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division of linguistic labor

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


P hilosophy of language A hypothesis introduced by Putnam in his article “The Meaning of ‘Meaning.’” Language is used in a community, and a community is divided into many subsets. A word in a language may have different meanings and extensions , depending on its different references and the occasions on which it is used. The expert speakers may know all facets of the word and be aware of its various distinctions, but this will not be the case for average speakers. Not all of them can know all the distinctions or the exact extension. They use the word in the way that is accepted by the subset of the community to which they belong. By virtue of this principle, Putnam tries to indicate that not every term is a description , and that the extension of each term is at least partly determined socially rather than in the mind of the individual speaker. “Every linguistic community exemplifies the sort of division of linguistic labour just described, that is, possesses at least some terms whose associated ‘criteria’ are known only to a subset of the speakers who acquire the terms, and whose use by the other speakers depends upon a structured cooperation between them and the speakers in the relevant subsets.” Putnam, “The Meaning of ‘Meaning,’” in Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science , vol. VII ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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