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use theory of meaning

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


Philosophy of language The later Wittgenstein criticized the view that language has a single function that explains meaning and observed that language has a variety of uses. He claimed that the meaning of a word has to be understood in terms of its employment in the context of different language-games. To give the meaning of an expression is to show how that expression enters into the language-games in which it functions. He held that the meaning of a word is its use in a language. Instead of asking what a word means, we should ask how the word is used. An expression's role in language determines its sense , and the sense of a sentence is its employment. Accordingly, to determine the meaning of an expression one must invoke the conditions under which it is appropriate to use it, including the states of mind of speakers or hearers in a given context. This account, which contrasts with Wittgenstein's earlier picture theory of meaning , has been widely influential and has developed into many versions after Wittgenstein. Critics suggest that while a use account of meaning helps our understanding of the various roles of linguistic expressions, it is preliminary to a theory of meaning rather than a theory in its own right. “As a tool of analysis, the use theory of meaning can provide us only with certain data, i.e. raw material for philosophical analysis.” Searle, Speech Acts ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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