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Document Details :
Title: Form, Meaning and Reference in Natural Language
Subtitle: A Phenomenological Account of Proper Names
Author(s): WILLEMS, Klaas
Volume: 35 Date: 2000
In my book Eigenname und Bedeutung (1996) I started from the observation that modern theories of proper names fail to do justice to the specific and complex semantic nature of proper names. Since the 1960's and 1970's, theorizing about proper names has been dominated largely by scholars working in the traditions of analytic philosophy and logic, in particular John R. Searle and Saul Kripke. I urged, therefore, that the highly specific kind of meaning characteristic of proper names should be studied within a theory more in touch with general linguistics proper. The main philosophical (especially referential) and logical (especially formal) accounts start from the assumption that a proper name is 'backed up' by encyclopedic information held by speakers of the referents (Searle), or that a proper name is a meaningless, yet rigidly designating sign (Kripke). In contrast to these views, I argue that a general linguistic definition of proper names must focus, not only on logical and philosophical issues, but upon the intra-linguistic semantic function of the proper name as 'a part of speech'in actual utterances. This approach has nothing to do with 'discourse analysis', but aims at describing proper names and appellative nouns as categories of speech in language use, bringing into play a functional focus on proper names that has largely been lacking in definitions so far. An outline of a semantic theory of proper names is then proposed based on some aspects of a 'phenomenology of language and linguistics' as found in the work of Edmund Husserl and Eugenio Coseriu. Roughly speaking, Husserl represents the general epistemological implications of the paper, Coseriu its specifically linguistic aspects.