Philosophy of Language



Instructor: Dr. Soraj Hongladarom

Office Hours: 10.00-15.00 daily, or by appointments, Room 1025 Boromratchakumari Bldg.

Office Phone: 02-218-4756; email: <>


This course is an experimental one in that the language of instruction as well as of discussion will be in English. Since we all are in the Faculty of Arts, we are supposed to excel in using English. Besides, this will be a great preparation for those of you who are contemplating studying abroad. Even when you don't study abroad, your English language skill will be of use wherever you are working. Other students at Chula are actually studying in English, viz. those in the BBA program at the Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy. So what we are doing here is nothing special.


Philosophy of language concerns discussion and investigation of basic problems surrounding language. It can be said that philosophy today is centered around language and most activities in philosophy involve analysis or close examination of language in one way or another. For example, philosophers in ancient times discussed the problem of universal. When we say, of something like a tomato, that it is red, what is the status of this 'red' that we are talking about? For a tomato to be red, does it have to 'partake' in some universal entity, redness? Is there something, call it 'The Red' or 'redness', which the tomato somehow takes part in so that it is red? For Plato, this 'redness' is none other than the Form of Red that exists somewhere in Platonic heaven and is the source of all things red. However, some other philosophers, especially those in the medieval period, thought otherwise. They believed that there was no such thing as redness. For the tomato to be red, it is just because it happens to be similar to other red tomatoes and the mind takes up this similarity and assigns the word 'red' to them. Later philosophers see that this debate actually centers around a problem in language, namely the relation between subject and predicate in a proposition. So there is no such thing as redness; all there is in this case is the red tomato, and the problem mentioned above becomes, instead of the ontological status of redness, the meaning of the term 'red'. We can see that the problem shifts from talking about the thing to talking about language. And problems in other areas of philosophy boil down ultimately to problems in language. This is why philosophy of language is the center of modern philosophy.


This course introduces you to the basic issues of philosophy of language. You should be able to develop topics for your research in the area as well as understand these basic issues so that you see their relation with other areas of philosophy.



Course Requirements


There will be three short papers (no more than 5 pp.) for 30% of the course grade, one term paper (between 10 to 15 pp.) for 50%. The remaining 20% is for periodic quizzes and class participation.




1. William J. Lycan, Philosophy of Language

This will be the main text of this course.


2. A. P. Martinich, The Philosophy of Language.

We will read some papers from this collection too.


3. Devitt and Sterelny, Language and Reality

This is a detailed introduction to the topic. Quite difficult for beginners, but contains good clarification of thorny issues.


4. Soraj Hongladarom, Symbolic Logic

This text is in Thai. I strongly recommend all of you to buy one. Many issues ih philosophy of language stem from investigation of symbolic logic.


5. Soraj Hongladarom, Philosophy of Language

I'll give out early drafts of my textbooks from time to time. I have yet to decide whether to write this one in Thai or in English.




Week One: Introduction to the course; basic topics and problems in philosophy of language


Week Two: Reference; Lycan Ch. 1; Martinich, 'Introduction'


Week Three: Definite Descriptions; Lycan Ch. 2; Martinich, 'On Denoting' and 'On Referring'


Week Four: Proper Names: Lycan Ch. 3; Martinich, 'Reference and Definite Descriptions'


**1st short paper due: 30 November, 2001**


Week Five: Proper Names: Lycan Ch. 4: Martinich, 'Of Names' and 'Naming and Necessity'


Week Six: Traditional Theories of Meaning: Lycan Ch. 5


Week Seven: "Use" Theories: Lycan Ch. 6, Martinich, 'Wittgenstein on Privacy', 'On Rules and Private Language'


Week Eight: Grice's Program: Lycan Ch. 7


**2nd short paper due: 28 December, 2001**


Week Nine: Verificationism: Lycan Ch. 8


Week Ten: Davidson's Program: Lycan Ch. 9; Martinich, 'Truth and Meaning', 'A Nice Derangements of Epitaphs'


Week Eleven: Possible Worlds and Intensional Semantics: Lycan Ch. 10, Martinich, 'Intensional Semantics', 'A Puzzle About Beliefs'


Week Twelve: Semantic Pragmatics: Lycan Ch. 11; Martinich, 'Performative Utterances' and ''The Structure of Illocutionary Acts'


**3rd short paper due: 1 February, 2002**


Week Thirteen: Speech Acts: Lycan Ch. 12; Martinich, 'A Taxonomy of Illocutionary Acts' and 'Indirect Speech Acts'


Week Fourteen: Implicative Relations: Lycan Ch. 13; Martinich, 'Logic and Conversation'


Week Fifteen: Metaphor: Lycan Ch. 14; Martinich, 'What Metaphors Mean' and 'A Theory for Metaphor'


***FINAL PAPER DUE: 6 MARCH, 2002***