Words and Thoughts: Subsentences, Ellipsis, and the Philosophy of Language

Paperback | May 1, 2009

byRobert Stainton

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It is a near truism of philosophy of language that sentences are prior to words. Sentences, it is said, are what we believe, assert, and argue for; uses of them constitute our evidence in semantics; only they stand in inferential relations, and are true or false. Sentences are, indeed, theonly things that fundamentally have meaning.Does this near truism really hold of human languages? Robert Stainton, drawing on a wide body of evidence, argues forcefully that speakers can and do use mere words, not sentences, to communicate complete thoughts. He then considers the implications of this empirical result for language-thoughtrelations, various doctrines of sentence primacy, and the semantics-pragmatics boundary.The book is important both for its philosophical and empirical claims, and for the methodology employed. Stainton illustrates how the methods and detailed results of the various cognitive sciences can bear on central issues in philosophy of language. At the same time, he applies philosophicaldistinctions with subtlety and care, to show that arguments which seemingly support the primacy of sentences do not really do so. The result is a paradigm example of The New Philosophy of Language: a rich melding of empirical work with traditional philosophy of language.

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It is a near truism of philosophy of language that sentences are prior to words. Sentences, it is said, are what we believe, assert, and argue for; uses of them constitute our evidence in semantics; only they stand in inferential relations, and are true or false. Sentences are, indeed, theonly things that fundamentally have meaning.Doe...

Robert Stainton is at the University of Western Ontario.

other books by Robert Stainton

Compositionality, Context and Semantic Values: Essays in Honour of Ernie Lepore
Compositionality, Context and Semantic Values: Essays i...

Kobo ebook|Nov 14 2008

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.01 inPublished:May 1, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199250391

ISBN - 13:9780199250394

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Table of Contents

PART ONE: THE APPEARANCES AND SOME BACKGROUND1. 1. Introduction: The appearances, and what they might mean2. Further Background IssuesPART TWO: THE GENUINENESS ISSUE3. Not A Full-fledged Speech Act?4. Extra-Grammatical Manoeuvres5. Semantic Ellipsis6. Syntactic Ellipsis7. A Divide and Conquer Strategy8. A Positive Representational-Pragmatic ViewPART THREE: IMPLICATIONS9. Language--Thought Relations10. Sentence Primacy11. The Sentences, Assertion and the Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary

Editorial Reviews

`interesting and rich in ideas ... should be read with great interest. 'Alessandro Capone, University of Messina