On the Individuation of Words

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The idea that two words can be instances of the same word is a central intuition in our conception of language. This fact underlies many of the claims that we make about how we communicate, and how we understand each other. Given this, irrespective of what we think words are, it is common to think that any putative ontology of words, must be able to explain this feature of language. That is, we need to provide criteria of identity for word-types which allow us to individuate words such that it can be the case that two particular word-instances are instances of the same word-type (on the assumption that there are such types). One solution, recently further developed by Irmak (2018), holds that words are individuated by their history. In this paper, I argue that this view either fails to account for our intuitions about word identity, or is too vague to be a plausible answer to the problem of word individuation.
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Archival date: 2019-02-09
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