Relationship among language thought and utterance means

Language and Meaning

relationship among language thought and utterance means

Language is something which is spoken; it is an instrument by means of inappropriate to regard or explain a person's utterance of a sentence as a stimulus .. debates on the relationship between thought and language bear their imprints on. This is a question about the relation between thought and language because this the proposition that the utterance literally expresses in light of the meaning of. A rather different claim is that language is an instrument of thought. . part of which is the linguistic meaning of the utterance, in order to infer the It is only by looking at the relation between the environment and the inter-.

For example, it might be thought that what determines the domain of discourse relative to which we should interpret the quantifiers in a sentence is just the class of things that the speaker has in mind in speaking the sentence. The concept of thought content is integral to the expressive theory of linguistic communication inasmuch as it is the content of the speaker's thought that the speaker intends the hearer to grasp on the basis of the speaker's choice of words.

Apart from the conception of content as something shareable between speaker and hearer, the expressive theory of communication would amount to little more than the thesis that something happens in the speaker, which causes the speaker to speak, and as a result of the speaker's speaking something happens in the hearer.

The expressive theory is distinguished from this completely vacuous theory primarily by the idea that in successful communication there must be a certain relation between what happens in the mind of the speaker andwhat happens in the mind of the hearer, and that relation is a relation of common content although the hearer's attitude toward that common content may be different from the speaker's attitude toward it.

I am stressing this because it sometimes happens that a theorist advances a theory of communication that in various ways is committed to the expressivist framework but then declares that it is not to be expected, even in cases of successful communication, that the content that the speaker expresses will match the content that the hearer ends up grasping e. Such a theory is liable to be vacuous unless the theorist can tell us what relation has to obtain between the content expressed and the content grasped, and if the theorist tells us that, then we will be able to use that answer to define a level of sameness of content such that we may say that the content expressed must be identical, at that level, to the content grasped.

Contents conceived as something shared in communication must be distinguished from contents of various other kinds represented in the philosophical literature. There are epistemological, folk psychological, and various semantic conceptions of content, and it cannot be taken for granted that any of these others is just the kind of content required by the expressive theory of communication. The reason for that is that it is not very easy to find explicit statements of what almost everybody takes for granted.

Nonetheless, I believe that expressivism represents a common tendency among many authors including: I would be very surprised if any these authors other than Grice, who is deceased would not affirm that expressivism, as I have described it here, is essentially correct.

If your name is on this list, and you do not consider yourself an expressivist in my sense, please tell me why not. Issues internal to expressivism Issues that divide expressivists fall into two main categories: First, there are issues concerning the place of thought in the theory of semantics.

Second there are issues concerning the nature of the underlying thoughts and their contents. One basic issue concerns the prospects for intention-based semantics.

Again, the expressivist will allow that it is by virtue of a common knowledge of the semantic properties of words that the speaker can expect the hearer to grasp the content of his or her underlying thought. In his paper, "Utterer's Meaning, Sentence-meaning and Word-meaning" first published in ; reprinted in Grice and Davis Grice had proposed to explain the semantic properties of words in terms of speaker's intentions. Roughly, the timeless meaning of a sentence was to be the sort of thing that speakers "have it in their repertoire" to mean by it.

So not only are we to understand the speaker's meaning on a particular occasion as the content of a thought that motivates the act of speech, but in addition the semantic properties of words that speakers exploit in this way on particular occasions are to be explained in terms of what speakers of the language generally mean by such forms of words.

The project of intention-based semantics was pursued as well by Bennett and early Schiffer However, it is quite possible to be an expressivist in my sense without believing in intention-based semantics.


For instance, Lewis thinks of a language, including the semantic properties of the language, as a conventional choice among the members of a community. In Davidson's later writings such as, although not perhaps in his earlier writings such asDavidson seems to qualify as an expressivist, but one who thinks of semantic properties not as a matter of speaker's intention but as a matter of radical interpretation.

The program of intention-based semantics has been criticized by an apostate Schiffer A particular stumbling block was how to explain the possibility of generating meaningful, but novel sentences on the basis of meaningful subsentential components.

relationship among language thought and utterance means

It seems to me that there is no one working in the philosophy of language today who believes in intention-based semantics. Even among expressivists who reject intention-based semantics an issue can arise about the place of thought content in semantics.

As I have explained, a sentence will not generally express a proposition apart from the setting in which it is uttered. A question among and between expressivists is whether or to what extent the pertinent features of the setting include features of the speaker's state of mind. For example, if on a given occasion the demonstrative "that" refers to a cat, then one might say that what makes it the case that "that" refers to that is that that is what the speaker had in mind; or, alternatively, one might maintain that there are certain semantic rules that determine the reference of a demonstrative in light of the setting irrespective of what the speaker has in mind, so that if the speaker does not have in mind the object determined by these rules, then what the speaker expresses will not be what the speaker's sentence expresses in the setting.

See WettsteinReimer aband Bach's replies to Reimer, ab. My own is relevant here, but it is aimed at criticism of expressivism rather than taking sides on an issue within expressivism. Another issue in this vicinity is in what way we should think of language as conventional. The very fact that there are many languages gives some sense to the claim that we might have used different words in place of those we do use.

But there may be some doubt about whether language is conventional in any stronger sense. For instance, Lewisholds that language may be conceived as a solution to a coordination problem which is a problem in which the best choice for each of several parties depends on the choice that the other parties makeand someone might doubt that.

It might even be doubted that there is any sense in which languages must be shared. For instance, this has been doubted by Davidson b. The second class of issues among expressivists concerns the nature of the thoughts that underlie language use and the nature of their contents. One issue in this class concerns the structure of these thoughts. Should we think of them as subpersonal particulars localizable in the brain the majority viewor should we think of them as somehow states of the whole brain or whole organism Stalnaker's view, ?

If we think of them as subpersonal particulars, should we think of them as having a structure very similar to that of a spoken sentence, so that they are subject to a division into word-like components classifiable as nouns, verbs, etc. Or must they instead be something like eternal sentences, whose meaning is entirely determined by their structure and components as Pinker and Levinson seem to think? A second issue in this class concerns the kind of content that might be communicated.

A great deal of recent writing has revealed that Frege's various conceptions of content do not all amount to the same thing e. Quite apart from the problem of sorting out the various conceptions of content, there is a problem about what kind of content might be said to be expressed in linguistic communication. In particular, there is the following sort of problem discussed by Heck and Paul, unpublished ms.

Suppose a speaker communicates a thought by means of a proper name. Is the person or thing named literally part of that content, or does the content contain, in place of the thing named, just some description or conceptualization of that object?

If the thing named is literally part of the content, then we may find that we have to say that communication has been successful, because the hearer has grasped the right content, even though intuitively communication has not succeeded, because the hearer has grasped this content in the wrong way. If, on the other hand, we build some characterization of the object named into the content, then it may be unreasonable to expect hearers to grasp the content solely on the basis of the speaker's words and the setting.

Finally, there is the question, "What makes it the case that a particular thought has a particular content? Why is that same thing not, instead, a belief that the President is a Republican or a belief that yesterday was a rhinoceros? One point of view is that the content of a thought is first of all a matter of its functional role within the thinker who has it Block Another point of view is that content can be explained in terms of biological function Millikan Yet another is that content can be explained in terms of correlations between occurrences of the thought type and occurrences of that which it represents Fodor Still another idea, closely related to functionalism, is that there will be a general psychological theory, formulated in terms of content-bearing states, such as belief and desire, and that a creature has such contentful states just insofar as it is a model, in the logician's sense, of the theory.

Loar can be taken as an illustration of this idea, although he does not formulate his thesis in terms of models. Perhaps the most common idea is that the meaningfulness of thoughts may be understood, on analogy with cartographical representation, as a kind of isomorphism between the elements in a system of mental representation and the world Cummins Criticism of the expressive theory of interpretation One category of criticisms of the expressive theory of communication concerns the nature of interpretation.

The question is whether it really is necessary to suppose that in normal cases of communication the hearer in some way contemplates the content of the speaker's thought and that the speaker intends the hearer to do that. Many people have been persuaded that this is so by Grice's famous paper "Meaning"originally published In that paper, Grice claimed that cases of someone's meaning something by something are distinguished from other acts in that the speaker intends to bring about some effect and intends to bring it about by means of the hearer's recognition of the speaker's intention.

Originally he thought that in the case of declarative utterances if the speaker means that p, then the intended effect would be that the hearer believe that p. In later work, however, the intended effect was to be that the hearer recognizes that the speaker believes that p.

The trouble is that the only sorts of arguments that have ever been offered for this analysis are patently fallacious. Grice himself tends to reason as follows: He describes a case of not meaning anything by anything; he observes that it lacks some feature, and then he infers that cases of meaning something by something must possess that feature.

For example, he asks us to consider a case in which someone leaves B's handkerchief at the scene of a crime intending the detective to believe that B was the murderer. According to Grice, this person does not mean anything by doing so.

Presumably because in this case of not meaning something by something the agent does not intend the detective to recognize that he intends the detective to believe that B committed the crime, Grice infers that in general if someone means something by something, then he or she intends that the hearer will recognize his or her intention to get the audience to form a certain belief.

Psycholinguistics/Language and Thought - Wikiversity

But this is a fallacy. It is as though we were trying to define "mammal", observed that an alligator is not a mammal and that an alligator lacks wings and then inferred that all mammals have wings. In reply it might be said that Grice expects us to see not only that some of the intentions that he says are characteristic of meaning something by something are absent in cases of not meaning anything by anything but also that they are always present in cases of meaning something by something.

But what reason is there to believe that? Suppose two people are waiting for a bus and A observes that B is impatient for the bus to arrive. B checks her watch, steps out in the road to look for the bus, etc.

relationship among language thought and utterance means

A says to B, "The bus will be here within five minutes". Presumably, A meant by that that the bus would arrive within five minutes. Does A intend that B will recognize that A believes that the bus will arrive in five minutes on the basis of B's recognition that A intends B to recognize this?

I see no reason to think so. It is not even obvious that A intends B to believe that the bus will arrive within five minutes or to believe that A believes this. Maybe A has no idea whether B think such things but hopes that in any case saying so will put B at ease.

Whether or not we need a Gricean analysis of meaning something by something, it might be said that communication is clearly a matter of a hearer's recognizing the content of the thought that motivates the speaker's act of speech. What makes this so clear, it might be said, is the phenomenon of meaning more than we say. The best way to understand what is going on in these cases, it might be said, is to suppose that the hearer infers what the speaker has in mind somehow on the basis of what the speaker literally says.

Grice had an influential theory of this too, which he presented in his paper, "Logic and Conversation"originally published According to Grice's theory, hearers may determine what more the speaker has in mind by supposing that the speaker was trying to be cooperative in saying what he or she did say.

In one of Grice's examples, A is standing by his car at the side of the road, and is approached by B. A says, "I am out of petrol". B replies, "There is a garage around the corner". What B means by this is not just what he literally says, namely, that there is a garage around the corner, but also that A can buy petrol at the garage around the corner.

According to Grice, the way A will understand this is by inferring that this must be what B has in mind given that what he literally says is supposed to be cooperative; and this is what B will intend A to do.

But such examples could be treated very differently if we were not antecedently committed to expressivism. In the petrol example, it is not obvious that A has to contemplate what B has in mind at all. On the contrary, he might simply make an inference from the setting and what B literally says to the conclusion that he will be able to buy petrol at the garage around the corner.

Perhaps they are at a busy intersection in the middle of the day; so if there is a garage around the corner it is liable to be a thriving concern, open for business with petrol for sale.

If the conversation takes place in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, A will not conclude that the garage is open and has gas to sell. He will first ask for more information. If B leaves without giving more information perhaps he is driving by, shouting out the windowthen A might still, in desperation, go around the corner hoping for petrol, but he will not presume that the gas station is open with petrol for sale just on account of what B said.

Generalizing from this example, we might infer that even when speakers mean more than they say, what happens may not be that hearers infer what speakers have in mind but that hearers make an inference from what the speaker literally says and the setting. There is also a more subtle question to be raised about the expressivist's conception of semantics. As I explained in the previous section, an expressivist will need a theory of semantics, conceived as what interlocutors know in common about their language or their respective languages that enables them to infer the speaker's state of mind on the basis of the speaker's choice of words.

The question is whether the expressivist can give a workable theory of the ways in which the proposition expressed depends on the situation in which the utterance takes place. For instance, how does the situation determine the reference of demonstratives? How does the situation determine the domain of discourse relative to which we interpret quantified sentences?

On the one hand, it can be doubted whether the pertinent facts about the situation are what the speaker has in mind. For instance, it can be doubted whether the domain of discourse relative to which an utterance of a quantified sentence ought to be evaluated is just the domain of things that the speaker has in mind.

After all, the speaker has an obligation to speak in ways that are understandable; and so one might expect that the pertinent features of the situation have to be accessible to the hearer without the hearer's having to do anything so difficult as infer what the speaker has in mind. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether there is available to the expressivist any other general theory.

For a development of this more subtle critique, see my Criticism of the expressive theory of thought Expressivism is not overtly a theory of the nature of thought, but it does put certain constraints on a theory of thought, and we may ask whether these constraints are tolerable. In particular, expressivism entails that our theory of the nature of thought must treat thought as sufficiently language-independent that we might without circularity explain language in terms of thought in the manner of expressivism.

In considering this question, it is important to understand that what is at issue is specifically the kind of thought having the kinds of contents that, according to expressivism, words have the function of conveying. Call this conceptual thought. We could attempt an independent characterization of this conceptual thought.

For instance, we might define it recursively, thus: But the main thing to understand is that it is the kind of thought whose contents are supposed to be shared in communication. Not every kind of thought does qualify as conceptual thought in this sense. For instance, imagistic thinking does not. Moreover, there may be many other sorts of mental process that deserve to be called thinking although they cannot be grasped by analogy to words or pictures but can be understood only in terms of neurology or in terms of a terminology invented just for the purpose of explaining these kinds of thinking.

The expressivist certainly need not deny that conceptual thought is in every way independent of language. Of course, what we think depends largely on what people tell us. Some of the things we think about, such as words and books and even Wednesdays and marriages, depend on language in various ways.

There may be thoughts that a person could not very easily hold in mind without the help of the notations that public languages pr ovide. Most importantly, the child may form certain concepts only because those are the concepts expressed by the words in the language that the child has to learn.

Thus, it is perhaps only because the child observes that a number of objects are called "chair" and a number of other, in some ways similar objects are not called "chair" that the child forms a concept comprising all and only chairs rather than a concept comprising both chairs and stools but excluding other things. What might challenge expressivism is only the claim that the very contentfulness of thought is understandable only in terms of the meaningfulness of the words that people speak.

One way to challenge expressivism along these lines would be simply to criticize all of the various theories that attempt to explicate thought content in a language-independent manner. That would be an undertaking beyond the scope of this article, but I do want to say something simple about what I take to be the predominant conception of mental representation, namely, the isomorphism idea.

The idea is that mental representations represent the world insofar as they stand in an isomorphism to the world. This idea is encouraged by an analogy between mental representations and actual maps, but not much can rest on this analogy since it is not obvious that the relation between maps and what they represent does not depend on the fact that maps are understood, that is, represented in certain ways.

It is actually not very easy to understand how the technical definition of isomorphism roughly, a structure preserving mapping could be put to use in a theory of mental representation. For example, what relation in the world is the image of the relation that obtains between two sentences when a symbol for disjunction is written between them? When all is said and done, what the idea comes to is that if we think of a set of mental representations as a theory in the logician's sensethen an interpretation in the logician's sense of the language of the theory in terms of objects and actually obtaining relations between them must be a model in the logician's sense of this theory.

When the isomorphism theory is shown to amount to this, then several basic problems plainly emerge. One is that the world constitutes a model of a theory only if the theory really is true, and we cannot assume that every contentful, sentence-like mental representation is true.

Psycholinguistics/Language and Thought

Another is that whenever there is one model there are many. Given one model we can always get another one by substituting individuals for individuals in accordance with a one-one mapping of individuals into individuals making the substitutions both in the interpretation of singular terms and in the extensions assigned to predicates.

What does it mean to know a language? If we want to answer this question, we should probably start off asking ourselves: Why do we have it, why do we need it? First of all, language allows a quick and effective expression of what we think and provides a well-developed means of encoding and transmitting complex and subtle ideas.

In other words, language has a symbolic function, allowing us to externalise our thoughts by using certain symbols, and an interactive function, enabling us to get things across, and also, to make things happen e. Symbols, according to Langackerconsist of forms sounds, orthographic representations, or a gesture as in sign language paired with meanings the semantic content associated with the symbol and he terms this form-meaning pairing a symbolic assembly.

In CL, the meaning associated with a linguistic symbol is said to be linked to a particular mental representation termed a concept. The meanings encoded by linguistic symbols refer to our projected reality: Our conceptualizations are seemingly unlimited in scope. Therefore, language represents a limited system for the expression of thought. From a cognitive linguistic point of view, knowing language therefore means much more than knowing words and how they can be combined.

Instead, it means knowing how form and meaning is combined to form symbolic assemblies and of course, knowing how to use these to make communication possible. Language in use Speaking about language in use we will naturally move into the direction of pragmatics.

In detail, we will speak about concrete spoken language or in other words: First of all, I would like to work out a definition of "utterance". Consider the following two definitions: Croft An utterance is a linguistic act in which one person expresses towards another, within a single intonation contour, a relatively coherent communicative intention in a communicative context.