Sunday, March 12, 2006

Meaning and interpretation

To what extent does interpretation factor into the meaning of a sentence? Does the speaker have the complete and/or final say in what she means? Part of me wants to say, yes, she does. The speaker is the one who determines what she means because she produces and has better access to her intentions. Part of me wants to say, no, she does not. Communication is a two-way street and the interpreter places some restrictions on what the meaning of an utterance is. Maybe the problem here is that meaning and communication don't necessarily have to go together. Do they? I started thinking about this last night when I was asked what produces semantics (the question was: where does semantics come from?). The standard answer, I suppose, is the conventions of language use within a population. There is something unsatisfying about this answer, but I'm not yet sure what.

I was surprised to find another philosopher besides Davidson who denies that there is such a thing as languages, as philosophers construe them. Peter Ludlow makes this claim. I haven't read his essay in detail yet, but I am quite curious.

No comments: