PP3LAN-Philosophy of Language

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Mr Jumbly Grindrod

Email: j.grindrod@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
Philosophy of language concerns the nature of meaning, language, and communication. It seeks answers to the following questions: What is it for a word or sentence to have a mean- ing? How do speakers manage to communicate more than what their words literally say (for example when we speak sarcastically or metaphorically)? What is it for a word to refer to something in the world? Are there certain actions that we can perform simply by saying some- thing? What is the meaning of a name? What is ambiguity? What is vagueness? How does the context in which words are used interact with the meaning of the words? Addressing these questions will require an examination of both foundational works in analytic philosophy from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as cutting-edge research informed by developments in the cognitive sciences. We will read works by Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, P.F. Strawson, J.L. Austin, H.P. Grice, Kent Bach, Robyn Carston and Allison Hall, Francois Recanati, Rae Langton, Max Black, Ted Cohen, Elizabeth Camp, Robert Stalnaker, and Jason Stanley.

To explore fundamental issues in philosophy of language, including the nature of meaning,
understanding, reference and the relation of language to action.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of this module, students will be able to give an overview of core approaches to problems
in the philosophy of language and critically evaluate them.

Students' presentation skills will be improved by leading seminar discussion on central topics in the module.

Additional outcomes:
Students will gain an overview of one of the central topics in analytic philosophy, and will be able to relate the content of this module other topics studied in their philosophy degree (e.g. philosophy of mind and metaphysics). The module will raise questions about fundamental assumptions concerning language and students will be encouraged to explore both classic texts and contemporary research in attempting to answer these questions. Students will develop the ability to understand and explain complex ideas, and hone their analytical writing and critical thinking skills.

Outline content:
An essay or book chapter will be assigned as required reading for each week. It is essential that you read the assigned text prior to class, because the format of the class will be primarily discussion-based.

The text will come accompanied by discussion questions, which are intended to guide your reflection on the author’s ideas and help you prepare for class discussion.

Original texts
You don’t need to buy a textbook for this module. I will post electronic copies of all the required readings to Blackboard.

Secondary literature
In addition to the original articles and book chapters discussed in class, you may benefit from reading introductory texts in philosophy of language. A particularly readable introduction is the following:

William Lycan, Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction, 2nd edition. Routledge,

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The format for this module contains lectures and seminars; however the distinction between lecture
and seminar is blurred. Students should be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by the lecturer and other students.

In addition, students will be expected to do the weekly readings and respond to discussion questions.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 60
Written assignment including essay 30
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Other information on summative assessment:
2 x 2,000-2,500 word essays.

Electronic Submission
All coursework should be submitted electronically via Blackboard.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    The final exam will be two hours in which time you will be required to answer two questions from a choice of six.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August by written examination only.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 9 January 2017

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