Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction, 3rd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Philosophy of Language

A Contemporary Introduction, 3rd Edition

By William G Lycan


238 pages

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Paperback: 9781138504585
pub: 2018-09-10
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pub: 2018-08-28
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pub: 2018-10-11
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Now in itsthird edition, Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction introduces students to the main issues and theories in twenty-first-century philosophy of language, focusing specifically on linguistic phenomena. Author William G. Lycan structures the book into four general parts. Part I, Reference and Referring, includes topics such as Russell's Theory of Descriptions (and its objections), Donnellan's distinction, problems of anaphora, the Description Theory of proper names, Searle's Cluster Theory, and the Causal-Historical Theory. Part II, Theories of Meaning, surveys the competing theories of linguistic meaning and compares their various advantages and liabilities. Part III, Pragmatics and Speech Acts, introduces the basic concepts of linguistic pragmatics and includes a detailed discussion of the problem of indirect force. Part IV, The Expressive and the Figurative, examines various forms of expressive language and what "metaphorical meaning" is and how most listeners readily grasp it.

Features of Philosophy of Language include:

  • chapter overviews and summaries;
  • clear supportive examples;
  • study questions;
  • annotated lists of further reading;
  • a glossary.

Updates to the third edition include:

  • an entirely new chapter, "Expressive Language" (Chapter 14), covering verbal irony, sarcasm, and pejorative language (particularly slurs);
  • the addition in several chapters of short sections on pretense theories, addressing (1) puzzles about reference, (2) irony, and (3) metaphor;
  • a much expanded discussion of Relevance Theory, particularly its notion of ad hoc concept construction or "loosening and tightening," and the application of that to metaphor;
  • new discussion of Cappelen and Lepore's skepticism about content-dependence;
  • up-to-date coverage of new literature, further reading lists, and the bibliography, as well as an improved glossary.


"An authoritative, pedagogically sensitive and superbly clear introduction to the central issues of the philosophy of language."

Paul Boghossian, New York University, USA

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Meaning and Reference Part 1: Reference and Referring 2. Definite Descriptions 3. Proper Names: The Description Theory 4. Proper Names: Direct Reference and the CausalHistorical Theory Part II: Theories of Meaning 5. Traditional Theories of Meaning 6. "Use" Theories 7. Psychological Theories: Grice's Program 8. Verificationism 9. Truth-Condition Theories: Davidson's Program 10. Truth-Condition Theories: Possible Worlds and Intensional Semantics Part III: Pragmatics and Speech Acts 11. Semantic Pragmatics 12. Speech Acts and Illocutionary Force 13. Implicative Relations Part IV: The Expressive and the Figurative 14. Expressive Language 15. Metaphor Glossary Bibliography Index

About the Author

William G. Lycan is William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. His eight books include Consciousness and Experience (1996), Real Conditionals (2001), and Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction (Third Edition, 2018).

About the Series

Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy

An innovative, well structured series, the Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy are designed for students who already have completed an introductory-level course in philosophy.  Each book introduces a core general subject in contemporary philosophy and offers students an accessible but substantial transition from introductory to higher-level college work in that subject.  The series is accessible to non-specialists and each book clearly motivates and expounds the problems and positions introduced.  An orientating chapter briefly introduces its topic and reminds readers of any crucial material they need to have retained from a typical introductory course.  Considerable attention is given to explaining central philosophical problems of a subject and the main competing solutions and arguments for those solutions.  The primary aim is to educate students in the main problems, positions and arguments of contemporary philosophy rather than to convince students of a single position.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General