Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of language. It examines different views on the nature of meaning, truth and reference, with special focus on the problem of understanding how linguistic communication works.

Beware: Unless you have some prior experience in philosophy, this will not be an easy class. The problems we will be discussing are subtle and the assigned readings are difficult.


Your final grade in the course will be determined based on problem sets and exams.

Activities Percentages
Problem Sets 30%
Take-home Midterm Exam 30%
Take-home Final Exam 35%
In-class Participation 5%


Exams and problem sets may be: (a) handed to me directly, (b) delivered to the main Linguistics and Philosophy office, or (c) sent via email. If you email your assignments keep in mind that only plain text or pdf attachments are acceptable. (This means, in particular, that documents in Microsoft® Word format are not acceptable; if you use Microsoft® Word and are unable to produce pdf documents, print your file and hand over a hard copy.) Late assignments will not be accepted without a medical excuse.

Problem Sets

There will be weekly problem sets. The problem set on which you get the lowest grade will be ignored. Any printed or electronic material may be consulted in answering the problem sets, but collaboration with other students is strictly forbidden. Any suspicion of academic dishonesty will be aggressively pursued. Late assignments will not be accepted.


Each exam will consist of a (take-home) essay. The midterm must contain no more than 2,500 words and the final must contain no more than 2,000 words. Shorter essays are acceptable, but it is typically difficult to produce enough content to get a good grade without coming close to the word limit. Do not underestimate the difficulty of writing a good essay. The constraint on length makes it more difficult to get a good grade, not easier. This is not the sort project you should begin two or three nights before the due-date.

Essays may be on any topic which engages with the material discussed in class. I encourage you to contact me beforehand to discuss possible topics and to talk about how your essay is going.

Writing a good philosophy essay can be very different from writing a good essay in other subjects. Please read James Pryor's "Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper."

Your essay should conform to these guidelines, and will be graded in accordance with the criteria listed in the section of the guidelines entitled 'How You'll Be Graded'.

It is okay to discuss exams with other students in the class and to consult any published material. But essays must be the student's own work. Any suspicion of academic dishonesty will be aggressively pursued. Late assignments will not be accepted.


I am grateful to Prof. Richard Heck Jr. for allowing me to use some of his teaching materials as inspiration for this course.