• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

This auspicious new volume is designed for linguists who are interested in the deeper issues of their science. Introduction to Linguistic Philosophy lays a solid foundation of linguistic philosophy presenting theories of leading linguistic analysts such as Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, and Quine. I. E. MackenzieÆs exploration into these theories equips readers for advanced work on most topics in semantics and the study of language. The structure of this book reflects the fact that the philosophical study of language is not systematic, but centers on aspects of language that are considered to be of fundamental conceptual significance. Therefore, this book need not be read in any specific order. Whenever a chapter presupposes an understanding of something that is explained elsewhere in the book, a specific cross-reference is given. MackenzieÆs approach to the philosophy of language stresses the importance of observing how language is used rather than the assuming that it conforms to a pre-existing logical structure. In addition to dealing with foundational issues, such as truth, meaning, and the nature of language, this book explores specific linguistic phenomenaùdescriptions, names, non-extesional contexts and quantificationùwhich have attracted considerable philosophical attention. Introduction to Linguistic Philosophy is a student-centered resource that is recommended for students in linguistics, communication, and philosophy.

8.1. What is Logical Modality?

In linguistics, the term ‘modality’ applies to a range of phenomena. In particular, a ‘modal system’ is a grammatical system in which the speaker's attitude or relation to the truth-conditional content expressed in his or her utterance is regularly indicated by some grammatical device, such as verbal inflection or the agglutination of a modal affix. Consider the following sentences from Aymara (spoken in the Lake Titicaca area of Bolivia and Peru):

(1) Um wara-tay-ta

Water you-poured-away-(but-I-didn't-witness-this)


(2) Um wara-ta

Water you-poured-away.

Both sentences come into English as ‘You poured away water’, but only (2) can be used to make an unqualified assertion. Sentence (1), on the other hand, which incorporates the modal affix ‘tay’, indicates in addition that the speaker did not personally witness ...

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