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Propositions, sentences and statements

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-X032-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

A sentence is a string of words formed according to the syntactic rules of a language. But a sentence has semantic as well as syntactic properties: the words and the whole sentence have meaning. Philosophers have tended to focus on the semantic properties of indicative sentences, in particular on their being true or false. They have called the meanings of such sentences ‘propositions’, and have tied the notion of proposition to the truth-conditions of the associated sentence.

The term ‘proposition’ is sometimes assimilated to the sentence itself; sometimes to the linguistic meaning of a sentence; sometimes to ‘what is said’; sometimes to the contents of beliefs or other ‘propositional’ attitudes. But however propositions are defined, they must have two features: the capacity to be true or false; and compositional structure (being composed of elements which determine their semantic properties).

Citing this article:
Engel, Pascal. Propositions, sentences and statements, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-X032-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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