Words and Thoughts: Subsentences, Ellipsis, and the Philosophy of Language


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It is a near truism of philosophy of language that sentences are prior to words. Sentences, it is said, are what we believe, assert, and argue for; uses of them constitute our evidence in semantics; only they stand in inferential relations, and are true or false. Sentences are, indeed, the only things that fundamentally have meaning.Does this near truism really hold of human languages? Robert Stainton, drawing on a wide body of evidence, argues forcefully that speakers can and do use mere words, not sentences, to ...