Howard University College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Philosophy
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Philosophy of Language

Phil 166

Dr. Cara Spencer

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of language. We will consider several interrelated questions about language, meaning, and context, including the following:

1. What distinguishes words from meaningless sounds and squiggles, and what determines the specific meaning of a word? Is it simply conventional that a word has a particular meaning, or are there any innate constraints on what words (or complex grammatical like phrases or sentences) can mean? What role (if any) do speakers’ intentions play in determining what a word means?
2. How does the context of someone’s utterance (i.e. who is talking, who is listening, what else has just been said, what is common knowledge among the speaker and listeners) help to determine the meaning of that utterance? Is there anything systematic or general that we can say about how context determines what is meant?

II. Required Texts 
1. William G. Lycan, Philosophy of Language: a contemporary introduction. London and New York: Routledge 2000 
2. A.P. Martinich Philosophy of Language. 4th Edition. New York: Oxford UP 2001.
3. Course Packet 

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