LANGUAGE AND THOUGHT: LINGUISTIC MEANING AND CONCEPTS

Entidad/es financiadora/s: FFI2014-52196-PMINECO, Spanish Government

Director: Agustin Vicente

Summary:

 

 

Theories of linguistic meaning have usually worked under the hypothesis that sentences have propositional contents which can be expressed in their truth conditions (i.e., in what conditions what the sentence says is true). A sentence's propositional content, on the other hand, is a thought, or the content of a propositional attitude (believe, doubt, desire, etc.). Thus, the orthodox position in semantics has had it that sentence meanings and mental states contents are the very same thing, such that it can be said that sentences express thoughts. However, the last decade or so of work in semantics has put into question this received model. Many authors from different traditions lately hold that linguistic meaning is neither truth-conditional nor conceptual (i.e., sentences do not express thoughts), an issue which has a deep impact upon the general issue of how language and thought develop and relate to each other. In our work we have tried to modify the received view as little as possible, because we think that most of the new proposals generate more puzzles than needed. The line we have taken, which we want to continue pursuing, modifies the received view in the opposite way which many of its detractors have taken. Many linguists, philosophers and psychologists have chosen to make linguistic meaning, and in particular lexical meaning, "thin". According to these authors, the semantic information contained in lexical entries is poorer than the information contained in a concept. This account has been labelled "the wrong format view", as it takes it that word meanings do not have the right format to enter into propositional compounds (they are representations with less informational content). Our hypothesis, in contrast, is that lexical entries (or, at least, a certain class of lexical entries) contain very rich conceptual information, and that they only contribute with aspects or parts of such information to truth-conditional or propositional compounds.