PHL313: Philosophy of Language, Fall 2013
Classroom: CC231
Class time: MWF 10:20 am - 11:15 am
Final exam: Monday December 9, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. in CC231
Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: Campus Center 212A
Office Hours: MWF 11:30 a.m. -- 12:30 p.m. MW 1:30 - 2:30; and by appointment


In this course you will learn about the most fundamental questions confronting linguistics and the study of language, and also about the relationship of language to knowledge. With this understanding, you will be able to identify the most challenging aspects of the study of language. In this course you will also develop your own perspective upon these fundamental questions, and help to find ways to formulate these questions so that they might someday be answered by a science.

The kinds of fundamental questions we will consider are mostly of three kinds:
  1. What is reference? How can we best explain reference? What does a theory of reference need to explain? Does language really in any way "connect" to a non-linguistic reality?
  2. What is meaning? What might a theory of meaning look like? What must a theory of language explain?
  3. What is the relationship between language and knowledge? Does our language shape our knowledge? And, do various theories of reference or meaning have implications for our theory of knowledge?

We will also take some time to discuss two additional topics: the nature of metaphor, and performative speech.


Most of our readings will be online. There is one text for this class:
The Philosophy of Language, A. P. Martinich (Editor)
Bring the readings to class on those days when we are reading and discussing them.

If you are like this young man (or, worse, like his parents), please do not take this course. We must read important works in the philosophy of language and discuss them. If you won't read, you waste your time and the time of your classmates. I can promise you that we will only read papers that are relevant to our topic and which are important to the field.

Assignments and exams

To help you meet our goals, there will be weekly assignments in which we can experiment with the things we are learning. Most, but not all, of these will be an opportunity to write about our readings. In those cases, for about a third of the readings, I will ask you to write a short paper (1 page) or summary of the reading before class; for about a third of the readings, I will give you an opportunity to make such a summary in class; and for about a third of the readings we will simply begin with a discussion to achieve the same end. In each case, I will provide you with questions that can guide your reading.

To help you assess your progress in meeting our goals, there will be two exams. You must complete all the assigned readings and discuss them in class.

For the exams, I will give you before the exam a list of possible questions; then, for the actual exam, I will ask some subset of those questions.

If you have a disabling condition which may interfere with your ability to successfully complete this course, please contact the Disability Services Office.


The grade will be determined in the following way:
Homework assignments and in class summaries: 40%
Class exams: 60% (30% each)
Homeworks will often be reviewed in the class period where they are due. For this reason, late homeworks will not be accepted for credit.

If you miss an exam and have an excused absence for the day you miss the exam, you may make it up, by special appointment with me, when you are able to come back to class. It is your responsibility to arrange any make-up exams as soon as you know you are going to miss the exam. Otherwise you may lose the opportunity to take the test, since I cannot give make-up exams after the class has gone over the answers.

Here is how you secure an excused absence:  Only prior notification with credibly documented or easily verifiable reasons (e.g., medical visits to Mary Walker, documented participation in official sporting events, etc.) will result in excused absences. You must notify in writing, call, or email me prior to your absence from class. Or you must notify the Philosophy Dept. secretary, Pat Meleski, before you are going to be absent, via email at, or by phone at x2249. However, you must make sure she knows your name, the number of the course, the date, and your easily verifiable reason, along with a request to forward the information to me. It is better to give your information to me, except when you are unable to communicate with my phone or email for some reason.

Please hold onto all of your assignments and exams. Sometime before the end of the semester I will ask you to review the grades that I have recorded to make sure that I have not made any mistakes.

Any cheating will receive a zero grade, and will be reported to the Dean.

College Policy on Intellectual Integrity

Intellectual integrity on the part of all students is basic to individual growth and development through college course work. When academic dishonesty occurs, the teaching/learning climate is seriously undermined and student growth and development are impeded. For these reasons, any form of intellectual dishonesty is a serious concern and is therefore prohibited.

The full intellectual integrity policy can be found at

Office Hours

In addition to the listed office hours, I encourage you to make appointments. I will be available quite a bit. Please try to come to office hours with specific questions in mind. You can of course come with a general request for help, but it is always helpful if you spend a little time thinking about how I can best help you out.


Please check into "Current Assignments" at least once every 24 hours.

Learning Goals

In this class, it is your responsibility to learn, and to be able to describe, explain, and apply: Your understanding of these questions will be evaluated through our exams and papers.

This course will also provide you with opportunities to write both brief and more extensive papers on complex and (at first) relatively unclear problems, and our goals include: improving your ability to to find the core problem in questions that (when first considered) are rather vague, to describe those problems and provide an argument (when required) for your solution, and overall to write more clearly. Your abilities to do these will be evaluated through both short and longer writing assignments.