PHIL 3029 - Philosophy of Language

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2016

This course will examine some central issues in semantics and pragmatics: the theories of meaning and communication. We will look closely at the way meanings of sentences are systematically constructed from the meanings of words. We will also look at the way context interacts with meaning, and the relationship between meaning and communication. We will consider in some detail differing views on the semantic properties of names and definite descriptions. Time permitting, we may treat some or all of these further topics: speech acts; feminist philosophy of language (with particular reference to pornographic language); metaphor; fictional discourse; quotation; the relationship between linguistic meaning and mental content; demonstratives; and externalism about content. This course will draw on developments in philosophy and linguistics; however, it is not presupposed that students will have studied both linguistics and philosophy previously.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PHIL 3029
    Course Philosophy of Language
    Coordinating Unit Philosophy
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact At least 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites 12 units of level 1 study to include 3 units of Philosophy OR 3 units of Linguistics; AND 3 units of level 2 Philosophy OR 3 units of level 2 Linguistics
    Incompatible PHIL 2043; PHIL 2015; PHIL 3015
    Course Description This course will examine some central issues in semantics and pragmatics: the theories of meaning and communication. We will look closely at the way meanings of sentences are systematically constructed from the meanings of words. We will also look at the way context interacts with meaning, and the relationship between meaning and communication. We will consider in some detail differing views on the semantic properties of names and definite descriptions. Time permitting, we may treat some or all of these further topics: speech acts; feminist philosophy of language (with particular reference to pornographic language); metaphor; fictional discourse; quotation; the relationship between linguistic meaning and mental content; demonstratives; and externalism about content. This course will draw on developments in philosophy and linguistics; however, it is not presupposed that students will have studied both linguistics and philosophy previously.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Antony Eagle

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    This course aims to help students:

    1. Gain familiarity with the main positions on at least some of the following issues in the philosophy of language and formal semantics: meaning, reference, names, descriptions, semantic content, sentences and propositions, context-sensitivity, compositionality, pragmatics, and the influence of language on thought.
    2. Develop an understanding of several philosophical theories of meaning and reference, and related issues in pragmatics and formal semantics, including direct reference theory, descriptivism, Russell’s theory of descriptions, internalism and externalism about semantic content, temporalism and eternalism about propositions, Gricean pragmatics, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
    3. Display critical understanding of the main philosophical views in recent and contemporary philosophy of language regarding the hypotheses mentioned in LO2.
    4. Acquire the ability to analyse texts from contemporary analytic philosophers and linguistic semanticists on philosophy of language and formal semantics, and extract the relevant arguments from them.
    5. Acquire the ability to identify and use relevant evidence to provide reasons for and against the adoption of various positions in the philosophical debates over language and semantics.
    6. Display facility in the construction of well-argued and appropriately referenced written arguments supporting a particular position in the philosophy of language or formal semantics.
    7. Refine their ability to grasp extended complex oral arguments, and to pay sustained attention to philosophical discourse.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1–3, 6
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    3–5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    4–7
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • Able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    1,2
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    There is one text assigned for this course:

    Elbourne, Paul (2011) Meaning: A Slim Guide to Semantics. Oxford University Press, 978-0-199-69662-8.

    Students should acquire this text before semester begins; chapter 1 is required reading before the first meeting of the course.
    Online Learning
    Required resources will be supplemented by further articles and chapters supplied through an online content list via MyUni.

    Lecture notes and lecture recordings, tutorial questions, and assignments will all be made available through MyUni.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    The primary mode of teaching delivery in this course is the lecture-seminar; this provides support and scaffolding for student engagement with the assigned readings, and provides overall narrative structure to the course and assignments. This course meets for one 2 hour lecture-seminar per week, which will consist in two short lectures interspersed with discussion activities. A participation mark is to be assigned for student engagement with these discussion activities.

    In addition to lecture-seminars, students are expected to attend one tutorial each week. Tutorials are vital for consolidating understanding of these sometimes difficult issues, and clarifying doubtful points, so it is in your interest to come prepared with a good sense of the aspects of the material which you find unclear or worthy of further discussion. The tutorial works best if students engage with the material and each other – students learn most when trying to articulate their own views on the material, and addressing the questions of other students. To this end tutorial questions will be set for discussion each week.

    Workload

    No information currently available.

    Learning Activities Summary
    A detailed syllabus will be made available via MyUni before the beginning of semester. Here is the weekly breakdown of topics.

    Week 1: What is Meaning?
    Are the meanings of words definitions? Or concepts? Or something else? What about the meanings of sentences?

    Week 2: Referentialism and Internalism
    We look more closely at the debate over whether the meanings of words are concepts/ideas or properties, with particular reference to proper names like Antony and natural kind terms like gold.

    Week 3: Proper Names
    We investigate two theories of proper names: descriptivism, the theory that the meaning of a name like Aristotle is given by a description like the greatest philosopher of antiquity; and direct reference, the view that the meaning of a name is the thing it denotes.

    Week 4: Lexical Semantics
    Special features arise when we consider the meanings of words: issues about synonymy, ambiguity, and vagueness are our focus.

    Week 5: The Nature of Propositions
    What are the meanings of sentences? We look at the strengths and weakness of the view that the meaning of sentence is a set of possible worlds (those, intuitively, in which those sentences would be true).

    Week 6: Negative Polarity Items
    We investigate the semantics of words like any, which can only appear in the scope of ‘negative’ expressions. (E.g., compare I never have any money with *I always have any money.) We investigate whether explaining this phenomenon provides reasons for thinking that propositions are sets of possible worlds.

    Week 7: Presupposition and Definite Descriptions
    John has stopped drinking appears to assume that John once drank; how can we explain this notion of presupposition? It can also be applied in the analysis of definite descriptions like the man drinking a martini.

    Week 8: Ambiguity and Compositionality
    We focus this week on the structure of sentences, and the linguistic principle that the meaning of a complex sentence should be systemantically composed out of the meanings of its simpler constituents in line with its syntactic structure.

    Week 9: Indexicals and Context
    Some words vary in their meaning from context to context, but in a systematic way. Here, for example, means different places in different utterances. So how can a theory of meaning accomodate such things?

    Week 10: Implicature and Speech Acts
    A sentence can be used, in context, to communicate things that it does not literally entail. Can we give a systematic account of how this works? A sentence can also be used to do things (consider I name this ship the Endurance) – how?

    Week 11: Intensional Constructions
    Some complex sentences have a truth value that is determined not just by the actual present referents of their simpler constituents, but by their merely possible referents, or previous referents. We will investigate some of these constructions.

    Week 12: Language and Thought
    Lots of people believe that the language we speak constrains the thoughts we can think. We’ll see if this is true.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment TaskTypeDue DateWeight
    Tutorial Questions Formative Weekly 0%
    Lecture-Seminar discussion Formative Weekly 5%
    Argument Summary (500 words) Formative 23:59 Monday 21th March (Start of week 4.) 10%
    Essay 1 (1500 words) Summative 23:59 Friday 8th April (End of week 6) 35%
    Essay 2 (2500 words) Summative 23:59 Friday 10th June (End of Week 13). 50%
    ​
    Assessment Detail
    Summative assessment consists of two essays:

    • Essay 1 is a 1500 word essay on set topics covering the first half of the course.
    • Essay 2 is a 2500 word essay on set topics covering the second half of the course.
    Questions for both essays will be available by the start of semester from the course MyUni site under ‘Assessment’. More information about writing essays in this course and in philosophy will be found at the end of the syllabus, in a guide entitled ‘Writing Essays in Philosophy’.

    Formative assessment, in addition to unmarked small group discovery exercises, and the tutorial participation grade discussed above under ‘Tutorials’, involves an argument summary. The argument summary exercise involves the accurate presentation and exegesis of one of the arguments discussed in the first part of the course, from a list of options. Students should provide a clear outline of the argument, preferably in premise-conclusion form, and provide some commentary on the validity and soundness of the argument, but without going into extensive discussion of whether the argument is ultimately defensible.
    Submission
    All essays must be submitted electronically through MyUni. Please do not submit a hard copy of your essay. In this course, work will be submitted and marked through Turnitin. If you are not familiar with the Turnitin process, you may want to access the relevant MyUni support tutorial. It is your responsibility to submit assessments correctly.

    Essays are marked using an electronic rubric, in line with the University’s official grade descriptors. You will be able to access the electronic rubric used for marking from the Turnitin assignment page, and you should familiarise yourself with the rubric while writing your essay.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

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