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The general attempt to understand the components of a working language, the relationship the understanding speaker has to its elements, and the relationship they bear to the world. The subject therefore embraces the traditional division of semiotics into syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. The philosophy of language thus mingles with the philosophy of mind, since it needs an account of what it is in our understanding that enables us to use language. It also mingles with the metaphysics of truth and the relationship between sign and object. Much philosophy, especially in the 20th century, has been informed by the belief that philosophy of language is the fundamental basis of all philosophical problems, in that language is the distinctive exercise of mind, and the distinctive way in which we give shape to metaphysical beliefs. Particular topics will include the problems of logical form, and the basis of the division between syntax and semantics, as well as problems of understanding the number and nature of specifically semantic relationships such as meaning, reference, predication, and quantification. Pragmatics includes the theory of speech acts, while problems of rule-following and the indeterminacy of translation infect philosophies of both pragmatics and semantics. See also formal language.

Subjects: Philosophy

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