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Course Detail

Course Name Philosophy of Language (West)
Course Code 21PHL603
Program M.A. in Philosophy
Semester Three
Credits 4


UNIT I – Introduction
  • The thematic concerns in philosophy of language – Language and Languages, Linguistics – Descriptive vs. Prescriptive approach to language, Syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
  • Origin and development of analytic philosophy – Frege’s creation of quantificational logic and the rebellion by Russell and Moore against British idealism, the establishment of the Vienna Circle and the movement of logical positivism.
  • Ideal Language philosophy and Ordinary Language philosophy – Definition, the differences, major proponents.
UNIT II - Origins of language philosophy
  • Gottlob Frege – Logicism, The relation between Sense and Reference, The principle of Compositionality.
  • Bertrand Russell – On Denoting – differences with Frege, Representationalism and Logical Atomism.
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein

The early phase – Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, The picture theory of meaning

The later phase – Philosophical Investigations, The use theory of meaning.

UNIT III – Further developments
  • Gilbert Ryle – Category mistake, Misleading expressions as quasi–ontological.
  • V. Quine – Analytic – Synthetic distinction, Analyticity and meaning, The principle of radical translation.
  • John L. Austin – The study of language as a tool of its actual use, Categories of speech act – Phonetic, phatic and rhetic, Classification of rhetic speech acts – perlocutionary, illocutionary.
  • Paul Grice – Distinction between semantic and pragmatic meaning, Reducing meaning to the contents of the intentions of speakers.
  • Donald Davidson – Holistic conception of linguistic understanding, Indeterminacy of interpretation.
  • Michael Dummett – Semantic theory of meaning.
  • Noam Chomsky – The innateness hypothesis and universal grammar, I-languages and E-languages.


Philosophy of Language (Western) is a course offered in the third semester of the M. A. Philosophy Programme. The core concern of the course is to enable the learners to study the origin and development of the linguistic turn in western philosophy. The highlight of this course is the impact of analytic philosophy in redirecting the course of philosophical developments in the West. It is proposed to introduce the core themes of the philosophy of language and to make a detailed study of the major trends and their proponents. This course is intended to enable the learners to get acquaintance with the metaphysical and logical implications of language philosophy in developing innovative theories of being and meaning. It is also intended to make the learners aware of the crucial points of debate within the domain of language philosophy.

Course Objectives

1. To familiarize with the core themes of philosophy of language.
2. To study the origin and development of analytic philosophy in the background of the Vienna Circle contributions to logical positivism.
3. To get acquainted with the early developments leading to the linguistic turn.
4. To study the later developments in western philosophy with clear linguistic and semantic orientation.
5. To analyse the points of debate between different philosophers of language with reference to their theories of meaning and truth.

Course Outcomes

CO 1: Comprehension of the key terms and themes of language philosophy.
CO 2: Familiarity with the radical trends in contemporary western philosophy.
CO 3: Analysis of the different theories of meaning put forth by the pioneers of language philosophy.
CO 4: Acquaintance with the viewpoints of the major contributors to the philosophy of language.
CO 5: Analytical study of the different theories of meaning and truth.
CO 6: Critical evaluation of the different theories of meaning and truth.
CO 7: Awareness of the recent trends in western philosophy of language.




• Lycan, William G. (2000). Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction. New York:
• Miller, Alexander (2007). Philosophy of Language, London: Routledge.
• Davidson, Donald (1984). Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: OUP.
• Bauer, Laurie. 2007. The Linguistics Student’s Handbook. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP.
• Chomsky, N. 1985. Knowledge of Language: Its Nature, Origins, and Use. New York: Praeger.
• Wittgenstein, L. 1972. Philosophical Investigations. Translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. 3rd ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell,.
• —. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The Project Gutenberg eBook.
• Hale, B. and C. Wright, eds. 1997. A Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Oxford: Blackwell.
• Lycan, W. 1999. Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction. London: Routledge.
• Taylor, K. 1998. Truth and Meaning. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language. Oxford Blackwell.
• Pradhan, R. C. 2001. Recent Developments in Analytic Philosophy. New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research.
• Davidson. Truth and Meaning
• Chomsky, Noam. Recent Contributions to the Theory of Innate Ideas. Synthese, 17:1
• Websites

CO – PO Affinity Map

PO PO 1 PO 2 PO 3 PO 4 PO 5
CO 1 3 3 1 3 1
CO 2 3 3 1 3 2
CO 3 3 3 1 3 1
CO 4 3 3 1 3 1
CO 5 3 3 2 3 2
CO 6 3 3 1 3 2
CO 7 3 2 2 3 2

3 – strong, 2 – moderate, 1 – weak

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