Philosophy of Language - PL602

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
5 30 (15)
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
5 30 (15) DR C Wallmann







Language is a wonderful thing. Groups of marks or bursts of sound are just physical entities but, when produced by a writer or a speaker, they are used to point beyond themselves. This is the property of aboutness or intentionality. Other physical entities generally don't have this property. When you hear a sentence, you hear a burst of sound, but typically you also understand a meaning conveyed by the speaker. What is the meaning of a word – some weird entity that floats alongside the word, a set of rules associating the word with objects, an intention in the mind of the speaker….? What is the difference between what your words imply and what you convey in saying them? How are words used non-literally, how do hearers catch on to the meaning of a newly minted metaphor? How can we mean and convey so much when uttering a concise sentence? How is it that learning a second language can be so frustrating and time consuming, whereas we learn our first language with no trouble at all? The questions keep coming. In this module we shall try to find some answers.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

1x 2hr lecture per week, 1x 1hr seminar per weekf for 10 teaching weeks.


Also available under code PL576 (Level 6)

Method of assessment

100% Coursework

Preliminary reading

Indicative Reading List

William G. Lycan: Philosophy of language: a contemporary introduction

Also recommended:

A.W. Moore (ed.): Meaning and reference
Bob Hale & Crispin Wright (eds.): A companion to the philosophy of language
Peter Ludlow (ed.): Readings in the philosophy of language
A.P. Martinich (ed.): The philosophy of language

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete the module will have:

. developed an appreciation of how fascinating a phenomenon language is, and will understand how a philosophical investigation of language can throw light on the workings of the human mind and on the importance of studying language as woven into a wide variety of social activities.
· gained an understanding of some of the major approaches to meaning, referring, communicating, pragmatics, metaphor. (c.f. Philosophy Programme Specification 11.iii, 12.A.ii)
· engaged critically with central issues in the philosophy of language. (PPS 12.A.ii, 12.A.iv)
· acquired the ability to engage in a close critical reading of some of major texts in the philosophy of language. (PPS 11.ii, 12.A.i)

The module will thus contribute to the aims and objectives of the Part II Philosophy programme by enabling students to acquire familiarity with themes in a major area of philosophy, to gain knowledge of some of major works in the history of philosophy and to engage critically with them.

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.