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Study information

Philosophy of Language

Module titlePhilosophy of Language
Module codePHL2018
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Shane Glackin (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will introduce you to one of the dominant contemporary traditions in philosophy. The Anglo-American analytic tradition places great emphasis upon understanding how language works, seeing the possibility of speaking meaningfully as an essential precursor to any philosophical endeavour. The module will provide you with a grounding in the basic philosophical approaches to meaning and reference, and in the canonical debates on these topics over the last hundred years, including the work of Frege, Quine, the verificationists, and the Ordinary Language philosophers.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module seeks to familiarise you with the central place that philosophy of language occupies in contemporary analytic philosophy, with the influential positions that have been adopted by major figures in the field, and with the key points of the debates between them. You will gain a thorough overview of the philosophy of language, and the grounding necessary for more advanced study in analytic philosophy.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Develop an understanding of the subject matter, concerns, and methodology of philosophy of language.
  • 2. Critically analyse the notions of meaning and reference.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Understand the central position of philosophy of language in contemporary analytic philosophy.
  • 4. Apply the tools of conceptual and linguistic analysis in all areas of philosophy.
  • 5. Evaluate the claims made by other philosophical disciplines and traditions which hinge on theories of meaning or language.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Communicate complex ideas in clear and precise written and verbal form.
  • 7. Construct, evaluate, and criticise arguments.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

Gottlob Frege on Sense and Reference

Bertrand Russell and the Theory of Definite Descriptions

Causal Theories of Reference; Kripke and Putnam

Verificationism and Meaning; Logical Positivism and Dummett

Scepticism about Meaning 1; Quine on Analyticity and Meaning Holism

Meaning as Intention 1; Speech Acts

Meaning as Intention 2; Gricean Implicature

Meaning and Truth; Davidson and Tarski

Meaning and Metaphor


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity22Weekly 2-hour lectures/seminars or 1 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar
Guided Independent Study40Assigned readings associated with
Guided Independent Study44Preparation of Assigned Essay
Guided Independent Study44Private Study for Exam

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay501,875 words1-7Written feedback
Essay501,875 words1-7Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (1,875 words)1-7August/September reassessment Period
EssayEssay (1,875 words)1-7August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

The majority of the course readings may be found in A. P. Martinich (2010), The Philosophy of Language (International 5th Edition). An e-copy of this text will be available through the library.

Two useful textbooks are William Lycan (2008), Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction and Alexander Miller (2007), Philosophy of Language.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Lecture slides and any readings not found in the Martinich volume will be available on the module’s ELE page.

Key words search

Philosophy, Language, Reference, Meaning, Names

Credit value15
Module ECTS


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date