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Unit information: Philosophy of Language in 2020/21

Unit name Philosophy of Language
Unit code PHIL30047
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Johannes Stern
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will examine some of the most important issues and debates in the philosophy of language over the last 100 years. The aim of the unit is not only to give you a comprehensive grasp of these debates but also an idea of how to approach other unfamiliar debates within the philosophy of language. More generally the unit aims to convey a sense of what is ultimately at stake in these debates and how we might go about resolving them. The issues we will consider include: how descriptions and proper names should be understood, the nature of presuppositions, the distinction between pragmatics and semantics, the proper form for a theory of meaning to take, and the nature of metaphor.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to

(1) demonstrate sophisticated knowledge of the literature in the philosophy of language;

(2) demonstrate sophisticated understanding of central concepts and various sub-topics within the philosophy of language, including but not restricted to, the semantics of definite descriptions, proper names, natural kind terms, and indexicals, the nature and role of propositions, truth conditional semantics, and metaphor.

(3) engage philosophically with, analyze, and critically appraise the main arguments in the literature on the philosophy of language.

(4) demonstrate the sophisticated skills in philosophical writing and argumentation appropriate to level H/6.

Teaching details

Lectures, small group work, individual exercises, seminars and virtual learning environment.

Assessment Details

Formative digital collaborative Presentation (ILOs 1-4) + SUMMATIVE: 1 x 4,500 word essay - 100% (ILOs 1-4)

Reading and References

Key Text:-

Lycan, W., Philosophy of Language, 2nd Edition, Routledge, New York, 2008.

Students may also wish to consult:-

Miller, A., Philosophy of Language, Routledge, London, 1998.

Ludlow, P., (ed.) Readings in the Philosophy of Language, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1997.