Theory of meaning : sense, force, tone and truth
This thesis examines Michael Dummett's form of a theory of meaning for natural language. I argue that Dummett's extension of Frege's formal techniques to the semantics of natural language, based on the categories of sense, force and tone, and the centrality of truth, provides an inadequate theoretical account of linguistic competence. Part One examines the celebrated sense-force distinction. Dummett's schematic model of force-indicators and sentence-radicals ignores or mishandles semantic features of numerous ordinary expressions and linguistic forms. In many cases the distinction is blurred, and worse, univocity is sacrificed. A chief culprit is the restrictive nature of true-false polarity. The principal thesis that force attaches only to complete sentences is compromised, and Dummett's handling of force-indication fails to account for the distinct elements of word-order, verbal mood and intonation contour. In Part Two I attempt to distinguish genuine varieties of tone, inspecting the different differences among e.g., 'lift'-'elevator', 'cheekbone'-'zygoma', 'ere'- 'before 1 , 'Chinese'-'Chink', 'and'-'but 1 and others, as well as the contribution of adverbs like 'still' and 'almost'. Both Frege and Dummett consign to this general category many expressions which do not belong; for some other cases, tonality is a matter of use, but not meaning. Minimally, the sense-tone boundary needs redrawing. More accurately, the notion of sense, identified with the determination of truth-conditions, must either be broadened to incorporate some non-truth-conditional aspects of word-meaning, or else be replaced by another term possessing the broader role. In Part Three a single general characterization of meaning is advanced which accommodates both individual expressions and linguistic forms. I support the idea that a formulation in terms of a primitive notion of 'making things out to be a certain way', aligned with the poles of correctness and incorrectness, captures in a systematic way the expressions and forms which proved resistant to Dummett's canonical form of explanation.