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Reference and morphology*

Dupre, Gabe

Reference and morphology* Thumbnail


Gabe Dupre


The dominant tradition in analytic philosophy of language views reference as paradigmatically enabled by the acquisition of words from other speakers. Via chains of transmission, these words connect the referrer to the referent. Such a picture assumes the notion of a word as a stable mapping between sound and meaning. Utterances are constructed out of such stable mappings. While this picture of language is both intuitive and historically distinguished, various trends and programs that have developed over the last few decades in theoretical linguistics suggest an alternative. According to these approaches, the word, conceived of as a linguistic ‘building block’, has no special theoretical significance. While natural language systems generate structures mapping sounds onto meanings, they need not do so by composing elements which themselves specify such mappings. I shall describe some of these developments, and show how they pose a problem for traditional philosophical views of language and communication, before identifying an alternative approach to reference which does not rely on this common-sense picture of words.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 12, 2022
Online Publication Date Jun 12, 2022
Publication Date Jun 12, 2022
Journal Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Print ISSN 0031-8205
Publisher Wiley
Volume 106
Issue 3
Pages 655-676
Keywords History and Philosophy of Science, Philosophy
Publisher URL


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