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Reference and Information Content: Names and Descriptions

  • Nathan Salmon
Chapter
Part of the Handbook of Philosophical Logic book series (HALO, volume 10)

Abstract

Language is primarily a medium of communication, particularly the communication of information. (Of course, language is more than just a device for communication.) Declarative sentences are the primary vehicles for the communication of information. Declarative sentences have various semantic attributes. They have truth value, either truth or falsehood. They have semantic intensions, i.e. correlated functions from possible worlds to truth values, and so on. But the fundamental semantic role of a declarative sentence is to encode a piece of information.1 This fundamental semantic role of encoding information lies behind many of the other semantic and pragmatic characteristics of declarative sentences. For example, since declarative sentences encode information, they may be used not only to communicate information to others, but also to record information for possible future use, and perhaps even to register information with no anticipation of any future use. A declarative sentence may be said to contain the piece of information it encodes, and that piece of information may be described as the information content or cognitive content of the sentence. The piece of information encoded by a sentence is what philosophers generally mean when they speak of the ‘proposition’ expressed by the sentence.

Keywords

Singular Term Definite Description Declarative Sentence Singular Proposition Propositional Function 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan Salmon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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