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Pursuing Meaning$
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Emma Borg

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199588374

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199588374.001.0001

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The Methodological Argument Against Minimal Word Meanings

The Methodological Argument Against Minimal Word Meanings

Chapter:
(p.165) Chapter 6 The Methodological Argument Against Minimal Word Meanings
Source:
Pursuing Meaning
Author(s):

Emma Borg

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199588374.003.0006

This chapter explores the methodological argument against minimal word meanings: namely the claim that any such word meanings are inadequate to carry what is called the ‘internalist’ or ‘intra-linguistic’ burden on semantics. So, for instance, it might be expected that a semantic theory should explain why certain readings are possible or impossible for sentences, that is should explain the systematic patterns of syntactic transformation which expressions allow, or that it should explain relations such as synonymy, polysemy and analyticity. Yet plausibly explaining all these kinds of things requires a complex account of the meanings of lexical items which goes far beyond a mere list pairing words and denotations. If this is right, then it seems minimal word meanings will be insufficient to underpin the work required of a semantic theory. This chapter explores the intra-linguistic burden and suggests that, perhaps contrary to initial appearances, a properly nuanced referential account of word meaning might be able to bear such a burden. Furthermore, and again perhaps contrary to initial appearances, it is argued that such a nuanced account of word meaning is entirely consistent with the tenets of minimal semantics.

Keywords:   word meaning, lexical semantics, inferential role semantics, Pietroski, Chomsky, Bach, radical minimalism, organisational lexical semantics

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