Abstract

In ”The Meaning of `Meaning´”, Putnam starts out by claiming that whereas research into the syntactic properties of natural language was making progress ”[t]hanks to the work of contemporary transformational linguists”, ”the most serious drawback to all of this analysis, as far as a philosopher is concerned, is that it does not concern the meaning of words”, a topic which to his judgment was ”as  much in the dark as it ever was” (Putnam, 1975, 215). He went on to argue that word meaning can neither be equated with, nor be fully determined by properties mentally encoded in the individual language user, a point which today is widely accepted among theorists working in the tradition of formal semantics. On the other hand, theorists working in the tradition of the transformational linguists (today most often referred to as ”generative grammar”) keep insisting that the only viable notion of meaning for a theory which aspires to explain linguistic competence, has to equate meaning with properties accessible for computation in the brain of the language user - i.e. mentally encoded properties. However, they do this while granting a crucial point of Putnam's: Mentally encoded properties are insufficient for determining reference. This situation raises questions about the nature of the dispute. Is it merely a consequence of different explanatory scopes of two distinct disciplines? If not, what are the substantial issues on which the two sides disagree? The aim of talk is to argue that that the disagreement is substantial, as well as of special importance for evaluating Puntam’s arguments against semantic internalism.