Words by convention

In David Sosa & Ernie Lepore (eds.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Language Volume 1. Oxford, UK: OUP (2019)
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Existing metasemantic projects presuppose that word- (or sentence-) types are part of the non-semantic base. We propose a new strategy: an endogenous account of word types, that is, one where word types are fixed as part of the metasemantics. On this view, it is the conventions of truthfulness and trust that ground not only the meaning of the words (meaning by convention) but also what the word type is of each particular token utterance (words by convention). The same treatment extends to identifying the populations through which the conventions prevail. We consider whether this proposal leads to new underdetermination challenges for metasemantics, and make a case that it does not.

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