Back to overview

Gesagtes im Kontext. Studium zur Metasemantik

English title Meaning and Context. Studies in Metasemantics
Applicant Petrus Klaus
Number 114812
Funding scheme SNSF Professorships
Research institution Institut für Philosophie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.04.2008 - 30.06.2012
Approved amount 1'337'742.00
Show all

All Disciplines (3)

Communication sciences
Applied linguistics

Keywords (11)

Philosophy of langage; meaning; context; content; semantics; pragmatics; philosophy of language; semantics/pragmatics-distinction; theory of meaning; indexicals; H. P. Grice

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
It is hard to find anyone among today's philosophers of language who still claims that the content of utterances is always and exclusively determined by the linguistic meaning of the expressions occuring in them. The idea that many (perhaps all) expressions or sentences of natural languages are highly context-sensitive is now almost universally accepted. However, different consequences are drawn from this insight. In the view of the contextualists, the morale must be that a fundamental concept of any theory of meaning - that of semantic content or of what is said by an utterance - is ultimately a thoroughly pragmatic concept. Therefore, the traditional project of a (formal) semantics of natural language is doomed. For many opponents of contextualism, however, this sort of response to the phenomenon of context-sensitivity is an overreaction. While agreeing that the content of an utterance depends on context, they demand that one first look at the ways content is determined by context. Indeed, their conviction is that a proper analysis of the role of context will enable to salvage a semantic concept of what is said by utterances.A central aim of the project presented is to assess whether the opponents of contextualism are right. To this purpose, clarification is required as to what theoretical role they expect context to play and whether context is actually able to play this role. The conclusion will be that the standards put on the context are ultimately too high; or, more precisely, that it is asked to do a job which it is unable to do. Context is not suited to determine the content of utterances. Accordingly, it cannot play any semantic role. Rather, context performs an epistemic function; it provides us with evidence which, together with our knowledge of the linguistic meaning of context sensitive expressions, enables us to figure out or ascertain the content of an utterance. Another task of the project therefore is to explicate the interplay between the two kinds of knowledge involved: knowledge of meaning and knowledge of context. Here it will turn out that the analysis of this interplay is the task neither of semantics nor of pragmatics, but of a certain sort of interpretation theory: namely, metasemantics.The overarching objective of the project thus is to work out, via a critical examination of relevant contemporary theorising, a proposal as to how to adequately conceive of the connection between meaning and context.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
139037 Biosemantik und Normativer Pragmatismus: Auf dem Weg zu einem einheitlichen Bild des menschlichen Geistes in der natürlichen Welt 01.05.2012 SNSF Professorships