The Ordinary Language Argument and Norms of Meaning

Sally Parker-Ryan


I introduce what I call the ‘Ordinary Language Argument’, which is based on some of the key views of the so-called ‘Ordinary Language’ philosophers of the first half of the 20th century. The argument concludes that ‘the ordinary uses of language are correct uses of language’. I clarify what is intended by the terms ‘ordinary’ and ‘correct’, and show how this view supports a use-based theory of meaning. I then use a distinction developed in the Ordinary Language Argument, that between ordinary and non-ordinary uses of expressions, to account for a feature of meaning that I contend is crucial: constraints on what sentences can be used to express. The latter is what I understand as the normativity of meaning. I show that the distinction available on the use-theory can account for this constraint, but that it is not available to the truth-conditional theory, and this puts the latter at a serious disadvantage vis a vis the theory of meaning.

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