What does our ability to use words—that is, our lexical competence—consist of? What is the difference between a system that can be said to understand language and one that cannot? Most approaches to word meaning fail to account for an essential aspect of our linguistic competence, namely, our ability to apply words to the world. This monograph proposes a dual picture of human lexical competence in which inferential and referential abilities are separate—a proposal confirmed by neuropsychological research on brain-damaged persons. According to the author, artificial systems for natural-language understanding could come much closer to achieving their goal if they conformed to this dual picture of competence. Topics discussed include classical issues in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind such as the analytic/synthetic dichotomy, semantic holism, causal theories of reference, dual-factor theories, publicness, verificationism, and Searle's Chinese room.
Language, Speech, Communication series