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This book offers an introduction to the analysis of meaning. Our outstanding ability to communicate is a distinguishing feature of our species. To communicate is to convey meaning, but what is meaning? How do words combine to give us the meanings of sentences? And what makes a statement ambiguous or nonsensical? These questions and many others are addressed in Paul Elbourne's fascinating guide. He opens by asking what kinds of things the meanings of words and sentences could be: are they, for example, abstract objects or psychological entities? He then looks at how we understand a sequence of words we have never heard before; he considers to what extent the meaning of a sentence can be derived from the words it contains and how to account for the meanings that can't be; and he examines the roles played by time, place, and the shared and unshared assumptions of speakers and hearers. He looks at how language interacts with thought and the intriguing question of whether what language we speak affects the way we see the world. Meaning, as might be expected, is far from simple. Paul Elbourne explores its complex issues in crystal clear language. He draws on approaches developed in linguistics, philosophy, and psychology - assuming a knowledge of none of them -in a manner that will appeal to everyone interested in this essential element of human psychology and culture.
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Table of Contents

1. Definitions ; 2. What are Word Meanings? ; 3. Semantic Properties of Words ; 4. What are Sentence Meanings? ; 5. Semantic Properties of Sentences ; 6. Meaning and Grammar ; 7. Meaning and Context ; 8. Meaning and Thought ; 9. Conclusion ; Sources and Further Reading ; Index

About the Author

Paul Elbourne is Reader in Semantics at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of Situations and Individuals (MIT Press, 2005) and numerous articles in linguistics and philosophy journals.


an unintimidating and admirable entry-point into both the technical and the philosophical dimensions of semantics. * Daniel Harris, Mind * ...provides an excellent introduction to central topics in the philosophy of language shaped by the linguistics turn...Elbourne writes lively prose and he conveys the sense that the contemporary study of meaning is rich, exciting and developing rapidly. * Philosophy in Review * This is a perfect guide to what semantics is all about. The book is informative, scholarly, witty, entertaining, and funny. It doesn't shy away from hard puzzles and unsolved problems, and places semantics where it belongs: at the intersection of linguistics, logic, metaphysics, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience. * Angelika Kratzer, University of Massachusetts at Amherst *

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