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Meaning: An intersemiotic perspective

Ruthrof, H. (1995) Meaning: An intersemiotic perspective. Semiotica, 104 (1-2). pp. 23-43.

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Meaning is not well described as a merely linguistic notion. Yet in the majority of works in semantics, what someone means by doing something is strictly separated from what a linguistic expression means, what a visual sign means, what an action means, and from what all this means. What tends to be looked at is the meaning of a word, phrase, or sentence; in short, the meaning of a linguistic expression on its own or in the context of other expressions. To simplify, the meaning of such an expression is then secured by showing how its structure, its syntax, is related to a broader linguistic context and a referential background. This background is usually summed up as 'the world', as, for instance, in the naturalist.approach defended by Michael Devitt and Kim Sterelny ( 1990). A further step in this direction is the formalization of both syntax and world into a tertium comparationis, a fully formalized language, such that natural language and world can be compared without loss or surplus. This has been the arena of formal semantics which has achieved formidable complexity, a complexity, however, of a very different kind if we compare it with that found in natural languages. From the work of Rudolf Carnap (e.g. 1967b) to that, for instance, of John N. Martin (1987) the formal tradition has not only played its separate scientific language games but has also had a powerful influence on non-formal semantics

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: Walter de Gruyter
Copyright: 1995 Walter De Gruyter
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