior according to proposed logical systems and the degree to which such treatments capture their intuitive meanings. It will be an essential resource for philosophers, mathematicians, computer scientists, linguists, or any scholar who finds connectives, and the conceptual issues surrounding them, to be a source of interest.

Unifying Agreement-Based and Discourse-Configurational Languages

An unusual property of human language is the existence of movement operations. Modern syntactic theory from its inception has dealt with the puzzle of why movement should occur. In this monograph, Shigeru Miyagawa combines this question with another, that of the occurrence of agreement systems. Using data from a wide range of languages, he argues that movement and agreement work in tandem to achieve a specific goal: to imbue natural language with enormous expressive power.

Speakers, in their everyday conversations, use language to talk about language. They may wonder about what words mean, to whom a name refers, whether a sentence is true. They may worry whether they have been clear, or correctly expressed what they meant to say. That speakers can make such inquiries implies a degree of access to the complex array of knowledge and skills underlying our ability to speak, and though this access is incomplete, we nevertheless can form on this basis beliefs about linguistic matters of considerable subtlety, about ourselves and others.

Functional Categories and Hierarchical Structure

Recent research on the syntax of signed languages has revealed that, apart from some modality-specific differences, signed languages are organized according to the same underlying principles as spoken languages. This book addresses the organization and distribution of functional categories in American Sign Language (ASL), focusing on tense, agreement, and wh-constructions.Signed languages provide illuminating evidence about functional projections of a kind unavailable in the study of spoken languages.