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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL2121 Introduction to the Philosophy of Language

20 creditsClass Size: 130

Module manager: Dr Jack Woods

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

This module will assume knowledge of introductory logic.

Module replaces

PHIL2020 Meaning and Truth;PHIL2070 Theories of Meaning

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module is only available as a discovery module to students studying on Linguistics, Mathematics and Computing Programmes with relevant prerequisites.Philosophy of Language aims to deepen our understanding of one of the most distinctive elements of human life - our shared ability to express our thoughts in natural language. In this course, you'll begin get to grips with some of the fundamental questions in the Philosophy of Language:- What is the nature of meaning? - Is genuine communication ever possible? - How is linguistic creativity possible - how can we, as finite creatures, come to produce and understand a potential infinity of completely novel utterances, many of which we will only be encountering for the first time?The course will provide a reflective introduction to some of the key theoretical concepts currently employed in explaining the fundamental nature of human language.


On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. display in oral and written form knowledge and understanding of some central theories, disagreements, problems, and arguments of several module subtopics;
2. read and analyse complex texts and be sensitive to issues of interpretation;
3. use a variety of philosophical techniques (example, description, argument) in written communication;
4. engage in philosophical theorizing, analysis, and evaluation.


The central question in the philosophy of language is this: how do words and sentences come to mean something?

In answering this question, others will be investigated; eg:
1. Do sentences get their meanings from the ideas we have in our minds? Or is it the other way round: we get the ideas in our minds from the language we are taught?
2. How do names refer to objects in the external world?
3. Do we need to postulate an abstract world of propositions to understand the workings of language?
4. Should the meaning of a sentence be understood as its truth conditions, as Frege believed, or merely its verification conditions?
5. Do sentences have the meanings they do in virtue of the meanings of the words that constitute them, or do words have the meaning they do in virtue of the role they play in meaningful sentences?

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours173.00
Total Contact hours27.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

- Discussion preparation: 118 hours
- Preparation of essay plans: 15 hours
- Writing essays: 40 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Seminar performance;
Feedback on formative essay/plan 1000 words

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 words (end of module)100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 05/12/2022


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