This important book proposes a new account of the nature of language, founded upon an original interpretation of Wittgenstein. The authors deny the existence of a direct referential relationship between words and things. Rather, the link between language and world is a two-stage one, in which meaning is used and in which a natural language should be understood as fundamentally a collection of socially devised and maintained practices. Arguing against the philosophical mainstream descending from Frege and Russell to Quine, Davidson, Dummett, McDowell, Evans, Putnam, Kripke and others, the authors demonstrate that discarding the notion of reference does not entail relativism or semantic nihilism. A provocative re-examination of the interrelations of language and social practice, this book will interest not only philosophers of language but also linguists, psycholinguists, students of communication and all those concerned with the nature and acquisition of human linguistic capacities.
Introduction; Part I. Scepticism and Language: 1. The prison-house of language; 2. Referential realism; 3. Out of the prison-house; Part II. Names and Their Bearers: 4. Russell's principle and Wittgenstein's slogan; 5. The name-tracking network; 6. Rigidity; 7. Description and causes; 8. Knowledge of rules; Part III. Propositions: 9. Meaning and truth; 10. Truth and use; 11. Unnatural kinds; 12. Necessity and 'grammar'; Part IV. Paradoxes of Interpretation: 13. Indeterminacy of translation; 14. Linguistic competence; 15. Paradox and substitutivity; Epilogue.