The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

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Jeremy Bentham (17481832) did almost all his work in philosophy of language during the last twenty years of his life, primarily under the influence of Locke, the idéologues, and the universal grammarians. In a passage distinctly reminiscent of Locke's call for the development of "the doctrine of signs," Bentham expressed his own conviction that "a demand exists for an entirely new system of Logic, in which shall be comprehended a theory of language, considered in the most general point of view" (Works, edited by John Bowring, 8.119120). His belief in the importance of a theory of language within a system of logic seems to have made an impression on J. S. Mill and may mark the beginning of the return to a view of the interrelations of logic and language more like that prevailing in the later Middle Ages than like that of the eighteenth century.

Universal grammar constituted a part of Bentham's plan for fulfilling the demand he had recognized, and his account of its subject matter is modeled explicitly on what he considered the "pioneering" work of Tooke (see, for instance, 8.187188). Unlike Tooke, however, Bentham was inclined to consider it a branch of philosophical rather than philological inquiry and echoed the idéologues in his claim that within "the field of universal grammar it is not enough for a man to look into the books that are extant on the subject of grammar, whether particular or universalhe must look into his own mind" (10.193). He also followed the idéologues, Degérando in particular, in rejecting Condillac's view that languages and analytic methods were identifiable. On the one hand, he held, the analysis of experience on the most primitive level was dependent on the prelinguistic faculty of attention; on the other hand, "every name, which is not, in the grammatical sense, a proper name, is the sign and result" of an act of synthesis rather than of analysis (8.75; 8.121126). Bentham did, however, cite Lavoisier's Condillac-inspired reform of the language of chemistry as a prime example of the practical value of the philosophy of language (3.273).

On more strictly semantic questions Bentham occasionally wrote as if he had simply absorbed and to some extent clarified the doctrines of Locke's Book III, but when his most distinctive refinements of Locke are brought together, they mark a genuine advance in the history of semantics. He was in general agreement with Locke that "language is the sign of thought, an instrument for the communication of thought from the mind of him by whom the discourse is uttered [to another mind]. The immediate subject of a communication made by language is always the state of the speaker's mind." The crucial doctrine of immediate signification, which in Locke had been obscured by his vacillating treatment of it, was explicated by Bentham as follows:

In both these cases ["I am hungry," "That apple is ripe"], an object other than the state of my own mind is the subject of the discourse held by me, but in neither of them is it the immediate subject. In both of them the immediate subject is no other than the state of my own mindan opinion entertained by me in relation to the ulterior object or subject. [Language] may be the sign of other objects in infinite variety, but of this object [the utterer's state of mind] it is always a sign, and it is only through this that it becomes the sign of any other object. (8.329331)

Since, however, "communication may convey information purely, or information for the purpose of excitation" (8.301), the immediately signified state of the speaker's mind may be either "the state of the passive or receptive part of it, or the state of the active or concupiscible part" (8.329). Bentham described the use of language as a medium of communication as its "transitive" use. "By its transitive use, the collection of these signs is only the vehicle of thought; by its intransitive use, it is an instrument employed in the creation and fixation of thought itself." Consequently the transitive use of language "is indebted for its existence" to the intransitive use (8.228229, 8.301).

Partly because he had begun with "thoughts" rather than Lockean ideas as the immediate significata of linguistic signs, and perhaps also because of the similar position taken in Destutt de Tracy's universal grammar, Bentham recognized not words but propositions as the elements of significance.

If nothing less than the import of an entire proposition be sufficient for the giving full expression to any [but] the most simple thought, it follows that, no word being anywhere more than a fragment of a proposition, no word is of itself the complete sign of any thought. It was in the form of entire propositions that when first uttered, discourse was uttered. Words may be considered as the result of a sort of analysis a chemicological process for which, till of a comparatively much later period than that which gave birth to propositions, the powers of the mind were not ripe. (8.320323; italics added)

"In language, therefore, the integer to be looked for is an entire proposition" (8.188).

Many of Bentham's predecessors, but especially Locke, had inveighed against the philosophers' tendency to "take words for things." Bentham's refinement and extension of this notion into a doctrine of "linguistic fictions" is his most distinctive contribution to philosophy of language. He began by taking the evidently unprecedented step of defining extralinguistic elements in terms of the functions of certain elements of language.

An entity is a denomination in the import of which every subject matter of discourse, for the designation of which the grammatical part of speech called a noun-substantive is employed, may be comprised. A real entity is an entity to which, on the occasion and for the purpose of discourse, existence is really meant to be ascribed. A fictitious entity is an entity to which, though by the grammatical form of the discourse employed in speaking of it, existence be ascribed, yet in truth and reality existence is not meant to be ascribed.

Thus the noun-substantive "motion" in "that body is in motion" is the name of a fictitious entity, since "this, taken in the literal sense, is as much as to sayHere is a larger body, called a motion; in this larger body, the other body, namely, the really existing body, is contained." While he insisted that linguistic fictions stood in need of what he called exposition, he also maintained that they were contrivances "but for which language could not have existence" (8.195199).

The mode of exposition to which linguistic fictions were to be subjected was called paraphrasis, which "consists in taking the word that requires to be expoundedviz the name of a fictitious entityand, after making it up into a phrase, applying to it another phrase, which, being of the same import, shall have for its principal and characteristic word the name of the corresponding real entity" (8.126127). Since all words designative of nonphysical entities involved linguistic fictions, most of the work of philosophy, Bentham thought, would consist in such exposition of language.

In his Principles of Morals and Legislation, Chapter X, Bentham recommended a method of starting philosophical inquiry that was later to be employed and advocated by J. L. Austin. "I cannot pretend," Bentham said of his catalogue of motives in that chapter, "to warrant it complete. To make sure of rendering it so, the only way would be to turn over the dictionary from beginning to end; an operation which, in a view to perfection, would be necessary for more purposes than this" (italics added).


The special historical importance of the work of Wilhelm von Humboldt (17671835) lies in the fact that it incorporates the transition from the eighteenth-century philosophy of language to the nineteenth-century science of linguistics. It does so not only in respect of the philosophical doctrines presented in it but also because Humboldt coupled those doctrines with empirical investigations of the sort he considered to be demanded by his philosophy of language.

His most important workUeber die Kawi-Sprache auf der Insel Jawa (published 18361839)begins with the lengthy philosophical essay "Ueber die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaues und ihren Einflusz auf die geistige Entwickelung des Menschengeschlechts." In it he developed his single most influential and original notionthat language is to be viewed not as a finished product but as a continuous process (Sie selbst ist kein Werk, ergon, sondern eine Tätigkeit, energeia ), as the totality of instances of speech (or of the understanding of speech). Written words constitute language only when they are read and to the extent to which they are understood (Gesammelte Schriften, edited by A. Leitzmann, 7[No. 1].46 ff.). The rules of syntax and the individual words of a language are, then, the products of analysis, having real existence only insofar as they are embodied in instances of actual speech. Thus, as Destutt de Tracy and Bentham had observed from other points of view, "we cannot possibly conceive of language as beginning with the designation of objects by words and thence proceeding to their organization. In reality, discourse is not composed from words that preceded it. On the contrary, the words issued from the totality of discourse" (7[No. 1].72 ff.; cf. 7[No. 1].143).

The essential role played by language in fixing and organizing thoughts had been recognized long before Humboldt, but he extended that recognition into the bold new doctrine that language activity was the medium of contact between the mind and reality. "Man lives with the world about him principally, indeed exclusively, as language presents it to him." Humboldt felt that this conception of language held the solution to the post-Kantian problems regarding subjectivity and objectivity.

In speech the energy of the mind breaks a path through the lips, but its product returns through our own ears. The idea is [thus] translated into true objectivity without being withdrawn from subjectivity. Only language can do this. [Moreover,] just as the particular sound mediates between the object and the man, so the whole language mediates between him and the nature that works upon him from within and without. He surrounds himself with a world of sounds in order to assimilate the world of objects. (7[No. 1]. 55ff.)

Somewhat as Hamann had done, Humboldt thus believed that philosophy reduced to the philosophy of language, and that he had "discovered the art of using language as a vehicle by which to explore the heights, the depths, and the diversity of the whole world" (letter to Wolfe, 1805).

The differences among natural languages were philosophically as well as scientifically important in Humboldt's view, and he was opposed to the prevailing eighteenth-century type of universal grammar, which achieved its universality at the expense of linguistic differences that happened not to fit the grammatical schema adopted by the grammarian-philosopher. He proposed instead, and provided examples of, a genuinely comparative grammar, insisting that the comparative grammarian avoid adopting the grammar of Latin or of his native language as the schema within which to organize the forms of other languages ("Ueber das Entstehen der grammatischen Formen und ihren Einflusz auf die Ideenentwickelung," in Gesammelte Schriften 4.285 ff.). Each natural language, he believed, was characterized by its own "inner form," expressive of the psyche of the nation within which it had developed and which it bound together. The distinctive inner form manifested itself in the root words as well as in the patterns of word combinations peculiar to the language. This doctrine, which powerfully influenced the development of linguistics, was in Humboldt's presentation of it little more than a consequence of the traditional semantic doctrine that speech reflected not objects but man's view of objects, coupled with the novel romanticist conviction that the reactions of men to the world around them were not everywhere the same. Not only were the grammatical differences among languages to be respected and studied in their own right, but the separate vocabularies were also to be reexamined with a view to discovering not interlinguistic synonymy (which, strictly speaking, was illusory) but the nuances of meaning that gave expression to different world views (7[No. 1].59 ff.; 89ff.; 190ff.).

Humboldt's immediate influence was not on philosophers but on other founders of the science of linguistics, particularly on Franz Bopp (17911867). What influence his work eventually had on philosophy of language, at any rate outside Germany, seems to have been transmitted indirectly through the work of nineteenth- and twentieth-century linguists.


Alexander Bryan Johnson (17861867), the earliest American philosopher of language, was an isolated figure in the history of semantics. Locke and the Scottish commonsense philosophers strongly influenced his work, and he had learned something of the idéologues through Dugald Stewart's account of them. He seems, however, to have had little or no knowledge of his other predecessors and contemporaries. Johnson's work on language, published in three successive versions and under various titles in 1828, 1836, and 1854, went unnoticed for a hundred years and has had no appreciable influence since its republication during the 1940s. As the circumstances of his work would lead one to expect, it was unusual for its time both in its insights and in its mistakes.

The mistake that led to most of the others and to some of his principal insights as well occurred in his account of the semantics of words, in which he identified the signification(s) of a word with the thing(s) to which the word is applied. "Every word," he argued, "is a sound, which had no signification before it was employed to name some phenomenon." Consequently, "words have no inherent signification, but as many meanings as they possess applications to different phenomena. The phenomenon to which a word refers, constitutes in every case, the signification of the word " (Treatise on Language, Lectures VI and V; italics added).

The phenomena available as referents (or meanings) were exhaustively divided by Johnson into "sights, sounds, tastes, feels, smells, internal feelings, thoughts, and words" (Lecture XI). The word table, for example, signifies both a sight and a feel, "two distinct existences" bearing a single name. In this way "language implies a oneness to which nature conforms not in all cases," and men are prone to "make language the expositor of nature, instead of making nature the expositor of language" (Lecture III). Johnson made this common human failing his constant theme and provided several examples of philosophical and scientific difficulties that he felt were obviated by exposing a confusion of this sort as their source. Philosophers, he suggested, might append to every "nominal unit that aggregates objects generically different" a capital letterfor instance, S, sight; F, feelindicative of the phenomenon signified on each occasion. By that means David Hume, for example, might be seen to be announcing an "unconscious quibble," when he says, 'The table (S ) which we see, seems to diminish (S ) as we recede from it, but the real table (F ) suffers no diminution (F ).' The whole zest of the proposition consists in the sensible duality of each of the nominal units table and diminution. We play bo-peep with words, by neglecting to discriminate the intellectually conceived oneness of diminution, and its physical duality" (The Meaning of Words, pp. 8992).

In his account of the semantics of propositions Johnson remained faithful to the identification of meaning and referent with disastrous results, the most obvious of which was the confusion of meaningfulness (or meaninglessness) with truth (or falsity). "No proposition," he held, "can signify more than the particulars to which it refers" (Lecture VIII). He saw that one difficulty with this doctrine was that under it "the proposition that all men must die seems equivalent only to the proposition that all men have died." In his attempt to preserve the "universal application" of such general propositions, he adopted the indirect criterion of the failure of their negations to refer to any sensible particular. Thus "the proposition that all men will die, possesses a universal application for the reason that to say, some men will not die, refers to no sensible particulars, and hence is insignificant " (Lecture IX; italics added).

It was, however, this same approach to the semantics of propositions that led Johnson to develop and make critical use of a verifiability criterion of meaningfulness. Chemists, he remarked, had an indisputable right to "say simply that they can produce hydrogen gas, and oxygen, from water, and vice versa," but what they say instead is "that water is nothing but a combination of these gases. The assertion is true, so long as it means [merely ] the phenomena to which it refers ; but it produces wonder, because we suppose it has a meaning beyond the phenomena" (Lecture VII; italics added). Similarly, "if you inquire of an astronomer whether the earth is a sphere, he will desire you to notice what he terms the earth's shadow in an eclipse of the moon, the gradual disappearance of a ship as it recedes from the shore, &c. After hearing all that he can adduce in proof of the earth's sphericity, consider the proposition ['the earth is a sphere'] significant of these proofs. If you deem it significant beyond them, you are deceived by the forms of language " (Lecture VIII; italics added). In his verifiability criterion of meaningfulness and in his related discrimination of significant and insignificant questions (Lectures XIX ff.), Johnson anticipated some of the fundamental semantic principles of the pragmatists and positivists.


Many of the remarkable developments in semantics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries took place under the influence of or in reaction against the doctrines of John Stuart Mill (18061873). He presented his "philosophy of language" (a designation he seems to have made current) in Book I and Chapters IIIVI of Book IV of A System of Logic (1843), acknowledging the influence of the medieval logicians and Hobbes in particular, but also of Locke, Dugald Stewart, and others in the tradition of British empiricism. Like most of his empiricist predecessors in France and England, Mill believed that a philosophical inquiry into language had a high therapeutic value for philosophy itself, viewing metaphysics as "that fertile field of delusion propagated by language" (1.7.5).

By way of explaining his return to the practice of associating semantical inquiries with logic, Mill argued that since "language is an instrument of thought," not only in the reasoning process proper but in the antecedent operations of classification and definition, "logic includes, therefore, the operation of Naming" (introduction, Sec. 7). It is not clear whether Mill intended to identify the ratiocinative use of language with naming or to claim that all language stems from the operation of naming, but he did revert to the tradition of considering "names" as the elements of his semantic theory. And since he took it to be obvious that "a proposition is formed by putting together two names" (1.1.2), it seemed equally obvious that "the import of words [or names] should be the earliest subject of the logician's consideration: because without it he cannot examine into the import of propositions" (1.1.1).


In his account of the import of names, Mill began by taking the unusual tack of defending "the common usage" against the view of "some metaphysicians," arguing that words are "names of things themselves, and not merely of our ideas of things." (Although there are passages in Hobbes and Locke, for example, that can be interpreted as expressions of that view, neither they nor, it seems likely, anyone else held quite the view Mill was criticizing.) "It seems proper," Mill claimed, "to consider a word as the name of that concerning which, when we employ the word, we intend to give information." When, however, "I use a name for the purpose of expressing a belief, it is a belief concerning the thing itself, not concerning my idea of it," even when the belief in question is one concerning some idea of mine (1.2.1).

A name, in Mill's adaptation of scholastic terminology, was said to denote, individually and collectively, the things of which it was the name, "the things of which it can be predicated." But, as Mill observed, "by learning what things it is a name of, we do not learn the meaning of the name" (1.2.5). A name happens "to fit" a given thing "because of a certain fact. If we want to know what the fact is, we shall find the clue to it in the connotation " of the name (1.5.2). The connotation of the name is the "attribute" or set of attributes possession of which by a given thing is the fact in virtue of which the name fits the thing, and "the meaning of all names, except proper names [which have no meaning] and that portion of the class of abstract names which are not connotative [such as 'squareness,' which denotes a single attribute], resides in the connotation" (1.5.2). Mill recognized the connection of this distinction with the doctrine of denominatives (see the discussion of Anselm above), and in a note to 1.5.4 he indicated its relations to Hamilton's intension-extension distinction (see below).

connotation and denotation

Mill believed that the connotation-denotation distinction was "one of those which go deepest into the nature of language" (1.2.5). He made considerable use of it himself, and it played an important part in philosophical discussions for at least seventy-five years afterward. It is, however, a notoriously unclear distinction, especially in Mill's own treatment of it. With regard to denotation, for example, he claimed that a "concrete general name" such as "man" denotes Socratesthat is, is a name of, is predicable of that individualbut he claimed also that it denotes the class of which that individual is a member, which (at best) introduces a crucial ambiguity into the notion of denotation. With regard to connotation, the most serious difficulty centers on the notion of "attributes," which Mill suggested at one point was to be identified with what medieval logicians meant by "forms" (1.2.5n). In an evidently more careful account he declared that "the meaning of any general name is some outward or inward phenomenon, consisting, in the last resort, of feelings; and these feelings, if their continuity is for an instant broken, are no longer the same feelings, in the sense of individual identity.

What, then, is the common something which gives a meaning to the general name? Mr. [Herbert] Spencer can only say, it is the similarity of the feelings: and I rejoin, the attribute is precisely that similarity. The general term man does not connote the sensations derived once from one man. It connotes the general type of the sensations derived from all men, and the power of producing sensations of that type" (2.2.4n). The only plausible interpretation of this doctrine seems to bring it very close to Hobbes's (or Locke's) actual account of words as signs of our ideas (despite Mill's attack on its weakest version: Words are names of our ideas), for in the end Mill's semantics of words appears to be founded on the familiar view that words are signs of extramental entities (denotation) only in virtue of being signs of mental entities of some sort (connotation). Mill surely would have recoiled at the suggestion that his doctrine of the connoted attribute as a "general type" of sensations committed him to an acceptance of extramental metaphysical entities.

After a detailed, ingenious investigation of the semantics of many-worded connotative concrete individual names (1.2.5), frequently discussed by his successors, Mill turned to the semantics of propositions. His account of the meaning of names and his view that the meaning of a proposition is a function of the meanings of the names that serve as its terms led naturally to his view that "when we are analyzing the meaning of any proposition in which the predicate and the subject, or either of them, are connotative names, it is to the connotation of those terms that we must exclusively look, and not to what they denote." The view of Hobbesthat the predicate term is to be considered a name of whatever the subject term names"is a mere consequence of the conjunction between the two attributes," the connotations of the two terms, and is adequate only in case both terms are nonconnotative names (1.5.2).

Thus, "all men are mortal" asserts that "the latter set of attributes constantly accompany the former set." And on the basis of the account of attributes introduced above, "we may add one more step to complete the analysis. The proposition which asserts that one attribute always accompanies another attribute, really asserts thereby no other thing than this, that one phenomenon always accompanies another phenomenon; in so much that where we find the latter, we have assurance of the existence of the former." He was, however, careful to note that "the connotation of the word mortal goes no farther than to the occurrence of the phenomenon at some time or other" (1.5.4).

When he came to discuss "real" (as opposed to "verbal") propositions, however, Mill disclosed that with respect to real propositions the account just cited was only one of "two formulas" in which "their import may be conveniently expressed." The account in terms of companion sets of attributes is suited to the view of real propositions "as portions of speculative truth." But they may be viewed also "as memoranda for practical use," and Mill's consideration of them in this light prefigured some elements of pragmatist theories of meaning. "The practical use of a proposition is, to apprise or remind us what we have to expect in any individual case which comes in the assertion contained in the proposition. In reference to this purpose, the proposition, All men are mortal, means that the attributes of man are evidence of, are a mark of, mortality; that where the former are we [should] expect to find the latter." The two formulas for expressing the import of real propositions are, Mill maintained, "at bottom equivalent; but the one points the attention more directly to what a proposition means, the latter to the manner in which it is to be used" (1.6.5).

Mill agreed with the majority of his philosophical contemporaries in deploring attempts to devise a formalized language for philosophy and suggesting that philosophers reform the natural languages for their uses. He was in a minority, however, in urging philosophers to have a healthy respect for natural languages. One of the "inherent and most valuable properties" of a natural language is "that of being the conservator of ancient experience""Language is the depository of the accumulated body of experience to which all former ages have contributed their part, and which is the inheritance of all yet to come." Consequently, "it may be good to alter the meaning of a word, but it is bad to let any part of the meaning drop" (4.4.6). Mill was emphatic about the special respect with which words of uncertain connotation were to be treated, and he laid down as a principle for the guidance of philosophers that "the meaning of a term actually in use is not an arbitrary quantity to be fixed, but an unknown quantity to be sought" (4.4.3). The attitude toward natural languages enjoined on philosophers by Mill was in part the attitude adopted by J. L. Austin and other twentieth-century philosophers of ordinary language.

Peirce and the Pragmatists

In a tradition stemming from Locke, Charles Sanders Peirce (18391914) characterized logic "in its general sense" as "semiotic (σημει ωτική ), the quasi-necessary, or formal, doctrine of signs" (Collected Papers 2.227) and went much further than anyone before him had tried to go toward the development of a completely general theory of signs. (Insofar as Peirce's semiotic deals with nonlinguistic signs, it lies outside the scope of this article, but his elaborate, varying terminology makes it difficult to present a single standard version of even that portion of the theory which is directly relevant to his treatment of linguistic meaning.)

Peirce seems sometimes to have thought of semiotic as a generalized version of the medieval trivium, describing its three branches as "pure grammar," "logic proper," and "pure rhetoric" (2.228229). The first branch was to investigate the necessary conditions of meaningfulness, the second was to investigate the necessary conditions of truth, and the third was "to ascertain the laws by which in every scientific intelligence one sign gives birth to another, and especially one thought brings forth another" (2.229). These branches, with their subject matter somewhat differently described, were to become well known in twentieth-century philosophy under the designations "syntactics," "semantics," and "pragmatics" respectivelydesignations introduced by Charles W. Morris (Foundations of the Theory of Signs, 1938) and used extensively by Rudolf Carnap and others.

"Semiosis" was Peirce's name for an instance of signification, which he described as involving three principal elements: the sign, "something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity" (its "ground"); the object, that for which the sign stands; and the interpretant, another sign, equivalent to or "more developed" than the original sign and caused by the original sign in the mind of its interpreter (2.228). The notion of the interpretant is the distinctive element in Peirce's general account of signification and the one that played the central role in his pragmatism (or "pragmaticism"), which he often described as consisting entirely in "a method for ascertaining the real meaning of any concept, doctrine, proposition, word, or other sign" (5.6).

Some of Peirce's predecessors had already suggested that the meaning of a word could be determined only on a given occasion of its occurrence within a propositional context, but in Peirce's the traditional primacy of the semantics of words over the semantics of propositions was so thoroughly overturned that his theory of linguistic meaning is almost exclusively a theory regarding the meaning of whole propositions. According to that theory, a proposition, like every other sign, has an objectsome state of affairs, factual or otherwise. The meaning of a proposition, however, he identified not with its object but with one particular kind of effect of the proposition on an interpreter, namely, its "logical " (as opposed to "emotional" or "energetic") interpretant (5.476).

Peirce's definitive account of the logical interpretant appeared in the 1905 paper "What Pragmatism Is" (5.411434), in which he attempted as well to explain the distinctive and often misinterpreted "futuristic" aspect of pragmatist meaning theory.

The rational meaning of every proposition lies in the future. How so? The meaning of a proposition [that is, its logical interpretant] is itself a proposition. Indeed, it is no other than the very proposition of which it is the meaning: it is a translation of it. But of the myriads of forms into which a proposition may be translated, what is that one which is to be called its very meaning? It is, according to the pragmaticist, that form in which the proposition becomes applicable to human conduct, that form which is most directly applicable to self-control under every situation and to every purpose. This is why he locates the meaning in future time; for future conduct is the only conduct that is subject to self-control.

The only form of the proposition that would satisfy all these conditions was "the general description of all the experimental phenomena which the assertion of the proposition virtually predicts. For an experimental phenomenon is the fact asserted by the proposition that action of a certain description will have a certain kind of experimental result; and experimental results are the only results that can affect human conduct." Thus, as Peirce finally conceived of it, the meaning of a proposition is evidently to be explicated in the form of a true conditional with the original proposition as antecedent and, as its consequent, a conjunction of propositions constituting "the general description of all the experimental phenomena which the assertion of the [original] proposition virtually predicts."

Among the more striking problems in this account are (1) the difficulty of applying it to propositions other than those which occur within the context of an experimental science and (2) the fact that the meaning of a proposition is said to consist in other propositions, the meanings of which are presumably explicable in the same fashion, ad infinitum. Peirce was aware of both these problems. His response to (1) was generally to minimize the differences between the context of an experimental science and other contexts within which propositions occur, although he did occasionally, especially in his later writings, acknowledge the perhaps insuperable difficulties in employing this as a completely general theory of linguistic meaning. With regard to (2) Peirce was at first inclined to claim that a proposition (or any other sign) was, indeed, imperfectly significant if the series of its interpretants was finite ("Sign," in Baldwin's Dictionary ).

Later, however, the notion of "the ultimate logical interpretant" was introduced. "The real and living logical conclusion" of the series of logical interpretants is an expectation (on the interpreter's part) of certain phenomena "virtually" predicted by the assertion of the original proposition. This expectation Peirce frequently referred to as "habit." "The deliberately formed, self-analyzing habitself-analyzing because formed by aid of analysis of the exercises that nourished itis the living definition, the veritable and final logical interpretant" (5.491; cf. 5.486). Habit, which Peirce sometimes described as a "readiness to act in a certain way under certain circumstances and when actuated by a given motive," was not itself a sign and so stood in no need of interpretants of its own.

It was on this very point that Peirce thought his own doctrine differed from that of William James (18421910). "In the first place," he wrote, "there is the pragmatism of James, whose definition differs from mine only in that he does not restrict the 'meaning,' that is, the ultimate logical interpretant, as I do, to a habit, but allows percepts, that is, complex feelings endowed with compulsiveness to be such" (5.494). James's own definition of "pragmatism" in Baldwin's Dictionary identified it as "the doctrine that the whole meaning of a conception expresses itself in practical consequences either in the shape of conduct to be recommended or in that of experiences to be expected, if the conception be true" (italics added), but in doing so he evidently believed he was promulgating "Peirce's principle that the effective meaning of any philosophic proposition can always be brought down to some particular consequence, in our future practical experience, whether active or passive" (Collected Essays and Reviews, edited by R. B. Perry, p. 412; italics added). James's conception of pragmatism as a theory of meaning (and of truth) was, however, unquestionably broader and less carefully qualified than Peirce's and may fairly accurately be summarized in his own characteristic observation that concepts and propositions "have, indeed, no meaning and no reality if they have no use. But if they have any use they have that amount of meaning. And the meaning will be true if the use squares well with life's other uses" (Pragmatism, p. 273).

Pragmatism first became generally known in the form given it by James and in the still wider "humanism" of F. C. S. Schiller, and it was in those forms that it was subjected to intense criticism at the beginning of the twentieth century by F. H. Bradley and G. E. Moore, among others. Peirce's more intricate and interesting theory of meaning was not really considered in its own right until some years afterward, perhaps beginning with the publication of C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards's very influential The Meaning of Meaning in 1923, in which some ten pages were devoted to an exposition of Peirce's semiotic.

At the same time a pragmatist theory of meaning more complex and no less broad than James's was being developed in the "instrumentalism" of John Dewey (18591952). Dewey discussed meaning of every imaginable sort and in countless contexts, with the result that it is difficult to elicit from his many writings a genuinely representative doctrine specifically of linguistic meaning. Perhaps the least misleading single source is Chapter 5 of his Experience and Nature, first published in 1925. His position there was as follows:

The sound, gesture, or written mark which is involved in language is a particular existence. But as such it is not a word, and it does not become a word by declaring a mental existence; it becomes a word by gaining meaning; and it gains meaning when its use establishes a genuine community of action. Language and its consequences are characters taken on by natural interaction and natural conjunction in specified conditions of organization. Language is specifically a mode of interaction of at least two beings, a speaker and a hearer; it presupposes an organized group to which these creatures belong, and from whom they have acquired their habits of speech. It is therefore a relationship, not a particularity. The meaning of signs moreover always includes something common as between persons and an object. When we attribute meaning to the speaker as his intent, we take for granted another person who is to share in the execution of the intent, and also something, independent of the persons concerned, through which the intent is to be realized. Persons and thing must alike serve as means in a common, shared consequence. This community of partaking is meaning.

Even when, as in these passages, Dewey seems to have been considering linguistic meaning specifically, there is a real possibility that his intentions were much broader, for his conception of language was itself considerably broader than that of most philosophers. He was, for example, prepared to say that "because objects of art are expressive, they are a language. Rather they are many languages. For each art has its own medium and that medium is especially fitted for one kind of communication. The needs of daily life have given superior practical importance to one mode of communication, that of speech" (Art as Experience, 1935, p. 106).

Pragmatist theories of meaning, beginning with Peirce's 1878 paper "How to Make Our Ideas Clear," are alike in little more than their tendency to associate the meaning of a proposition with the conditions of its verification, but in that respect they may be said to have inaugurated twentieth-century developments of empiricist and operationalist theories of meaning.


The contributions of Gottlob Frege (18481925) to logic, philosophy of mathematics, and semantics were largely unappreciated at the time of their publication, primarily during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Their influence (direct or indirect) on recent philosophy has been so great, however, that Frege might fairly be characterized as the first twentieth-century philosopher. In his Begriffsschrift (1879) he developed "a formalized language of pure thought modeled on the language of arithmetic," which has been recognized as the first really comprehensive system of formal logic. In his other two major works, Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik (1884) and Die Grundgesetze der Arithmetik (18931903), he tried to show "that arithmetic is founded solely upon logic."

Philosophical problems encountered by Frege in those highly technical undertakings were explored by him in several papers that have had a wider influence than his books have had. As the topics of the books might lead one to expect, his philosophical papers are concerned almost exclusively with one or another aspect of systems of signs. Of these papers, the one that has had most effect on the development of semantics is "Ueber Sinn und Bedeutung" (1892, translated in P. T. Geach and Max Black, Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege, 1952), although the doctrine presented in it may prove to be historically less important than the doctrine of "functions" developed in other papers.

There is a broad and not wholly misleading similarity between Frege's distinction of sense (Sinn ) and reference (Bedeutung ) and such distinctions as comprehension-extension (Arnauld), intension-extension (Hamilton), connotation-denotation (Mill), depth-breadth (Peirce). It seems possible, however, that Frege developed his distinction independently; in any case, the details of his doctrine are quite novel. Most important, perhaps, was his discovery of special contexts rendering the application of any such distinction problematic.

sense and reference

Frege's development of the doctrine of sense and reference began, characteristically, in a consideration of the relation of identity: "=." He noted that "a = a and a = b are obviously statements of different cognitive value," which they would not be if we were to take the relation to hold "between that which the names 'a ' and 'b ' designate" or refer to (Geach and Black, p. 56). Consequently, "it is natural now, to think of there being connected with a sign (name, combination of words, letter), besides that to which the sign refers, which may be called the reference of the sign, also what I should like to call the sense of the sign, wherein the mode of presentation is contained. The reference of 'evening star' would be the same as that of 'morning star,' but not the sense" (p. 57).

Frege first applied his distinction to proper names, by which he meant any "designation of a single object." In keeping with Arnauld's similar distinction but in opposition to Mill's, Frege ascribed sense as well as reference to such designations. "A proper name (word, sign, sign combination, expression) expresses its sense, stands for or designates its reference. By means of a sign we express its sense and designate its reference" (p. 61). The sense of "Aristotle" "might, for instance, be taken to be the following: the pupil of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great" (p. 58n).

Certain expressions, such as "the least rapidly convergent series," have a sense, he maintained, but no reference at all. "In grasping a sense, one is not certainly assured of a reference" (p. 58). An expression that has a reference "must not be taken as having its ordinary reference" when "standing between quotation marks" (pp. 5859). Such observations had been made before, but Frege seems to have been the first to try to show what that extraordinary reference might be and, more important, to recognize that many different linguistic contexts affected the reference of expressions included within them, especially indirect discourse and subordinate clauses following such verbs as "hear," "conclude," "perceive," and "know." He claimed, for example, that "in reported speech, words have [not their customary but] their indirect reference," and that "the indirect reference of a word is its customary sense" (p. 59). His account of the effect of such contexts on reference has not been widely accepted, but the problems raised by it have stimulated the widespread interest of twentieth-century philosophers in such now familiar topics as synonymy, opacity of reference, Leibniz's Law, and what, following Franz Brentano (see below), have come to be called intentional contexts.

Frege was concerned with saying what sort of entities sense and reference were. In the case of a proper name his description of the reference was relatively unproblematic: "a definite object (this word ['object'] taken in the widest range)"(p. 57)so wide that "2 + 2" and "4," for example, were two proper names with one and the same "object" as their reference. Regarding the sense of a proper name, he found it easier to say what it was not: "The reference of a proper name is the object itself which we designate by its means; the idea, which we have in that case, is wholly subjective; in between lies the sense, which is indeed no longer subjective like the idea, but is yet not the object itself" (p. 60). Thus, there is "an essential [subjective-objective] distinction between the idea and the sign's sense." Frege seems not to have completely depsychologized the notion of the sense of the sign, however, since he suggested that it may be an element in humankind's "common store of thoughts which is transmitted from one generation to another" rather than "a part or a mode of the individual mind" (p. 59).

In Frege's discussion of the sense and reference of declarative sentences, the doctrine of the sense was relatively straightforward while the account of the reference became problematic. A sentence, he held, "contains a thought," and by "a thought" he meant "not the subjective performance of thinking but its objective content, which is capable of being the common property of several thinkers" (p. 62 and note). The two sentences "the morning star is a planet" and "the evening star is a planet" contain different thoughts, as may be seen from the fact that "anybody who did not know that the evening star is the morning star might hold the one thought to be true, the other false. The thought, accordingly, cannot be the reference of the sentence, but must rather be considered its sense" (p. 62). We are content to consider only the sense of sentences as long as we are not concerned to judge of their truth or falsity, but "in every judgment, no matter how trivial, the step from the level of thoughts to the level of reference (the objective) has already been taken" (p. 64). What we seek in judgment is the truth-value of the sentence. "We are therefore driven into accepting the truth-value of a sentence as constituting its reference. Every declarative sentence concerned with the reference of its words is therefore to be regarded as a proper name, and its reference, if it has one, is either the True or the False" (p. 63).

As his use of the phrase "driven into accepting" indicates, Frege was well aware that this was a startling doctrine of the semantics of sentences. Much of the remainder of his paper on sense and reference was devoted to considerations that he felt tended to support it, among them Leibniz's Law; for "what else but the truth-value could be found, that belongs quite generally to every sentence if the reference of its components is relevant, and remains unchanged by substitutions of the kind in question?" (p. 64).

The doctrine that sentences are proper names, whether or not of the True and the False, had an important negative effect in that its rejection by Wittgenstein (see, for instance, Tractatus 3.143) and by Bertrand Russell under Wittgenstein's influence (see, for instance, "Logical Constructions," Lecture I) helped to shape the course of philosophy of language in the twentieth century.

It is quite likely, however, that Frege's assimilation of declarative sentences to proper names was not quite so thorough or simple as his presentation of it in "Ueber Sinn und Bedeutung" suggests. Some of his remarks in an earlier paper, "Funktion und Begriff" (1891), at least raise the possibility that he may have denied proper-name status to sentences actually being used in making assertions (rather than considered as examples). In order to make what he took to be the indispensable "separation of the act from the subject-matter of judging" he introduced his assertion sign"""so that, e.g., by writing
2 + 3 = 5
we assert that 2 + 3 equals 5. Thus here we are not just writing down a truth-value, as in
2 + 3 = 5,
but also at the same time saying that it is the True." And in a note to this passage he maintained that "' 2 + 3 = 5' does not designate [that is, refer to] anything; it asserts something" (p. 34; italics added).


Of the several late nineteenth-century philosophers writing in German whose work centered on a concern with language, the most unusual was Fritz Mauthner (18491923). His principal work, Beiträge zu einer Kritik der Sprache, fills three large volumes and went through three editions, the first in 19011902. In his thoroughgoing attempt to transform all philosophy into philosophy of language, in his criticisms of Kant, and in his penchant for paradox he resembled Hamann, whom he admired, and also, to some extent, Humboldt. He seems, however, to have been most powerfully influenced by the positivism of Ernst Mach and especially by Hume's skepticism, adopting as his philosophical watchword "Back to Hume!"

Part of what Mauthner meant by that is apparent in the epistemological doctrine on which he founded his critique of language: "Our memory [with which he identified our knowledge] contains nothing but what our poor fortuitous senses [Zufallsinne ] have presented to it" (Beiträge 3.536). By calling our senses "fortuitous" he was calling attention to the fact that if we had been otherwise equipped with senses, we might have framed a very different view of the world. Language, however, depicts not the world but a world view. Therefore, any attempt to infer propositions regarding reality from facts of language is a form of "word-superstition."

Moreover, each man's individual senses present a world view unique in certain ultimately undeterminable respects, and so communication by means of language, even if it purports to be no more than an exchange of views, is fundamentally illusory. "No man knows the others. With respect to the simplest concepts we do not know of one another whether we have the same representation associated with one and the same word."

From such avowedly Lockean observations Mauthner drew the typically paradoxical conclusion that "by means of language men have made it forever impossible to get to know one another" (1.54). Thus he characterized language as "nothing other than just the community or the mutuality of world-views." It is not a tool for the communication or acquisition of knowledge; indeed, it is not a tool or an object of any sort but merely a practice, a use. And "because it is no object of use but use itself, it perishes without use" (1.24). But of all Mauthner's many characterizations of language the one most suggestive of distinctively twentieth-century attitudes is this: "Language is merely an apparent value [Scheinwert ], like a rule of a game [Spielregel ], which becomes more binding as more players submit to it, but which neither alters nor comes into contact with [begreifen ] the world of reality" (1.25).

Philosophy, in Mauthner's view, had to become a critique of language if it was to be anything at all, and in that guise its principal function was to be therapeutic. "Philosophy cannot wish to be anything more than critical attention to language. Philosophy can do no more with respect to the organism of language or of the human spirit than can a physician with respect to the physiological organism. It can attentively observe and designate the developments with names" (1.657). "If I want to ascend into the critique of language, which is at present the most important undertaking of thinking mankind, I must do away with language behind me and before me and in me, step by stepI must break in pieces each rung of the ladder as I tread on it" (1.12). It comes as no surprise to learn that the end of this therapeutic process was to be silence, the silence of mystical contemplation.

In the course of the long process, however, Mauthner found occasion to make many insightful observations on traditional problems of the philosophy of language. As several of his contemporaries and immediate predecessors had done, he recognized not the word but the sentence (Satz ) as the unit of meaningfulness and described the meaning of the word as a function of its use in a given sentence. Another position that was not new but to which he gave an especially forceful presentation was the rejection of the view "that because there is a word, it must be a word for something; that because a word exists there must exist something real corresponding to that word." This form of word superstition he regarded as "mental weakness" (2nd ed., 1.159).

It is probably only coincidence, but the name theory of linguistic meaning against which Mauthner inveighed bears a strong resemblance in some respects to the theories of Alexius Meinong and Edmund Husserl then being published and to the early views of Russell and Wittgenstein. Mauthner also opposed efforts at universal grammar (such as some of Brentano's followers were then engaged in) and mathematical logic, maintaining that all formalization of language obliterated or obscured far more than it clarified. Thus, he noted that "if someone says 'cheese is cheese' this utterance is not an instance of the general formula 'A = A'" (3.366), a formula "so empty that outside logic it must arouse the suspicion of insanity" (Wörterbuch der Philosophie, article "A = A").

Perhaps more than any other philosopher of language Mauthner had an appreciation of the history of the subject; at one time, in fact, he planned a fourth volume of his Beiträge that was to present the approach to the critique of language throughout the history of philosophy. Even as it stands, however, his work is filled with references to his predecessors and evaluations of their work from the viewpoint of the critique of language. Aristotle, for example, comes off badly, but Locke ranks very high. Indeed, Mauthner took "the English" to task for abandoning the work of Locke, for failing to see that "the content of their famous 'understanding' is simply the dictionary and grammar of human language" (Beiträge 3.535).

Mauthner's own effect on the history of the philosophy of language is still difficult to assess. Wittgenstein certainly knew of his work (see, for instance, Tractatus 4.0031). Whether or not Wittgenstein's turn in the direction of some of Mauthner's doctrines in Philosophical Investigations was coincidence or derived in part from Mauthner's influence remains an open question.

Husserl and Meinong

The students of Franz Brentano (18381917), among whom were Husserl, Meinong, Anton Marty, and Kazimierz Twardowski, were alike at least in taking Brentano's concept of intentionality as a point of departure in their own philosophizing. Brentano had introduced intentionality in his Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt (1874) as the differentia of "mental states," a characteristic "which the schoolmen of the middle ages called the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object and which we describe as the relation to a content, or the direction to an object (by which we need not understand a reality), or an immanent objectivity. Every mental state possesses in itself something that serves as an object, although not all possess their objects in the same way" (Psychologie 2.1.5; italics added).

The "intending" of an object by a mental state, the "directedness" of a mental state, bears a close enough resemblance to what is called significance in other contexts that much of what Brentano and his followers had to say in working out their central doctrine of intentionality has some relevance to semantics, broadly conceived. More specifically, the notion of intentionality underlies the considerable discussion in semantics of "intentional contexts," produced as a result of the ordinary use of such "intentional words" as "believe," "want," and "ascribe." For present purposes, however, our attention is confined to what Brentano's two best-known students, Husserl and Meinong, had to say expressly about language and linguistic meaning. The doctrines of both men passed through several stages of development and contain many complexities, only a few of which can be noted here.

The philosophy of language of Edmund Husserl (18591938) was developed at various places in his work but is concentrated in the first and fourth essays in his Logische Untersuchungen (19001901; rev. ed., 19131921). The first, titled "Expression and Meaning" (2.23105), was designed partly as a general preparation for intensive work in phenomenology as conceived by Husserl. It opens with an investigation of signs in general and proceeds to the consideration of expressions, signs that may be said to have meanings (Bedeutungen ) and not merely to indicate something. The three ingredients of meaningfulness, or "the meaning-situation" are (1) a "meaning-endowing act," or "meaning-intention" on the part of the producer of the expression, which may be associated with a "meaning-fulfilling act" on the part of an interpreter of the expression; (2) the content of these acts, or the meaning of the expression; (3) the object of these acts, or, in Husserl's broader terminology, the objectivity that is meant by the expression. To talk about what is expressed by a given expression may be to talk about any one of these ingredients. (To some extent Husserl avoided the usual sort of technical distinctions among semantical relations, specifically rejecting Frege's sense-reference distinction as a violation of the ordinary use of the words Sinn and Bedeutung, words which Husserl used interchangeably [2.53].)

Somewhat more precisely, an expression used in ordinary circumstances for purposes of communication may be described as "manifesting" the psychical experience of its producerthat is, the meaning-endowing actwhich is a necessary condition of its status as an expression. This manifesting function of an expression would, however, be lacking in the case of an expression used in an unoverheard monologue. The manifesting and the more strictly expressing functions differ also in that, for example, the expression "the three altitudes of a triangle intersect in a point" manifests a distinct mental state or act each time it is used in ordinary circumstances for purposes of communication, although what it expresses, in the stricter sense, remains the same on all occasions of such use.

Some of Husserl's main points in "Expression and Meaning" are summarized in sections dealing with "equivocations" associated with discussions of meaning and meaninglessness (2.5261). "A meaningless expression is, properly speaking, not an expression at all." Thus "green is or" (Husserl's example) only gives the appearance of an expression (2.54). Meaningfulness, however, entails reference (Beziehung ) to an object, regardless of whether that object exists or is "fictive." "Consequently, to use an expression with sense and to refer to an object (to present an object) are one and the same." Nevertheless, Husserl was careful to point out, the object of an expression is not to be confused with its meaning (2.54). As a result, "objectlessness" of an expression is not "meaninglessness" (where "objectlessness" indicates only the lack of a real object). Neither the name "golden mountain" nor the name "round square" is meaningless, although both are objectless, the second one necessarily so (2.55). After a rather obscure passage (2.5657) in which Husserl was evidently criticizing (without mentioning) pragmatism for identifying meaning with meaning-fulfilling acts, he devoted an entire section to the criticism of Mill's doctrine of connotation and denotation, with particular attention to Mill's view of "non-connotative names" as meaningless. A proper name, Husserl objected, is not a mere sign but an expression. It can, like any other expression, function as a mere signfor instance, in a signaturebut it ordinarily does much more. He felt that if Mill's distinction between what a name denotes and what it connotes were carefully separated from the merely related distinction between what a name names and what it means, some of the confusion in Mill's doctrine would be dissipated (2.5761).

In his fourth Logical Investigation, "The Distinction of Independent and Dependent Meanings and the Idea of a Pure Grammar" (2.294342), Husserl pursued the analysis of meaning undertaken in the earlier treatise. Of most historical interest is his attempted refurbishing of the Enlightenment project of a universal grammar, an enterprise furthered by Anton Marty (18471914), another of Brentano's students, in his Grundlegung der allgemeinen Grammatik und Sprachphilosophie (1908). In his treatise Husserl developed a notion of "pure logic" as "the pure formal theory of meanings " and insisted that we could not understand the functioning of even our own language if we did not first construct a "pure-logical grammar," the subject matter of which would be the "ideal form" of language. At a later stage of his career, however, Husserl abandoned this "ideal-language" approach to considerations of semantics and syntax and urged the return to living history and actual speechthe return to the Lebenswelt for the materials of philosophy.

Husserl's influence in all respects has been felt more strongly in Europe than in England and America. Some of his work in philosophy of language has been investigated and developed further by, among others, Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

Alexius Meinong (18531920) developed his theory of linguistic meaning as an integral part of the "theory of objects" in which he worked out his version of the doctrine of intentionality. His most complete presentation of it may be found in his Ueber Annahmen (1902; rev. ed., 1910).

Meinong began, in the traditional way, by developing a semantics of words. His assimilation of it to his theory of objects gave rise to no particularly novel features. "Whoever happens to pronounce the word 'sun,'" he declared, "normally gives expression [Ausdruck ] thereby, whether or not he wishes to do so, that a definite presentationit may be a presentation of perception or one of imaginationis taking place within him. What kind of presentation it is is determined principally on the basis of what is presented in iti.e., its objectand this object is precisely that which the word 'sun' refers to [bedeutet ]" (Ueber Annahmen, pp. 1920; italics added). He summed up his account of the "expression" and "reference" of words (which he presented explicitly as opposed to Husserl's doctrine of Ausdruck and Bedeutung ) by saying that "a word always 'refers to' the object of the presentation that it 'expresses' and, conversely, expresses the presentation of the object that it refers to" (p. 20). (The obvious similarities to Frege's doctrine of sense and reference, even as to the same unusual use of bedeuten, may be coincidental. There are, of course, clear differences as well, especially as regards Frege's treatment of "sense" and Meinong's treatment of "expression.") Meinong concluded his rather brief account of the meaning of words by refining his original distinction to the point of recognizing a "secondary" as well as the "primary" expression and reference described above (pp. 2023).

He then undertook to apply his "antithesis of expression and reference" to the semantics of sentences, and he first applied it in an effort to provide a more satisfactory criterion of sentencehood than that provided by traditional grammar. The phrase "the blue sky" and the sentence "the sky is blue" have, he maintained, one and the same object as their reference. If, however, "I say 'the sky is blue,' I thereby express an opinion [Meinung ], a judgment, that can in no way be gathered from the words 'the blue sky'" (p. 25; italics added). The phrase expresses the kind of experience described by Meinong as the pure presentation or idea, the Vorstellung proper, while the sentence expresses a different fundamental kind of experience, the judgment (Urteil ). The judgment differs from the pure presentation giving rise to it in two respects that might be described as "intentional"conviction and a determinate position as regards affirmation and negation (p. 2). Sentences, he claimed, might also be used to express "assumptions" (Annahmen ), which, because they have to be either affirmative or negative assumptions, share the second defining characteristic of judgments but lack the first, conviction (p. 4).

Meinong's most important contribution to semantics, partly because of its effect on the development of Russell's theory of descriptions, was his doctrine of "objectives," particularly in his application of it in the treatment of negative sentences, which he recognized to be crucial cases for his doctrine. Suppose that a magistrate judges that on a given occasion there was no disturbance of the peace. On the Brentano-Meinong view of mental states, there must be an object of that judgment. Putting it another way, there must be a reference for the sentence "there has been no disturbance of the peace," which expresses the magistrate's judgment. It cannot be the disturbance of the peace on the occasion in question, for, by the hypothesis, there is no such object. According to Meinong it can, however, be "the non-existence of a disturbance of the peace" or "that there has been no disturbance of the peace." Meinong held that it makes no sense to say that that nonexistence exists, but we may say that "it is the case." This entity, the being of which is being the case, is the "objective" to which the sentence refers. The objective may be a factif, for example, it is a fact that there has been no disturbance of the peacebut false judgments also have their objectives (2nd ed., p. 43). That regarding which the judgment is madea disturbance of the peaceis the object (proper) of the judgment; what is judged in itthat there has been no disturbance of the peaceis its objective (2nd ed., p. 52).

The objectives of negative sentences and the objects of denials of existence, such as "a perpetuum mobile does not exist," "must have properties, and even characteristic properties, for without such the belief in non-existence can have neither sense nor justification; but the possession of properties is as much as to say a manner of being [Sosein ]," which of course is not to be confused with existence. "In this sense 'there are' also objects that do not exist, and I have expressed this in a phrase that, while rather barbarous, I am afraid, is hard to improve uponviz. 'externality [Aussersein ] of the pure object'" (p. 79). Meinong believed that he had formulated an important principle in this doctrine, "the principle of the independence of manner of being from existence," which he illustrated and summarized in the following famous passage: "Not only is the often cited golden mountain golden, but the round square, too, is as surely round as it is square. To know that there are no round squares, I have to pass judgment on the round square. Those who like paradoxical expressions can therefore say: there are objects of which it is true that there are no objects of that kind" (Ueber Gegenstandstheorie, 1904, pp. 7ff.). Meinong's influence on the development of semantics is best exhibited in Russell's series of articles on him in Mind, 18991907.

See also Semantics, History of [Addendum].


There is at present no thorough general study of the history of semantics. Much relevant information may be found, however, in works on the history of logic, particularly in I. M. Bocheński, A History of Formal Logic, translated by Ivo Thomas (Notre Dame, IN, 1961); Philotheus Boehner, Medieval Logic (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1952); L. M. de Rijk, Logica Modernorum, Vol. I (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1962); William and Martha Kneale, The Development of Logic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962); Benson Mates, Stoic Logic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953); E. A. Moody, The Logic of William of Ockham (New York and London: Sheed and Ward, 1935), and Truth and Consequence in Mediaeval Logic (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1953); and Carl Prantl, Geschichte der Logik im Abendlande, 4 vols. (Leipzig: Hirzel, 18551870).

Surveys less thorough than this entry are contained in Ch. 7, "Language," of Janet and Séailles's History of the Problems of Philosophy, translated by A. Monahan and edited by H. Jones (New York: Macmillan, 1902), and in Ch. 1, "The Problem of Language in the History of Philosophy," of Vol. I, Language, of Ernst Cassirer's The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, translated by R. Manheim (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1953).

The following selection of books and articles is arranged in four parts corresponding to the four parts of the article.


Allen, W. S. "Ancient Ideas on the Origin and Development of Language." Transactions of the Philosophical Society [of Great Britain] (1948): 3560.

Billiesich, F. Epikurs Sprachphilosophie. Landskron, 1912.

De Lacy, Estelle. "Meaning and Methodology in Hellenistic Philosophy." Philosophical Review 47 (1938): 390409.

De Lacy, Phillip. "The Epicurean Analysis of Language." American Journal of Philology 60 (1939): 8592.

Demos, Raphael. "Plato's Philosophy of Language." Journal of Philosophy 61 (1964): 595610.

Deuschle, Julius. Die Platonische Sprachphilosophie. Marburg, 1852.

Goldschmidt, Victor. Essai sur le "Cratyle." Paris: Champion, 1940.

Lersch, Laurenz. Die Sprachphilosophie der Alten. 3 vols. Bonn: H.B. König, 18381841.

Luce, J. V. "The Theory of Ideas in Plato's Cratylus." Phronesis 10 (1965): 2136.

Moravcsik, Julius. "Being and Meaning in the Sophist." Acta Philosophica Fennica, Fasc. 14 (1962): 2378.

Robinson, Richard. "A Criticism of Plato's Cratylus." Philosophical Review 65 (1956): 324341.

Robinson, Richard. "The Theory of Names in Plato's Cratylus." Revue internationale de philosophie 9 (1955): 221236.

Schoemann, G. F. Die Lehre von den Redetheilen nach den Alten. Berlin, 1862.

Steinthal, Hugo. Die Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft bei den Griechen und Römern. Berlin: F. Dümmlers, 1863.

Weltring, G. Das Σημει̑ον in der Aristotelischen, stoischen, Epikureischen, und skeptischen Philosophie. Bonn, 1910.

the middle ages

Arnold, Erwin. "Zur Geschichte der Suppositionstheorie, die Wurzeln des modernen Subjektivismus." Symposion, Jahrbuch für Philosophie 3 (1952): 134.

Boehner, Philotheus. "A Medieval Theory of Supposition." Franciscan Studies 18 (1958): 240289.

Boehner, Philotheus. "Ockham's Theory of Signification." Franciscan Studies 6 (1946): 143170.

Boehner, Philotheus. "Ockham's Theory of Supposition and the Notion of Truth." Franciscan Studies 6 (1946): 261292.

Boehner, Philotheus. "Ockham's Theory of Truth." Franciscan Studies 5 (1945): 138161.

Carreras y Artau, Joaquin. De Ramón Lull á los modernos ensayos de formación de una lengua universal. Barcelona: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Delegación de Barcelona, Instituto Antonio de Nebrija, 1946.

Grabmann, Martin. "Die Entwicklung der mittelalterlichen Sprachlogik (Tractatus de Modis Significandi)." In his Mittelalterliches Geistesleben. 3 vols. Munich: Hueber, 1926. Vol. I, Ch. 4.

Grabmann, Martin. Thomas von Erfurt und die Sprachlogik des mittelalterlichen Aristotelismus; Sitzungsberichte der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Philosophisch-historische Abteilung), Jahrgang 1943, Heft 2.

Heidegger, Martin. Die Kategorien- und Bedeutungslehre des Duns Scotus. Tübingen: Mohr, 1916.

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The development of philosophy of language, like the development of philosophy generally in the twentieth century, has taken place at least as much in articles as in books, and the use of anthologies is consequently almost indispensable in the study of it. All the following anthologies contain material useful for the study of philosophy of language in the twentieth century: Logical Positivism, edited by A. J. Ayer (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1959); Philosophical Analysis, edited by Max Black (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1950); Philosophy and Ordinary Language, edited by C. E. Caton (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1963); Ordinary Language, edited by V. C. Chappell (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964); Logic and Language, edited by A. G. N. Flew (1st series, New York, 1951; 2nd series, New York: Philosophical Library, 1953); The Structure of Language, edited by J. Fodor and J. Katz (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964); Classics in Semantics, edited by D. E. Hayden and E. P. Alworth (New York: Philosophical Library, 1965); and Semantics and the Philosophy of Language, edited by L. Linsky (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1952).

William P. Alston, Philosophy of Language (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964), provides a good introduction to the subject as it developed in the first half of the twentieth century. John Passmore, A Hundred Years of Philosophy (London: Duckworth, 1957), provides an excellent history of this period and its immediate background, with considerable detail regarding developments in philosophy of language. More specialized and also to be recommended are G. J. Warnock, English Philosophy since 1900 (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1958), and J. O. Urmson, Philosophical Analysis: Its Development between the Two World Wars (London: Clarendon Press, 1956).

Norman Kretzmann (1967)

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The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

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