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date: 27 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the role that word meaning plays both as an element of ordinary pretheoretical discourse and as a hypothesis in the theoretical explanation of language structure and use. It contrasts externalist (reference-based) and internalist (psychology-based) semantics, and distinguishes between descriptive and expressive/evaluative members of the vocabulary. The role of concepts in a theory of word meaning is motivated through a discussion of their explanation of reference, categorization, and inference and their role in underpinning successful communication. Three particular theories of concepts—concepts as definitions, as prototypes, and as exemplars—are sketched. The possible contribution to semantics of simulation-based accounts of conceptualization is assessed. Finally, the chapter outlines the challenge of polysemy and figurative meaning—metaphor and metonymy—to our conception of the semantics of the vocabulary.

Keywords: internalist semantics, externalist semantics, descriptive meaning, expressive meaning, reference, concepts, prototypes, simulation, polysemy, figurative meaning

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