Concepts, Meanings and Truth: First Nature, Second Nature and Hard Work


  • For helpful comments and discussion, my thanks to: Cedric Boeckx, Susan Dwyer, Valentine Hacquard, Norbert Hornstein, Terje Lohndal, Jim McGilvray, Barry Smith, Alexander Williams, and three referees.

Department of Linguistics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


I argue that linguistic meanings are instructions to build monadic concepts that lie between lexicalizable concepts and truth-evaluable judgments. In acquiring words, humans use concepts of various adicities to introduce concepts that can be fetched and systematically combined via certain conjunctive operations, which require monadic inputs. These concepts do not have Tarskian satisfaction conditions. But they provide bases for refinements and elaborations that can yield truth-evaluable judgments. Constructing mental sentences that are true or false requires cognitive work, not just an exercise of basic linguistic capacities.