AP/PHIL3200 3.0 A: Philosophy of Language

Offered by: PHIL


Fall 2019






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

An introduction to basic notions of the philosophy of language. Questions to be discussed may include: How is communication in language possible? What is a language? What makes words and phrases meaningful? What is truth? Prerequisite: AP/PHIL 2080 3.00 or AP/PHIL 2100 3.00 or AP/PHIL 2240 3.00. Course credit exclusion: GL/PHIL 3910 3.00.

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Claudine Verheggen


Office Location:  S436 Ross Building

Phone Number:  (416) 736-2100 Ext. 77553

Office Hours:  Tuesdays 1:00 – 2:00 by appointment only

    Expanded Course Description

Of all human affairs, Dewey wrote, linguistic communication is the most wonderful.  It is wonderful because it enables people to get things done, by expressing their wishes, fears, hopes, beliefs, requests, etc., and because it enables them to get informed about the world around them and about each other.  Now people can achieve all of this by means of language because the sounds and marks they use are endowed with meaning.  Meaning is thus the central concept to be studied in this course, which will address issues that fall into two broad categories, one having to do with the nature of linguistic meaning and its relation to language users, the other having to do with the relation between meaning and reference, i.e., the ability of words to hook on to extra-linguistic reality.


We’ll try to get clear about the nature of linguistic meaning by considering the relationships between the meaning of words and what people mean by using them, between what people say and what they do in speaking and by speaking, between what people say and what they intend to say, between what people mean by their words and what other members of their community mean by them.  Must people be socially situated in order to possess any language at all?  To what extent, if any, do claims about what it takes to communicate with others shape our claims about the nature of meaning and language?


We’ll examine the relation between language and extra-linguistic reality by asking how different types of linguistic expressions – proper names, descriptions, predicates, demonstratives, etc. – manage to refer to various parts of the world.  What is the relation between meaning and truth?  Does the physical environment people live in play an essential role in determining the meaning of their words and, if so, what role exactly?  Or is the meaning of people’s words only a function of their mental states?

    Required Course Text / Readings

Articles posted on Moodle.

    Weighting of Course
  1. Class participation: 10% of final grade
  2. In-class test: 20%
  3. Mid-term examination: 30%
  4. Term Paper: 40%
    Organization of the Course

Weekly Class (3 hours); 4 components to class assessment.

    Course Learning Objectives
  1. Students will be able to engage the major contemporary debates in the philosophy of language, as well as the arguments and theories underlying various positions in those debates.
  2. Students will be able to think critically about the nature of linguistic meaning, reference, truth, and communication.
  3. Students will develop advanced analytic and communicative skills in philosophy; namely, the ability to articulate and defend a coherent thesis within an essay, as well as the ability to absorb, synthesize and reflect upon complex information gained from reading assignments or in a classroom setting.
    Relevant Links / Resources