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Philosophy of Language

Unit code: PHIL30311
Credit Rating: 20
Unit level: Level 3
Teaching period(s): Semester 1
Offered by Philosophy
Available as a free choice unit?: Y



Additional Requirements

40 PHIL credits at Level 2.


The course aims to:

- give a detailed understanding of the central debates in analytical philosophy of language;
- enable students to engage critically with some of the central texts in the philosophy of language;
- enable students to work through the issues for themselves and develop their own lines of thought in the area.


The philosophy of language treats the central philosophical issue of how language enables us to think and talk about things in the world. Issues addressed in this course include: Are names mere labels of the things they name? How should indirect speech be philosophically understood? Is there a distinction between the content of a sentence and the kind of speech acts in which the sentence figures? How should definite descriptions (terms such as 'the G') be understood? What makes the noises and marks made by a speaker meaningful? Is there a distinction between what a sentence means and what is stated by someone who asserts it? Is truth a substantial property of our thoughts or just a linguistic device of some sort?

This course will engage with all these questions and examine carefully many of the central texts of philosophers who raise these questions, including Frege, Russell, Grice, and Quine. The course develops issues addressed in the second year module 20th Century Analytic Philosophy and complements both of the modules Philosophy of Mind and Metaphysics.

Teaching and learning methods

One 2-hour lecture and one 1-hour tutorial per week

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course students will be able to demonstrate:

- a critical understanding of some of the debates that characterize contemporary analytical philosophy of language;
- a thorough knowledge of some of the central texts in the canon of analytical philosophy of language;
- an ability to present carefully argued and independent lines of thought in
answer to philosophical questions in this area.

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Innovation/creativity
  • Oral communication
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Written communication

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 67%
  • Written assignment (inc essay) - 33%

Recommended reading

Chris Daly Philosophy of Language: An Introduction (Continuum, 2012)

Feedback methods

The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Students are reminded that feedback is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student's work. The main forms of feedback on this course are written feedback responses to assessed essays and exam answers.

We also draw your attention to the variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS courses. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions from the lecturer (before and after lecture); and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

Study hours

  • Lectures - 20 hours
  • Tutorials - 10 hours
  • Independent study hours - 170 hours

Teaching staff


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