Word-use and meaning-change
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AbstractHaving been perplexed about examples which describe extraordinary situations in which what is at issue is how to talk, I want to begin to talk about how to talk about meaning change. I follow my own preference for talk about meaning in terms of intensions and extensions and I attach myself for the purposes of the thesis to Hilary Putnam's theory of the meaning of natural kind words. As what is to be said about meaning change depends for its integrity upon what ultimately is said about meaning, I consider Putnam's theory of meaning in detail, beginning with what I take to be two theses that emerge from his view that the extension of natural kind terms is determined by essential properties known to scientists. The first thesis is the radical revisability of necessary conditions and the second, radical defeasibility of the stereotype description of a natural kind or the scientific identification criteria. I argue that there are disjunctive necessary conditions for something's being a member of a natural kind. It becomes evident that Putnam's notion of a single stereotype associated with each natural kind term by the collective of speakers is overly restrictive and stereotypes must be permitted to vary at least with respect to the sophistication of the speaker and the sample upon which the stereotype is based. After detailing my objections and remarks to the concepts of indexicality and acquiring~ word, I suggest that Putnam's reliance upon the Causal Theory of Reference in his account of the determination of the extension of a word is misguided. Using a simple account of our use of the prepositions "in" and "of" it becomes possible to talk about changes in and of meaning in a way that maps onto intensional and extensional changes, and has a parallel in historical linguistics. Putnam's attempt to extend his theory of meaning from natural kind terms to physical magnitude terms and terms for theoretical entities is shown to be suspect. The division of linguistic labour is severely weakened in the eighth chapter, as is Putnam's restrictive view of experts. The division of linguistic labour survives to the degree that the extremely useful notion of deference is applicable. The conclusion of the thesis is not as much a conclusion as a residue composed of a much more tenable understanding of meaning and a general framework for talking about meaning change.
Bibliography: p. 317-324.
CitationBrusegard, D. A. (1978). Word-use and meaning-change (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/19045
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