Language, ancient philosophy of
Version: v1, Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 22, 2023, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/language-ancient-philosophy-of/v-1
The earliest interest in language during the ancient Greek period was largely instrumental: presumed facts about language and its features were pressed into service for the purpose of philosophical argumentation. Perhaps inevitably, this activity gave way to the analysis of language for its own sake. Claims, for example, about the relation between the semantic values of general terms and the existence of universals invited independent inquiry into the nature of the meanings of those general terms themselves. Language thus became an object of philosophical inquiry in its own right. Accordingly, philosophers at least from the time of Plato conducted inquiries proper to philosophy of language. They investigated:
how words acquire their semantic values;
how proper names and other singular terms refer;
how words combine to form larger semantic units;
the compositional principles necessary for language understanding;
how sentences, statements, or propositions come to be truth-evaluable;
and, among later figures of the classical period,
Shields, Christopher. Language, ancient philosophy of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-U058-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/language-ancient-philosophy-of/v-1.
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