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Philosophy of Language$
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Scott Soames

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780691138664

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691138664.001.0001

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The Limits of Meaning

The Limits of Meaning

(p.145) Chapter Seven The Limits of Meaning
Philosophy of Language

Scott Soames

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores the relationship between theories of linguistic meaning and theories of language use. This problem—widely known as that of the “semantics–pragmatics interface”—is the focus of intense contemporary investigation. At issue is whether the traditional conception of the relationship between meaning and use can survive. According to that conception, the semantic content of a sentence in context is always a proposition, which, special circumstances aside, is both asserted by utterances of the sentence in the context, and itself the source of whatever subsidiary assertions may result. Problems are posed for this conception, based on a wide variety of expressions, constructions, and uses of sentences. Solutions are sought by comparing semantic analyses defending the traditional account with those challenging it. The chapter defends an emerging conception of the relationship between meaning and use, according to which the meaning of a sentence is a set of constraints on what normal uses of it assert, or express.

Keywords:   language use, philosophy, linguistic meaning, semantics–pragmatics interface, semantics

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