Is Reference Essential to Meaning?



Most linguists and philosophers will tell you that whatever meaning is, it determines the reference of names, the satisfaction conditions of nouns and verbs, the truth conditions of sentences; in linguist speak, meaning determines semantic value. So a change in semantic value implies a change in meaning. So the semantic value a meaning determines is essential to that meaning: holding contributions from context constant, if two words have different semantic values they cannot mean the same thing. If this is correct, then in a fairly straightforward sense reference is essential to meaning. In this paper I argue that reference is not essential to meaning by giving an example in which groups in different circumstances use a phrase with the same meaning but a different reference.


referencemeaningQuinephilosophy of biologyessential properties
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 3 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 68–80
  • DOI: 10.5334/met.36
  • Submitted on 30 Dec 2019
  • Accepted on 3 Nov 2020
  • Published on 3 Dec 2020
  • Peer Reviewed