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This stage of the journey focuses on concepts as candidates for word meaning. It contains a discussion of several versions of the mentalistic/representational approach to word meaning, also assessing them for candidacy for a general theory of meaning in language that covers words, sentences, utterances, and discourses, pursued in the upcoming stages. It foregrounds the role of context in determining lexical content and the associated ‘food for thought’ questions.
This final brief stage of the journey invites reflection on the various seminal, ground-breaking ideas and approaches introduced in this journey and on how they can be woven into a ‘postively eclectic’ view of what meaning in language is – a unique view that each reader can develop for themselves with the help of this introduction to ideas and to ways of thinking. It also addresses the role of metasemantics and metapragmatics in posing ‘foundational questions’ about meaning. It concludes with a dicussion of the future of meaning, in the context of some ‘big questions’: constraints on processing information imposed by the human brain, the intelligence–consciousness interface, and, generally, how to comprehend the human take on the world – the human way of comprehending it and organizing and conveying information. In short, it puts the theories and approaches discussed in this journey under the net of our human meaning.
Stage 6 of the journey addresses various aspects of how information is conveyed and organized in a sentence, beginning with the stubborn problems that led to the development of dynamic semantics (‘donkey sentences’ and cross-sentential anaphora), through properties of expressions that are used to refer (descriptions, proper names, indexical expressions), to the organization of information (presuppositions and projective content, topic, focus, coherence). As such, it is a step to the next stage that concerns utterance meaning.
Semantics and pragmatics – the study of meaning, and meaning in context, respectively – are two fundamental areas of linguistics, and as such are crucial to our understanding of how meaning is created. However, their theoretical ideas are often introduced without making clear connections between views, theories, and problems. This pioneering volume is both a textbook and a research guide, taking the reader on a journey through language and ultimately enabling them to think about meaning as linguists and philosophers would. Assuming no prior knowledge of linguistics, it introduces semantics, pragmatics, and the philosophy of language, showing how all three fields can address the 'big questions' that run through the study of meaning. It covers key theories and approaches, while also enabling increasingly more sophisticated questions about the interconnected aspects of meaning, with the end goal of preparing the reader to make their own, original contributions to ideas about meaning.
Stage 7 of the journey moves to utterance meaning and to various ways of explaining how speakers communicate more than what the sentence says. It introduces the intention-and-inference-based concept of meaning in Grice’s and post-Gricean pragmatics, travelling though maxims, principles, and heuristics proposed by various scholars of this orientation. It then moves to introducing (i) approaches that advocate the ‘maximalist’, contextualist semantic content and (ii) semantic minimalism that preserves a much clearer boundary between semantics and pragmatics – suggesting ‘food for thought’ at many points in the discussion.
This stage of the journey moves to ‘things speakers do with language’ in communication, covering a broad area from the literal-non-literal distinction and approaches to metaphor, through speech acts, ending with the ‘crossroads’ with ethical and social debates, such as those to do with negotiation and joint construction of meaning, questions of accountability and commitment (also in the case of lying and misleading), as well as politeness and appropriateness, including the use of taboo and offensive language. It offers a glimpse of how these topics benefit from an interdisciplinary manner of research and pauses with ample ‘food for thought’ questions on the way.
In Stage 5, the journey moves to meaning relations within sentences, introducing such topics of quantification (including generalized quantifiers), representing events and states, temporal, aspectual, and modal distinctions in semantics, and propositional attitude reports.
Stage 4 of the journey follows with an example of how implementation of a formal metalanguage helps with, but also hinders, the analysis of meaning of natural-language expressions. In particular, it addresses operations on sentences and introduces the connectives of propositional logic, assessing the degree of fit between them and their natural-language counterparts. In the process, it addesses the question of ambiguity and/or underspecification of the latter and concludes with some ‘food for thought’ on the usefulness of a formal semantic analysis.
This first stage of the journey introduces the concept of meaning in language and discourse, discusses the advantages of studying it at the interfaces of semantics, pragmatics, and philosopy, and moves to the correlates of meaning in the mind and in the world. It also addresses the question of the appropriate unit of study – a flexible type of proposition.
This stage of the journey offers an explanation of how truth conditions and truth-value judgements can be used in understanding sentence meaning, moving on to the role of a formal metalanguage, possible worlds, and models. As ‘food for thought’, it focuses on the importance of selecting a suitable formal language, introducing some options available in the formal semantic tradition, as well as on the cognitive reality of such approaches to meaning.