3rd Edition

What is this thing called Philosophy of Language?

By Gary Kemp Copyright 2024
    334 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    334 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Philosophy of language explores some of the most abstract yet most fundamental questions in philosophy. The ideas of some of the subject's great founding figures, such as Gottlob Frege, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, as well as of more recent figures such as Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam, are central to a great many philosophical debates to this day and are widely studied. In this clear and carefully structured introduction to the subject Gary Kemp explains the following key topics:

    • the basic nature of philosophy of language, its concepts and its historical development
    • Frege’s theory of sense and reference; Russell's theory of definite descriptions
    • Wittgenstein's Tractatus, Ayer, and the Logical Positivists
    • recent perspectives including Kripke, Kaplan, Putnam, Chomsky, Quine and Davidson; arguments concerning translation, necessity, indexicals, rigid designation and natural kinds
    • the pragmatics of language, including speech-acts, presupposition and conversational implicature
    • puzzles surrounding the propositional attitudes (sentences which ascribe beliefs to people)
    • the challenges presented by the later Wittgenstein
    • contemporary directions, including contextualism, fictional objects and the phenomenon of slurs

    The third edition has been thoroughly revised throughout and includes a new chapter on Noam Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar. In addition, the concluding chapter on modern directions in philosophy of language has been expanded to two chapters, and which now cover crucial emergent areas of study such as slurs, conceptual engineering and experimental philosophy.

    Chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary make What is this thing called Philosophy of Language? an indispensable introduction to those teaching philosophy of language and will be particularly useful for students coming to the subject for the first time.

    Preface to the third edition


    1. Naïve semantics and the language of logic

    2. Fregean semantics

    3. Russellian semantics

    4. Russell’s theory of judgement, the early Wittgenstein, and logical positivism

    5. The late Wittgenstein

    6. Quine’s philosophy of language

    7. Kripke on naming and necessity

    8. Context dependence, indexicality and natural kinds

    9. Pragmatics

    10. Davidson’s philosophy of language

    11. The propositional attitudes

    12. Chomsky’s Universal Grammar

    13. Modern directions I

    14. Modern directions II.





    Gary Kemp is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, UK. He has authored or edited various books and articles in the philosophy of language, including Quine versus Davidson: Truth, Reference and Meaning.

    Praise for previous editions:

    'This book is an outstanding pedagogical tool, which will be useful to anyone looking to gain a foothold in the subject. The second edition, which features new chapters on key figures, prominent topics, and recent developments in the field, is a substantial and welcome development of the excellent first edition.' - Brett Sherman, University of South Carolina, USA

    'Will become the standard textbook for survey courses in the philosophy of language.' - Ernest Lepore, Rutgers University, USA

    'To my mind this is the best introductory textbook for undergraduates looking to get a feel for the subject, without getting bogged down in advanced technical details. Gary Kemp covers all the traditional topics in the field and presents them in an accessible, engaging, and always rigorous style. Appended to each chapter are useful historical notes, a summary, a few questions, and some bibliographical recommendations for further research - a complete set of study aids that ought to be welcomed by students and teachers alike.' - Stefano Predelli, University of Nottingham, UK

    'An easy, step by step journey through the classic themes of twentieth-century philosophy of language.' - François Recanati, Institut Jean Nicod, France

    'Kemp has written a genuine introduction to the philosophy of language with beginning students in mind. Focusing on the issue of the meaning of natural language, he begins with a naive and, for students, very natural view of linguistic meaning. He then motivates and explains the distinctions, problems, solutions and development of the philosophy of language with the patience and understanding of a master teacher.' - Michael Losonsky, Colorado State University, USA