Direction and denotation
Direction and denotation ( Über Sinn und Bedeutung ) is an article of Gottlob Frege published in 1892 in the review Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik . The concepts which are defined there, the direction ( Sinn ) and the denotation ( Bedeutung ), were determining for the constitution of the field of the formal Sémantique of logical inspiration. For this reason, the article is also generally regarded as one of the texts founders of the analytical Philosophie.
The denotation ( Bedeutung ) of a linguistic expression is the portion of reality which this expression indicates (or that a speaker seeks to indicate using this expression). Concerning the noun expressions like the proper names and the definite descriptions, their denotation is (often) an object of the world or a thing , perceptible, identifiable and individualisable. The example which Frege gives to illustrate this concept is the following: “the star of the morning” and “the evening star” are two distinct expressions, but which have the same denotation, because they indicate the same celestial object, namely the Venus planet. One will be able to as add as the proper name “Venus” (in certain employment) and the noun phrase “the evening star” divide them also this denotation. In semantics, this vision of the denotation can coincide (rather well) with what is called elsewhere the Référent, even the Référence.
But what is essential here it is that to firmly sit a general theory of the Connaissance, to rigorously determine the value of a judgment (i.e an assertion) in, for example, a logical argumentation and to prepare a possible scientific methodology for the analysis of the statements in natural language, it is not possible to stick to the only concept of denotation; it is necessary to request another concept, that of direction of an expression.
What distinguishes the expressions “the star from the morning” and “the evening star”, in particular as for their behavior within the statements, they are their directions. Frege shows it by means of the test known as of substitution :
# the star of the morning is the evening star.
- # the star of the morning is the star of the morning.
By considering only their denotations, these two sentences are equivalent; one can bring back them to a diagram of the form: v = v. However, the first are an informative sentence whereas the second is a Tautologie.
Frege defines the direction ( Sinn ) of an expression as being “the mode of donation” of the denotation of this expression. It is thus necessary to include/understand here the direction like the mental function which, on the basis of a linguistic expression, enables us to find his denotation. The direction is thus what establishes the link between the universe of the language (“populated” of words, syntagms, sentences…) and universe of the extralinguistic things. It is important however not to see the direction like an association of ideas free and subjective (as these “things which come us to mind” when a term is heard, and which can be comparable with the concept of Connotation). On the contrary, the direction objective, conventional and is shared by the community of speakers; it is registered in the code of the language. Finally, it is thus the direction of an expression has which says to us if such or such thing can be in an adequate way indicated by has .
If the concepts of direction and denotation are clearly distinguished, they do not remain less intrinsically dependant about it, since first is what gives access to the second.
And according to the approach of Frege, any linguistic expression as very interpretable component of an expression has a direction and a denotation. But it is necessary to distinguish the denotation from an expression and the denotation of a complete proposal. The denotation of a name or an expression is the object to which they refer. On the other hand, as regards the proposals, the denotation is not a fact, but is the Valeur of truth which this proposal takes, i.e. truth if it is true or the forgery if it is false. This design is rather strange, and leads so that one names " the argument of the lance-pierre". If the denotation of a proposal is its value of truth, then two proposals which have the same value of truth should refer to the same thing. However, " The grass is verte" and " 2+2=4" , which is two true proposals, do not seem to indicate the same thing.
As for the direction of a proposal, which it expresses, Frege calls it a thought ( Gedanke ). This thought does not have anything psychological, but is rather of logical nature. The thoughts are the formulas of logic, and are in themselves independent of their denotation, i.e. they are neither true nor false. The thought remains the same one as it has a denotation or not. Only the expression of a thought, in other words the proposal, is true or false. The direction of a proposal is what enables us to know, for a whole of circumstances given, if this sentence is true or false. Or, to present the things differently: the direction of a sentence is the whole of the circumstances (or conditions) in which the sentence is true. It is there the postulate which founds formal semantics known as vériconditionnelle , i.e. which is interested in the conditions of truth sentences.
Therefore, while resting on the Principle of compositionnality, it is possible to determine the type of denotation of any other linguistic category (substantives, adjectives, verbs, verb phrases, etc). For example, the common noun “horse” indicates the concept cheval (which one can bring back by Extensionnalité to the whole of all the horses of the world) and its direction corresponds to the Propriété to be a horse (that one can bring back to a beam criteria, or milked, characteristics).
Following R. Carnap in particular, the concept of denotation is often indicated by the term of extension and that of direction by the term of intension. The distinction between direction and denotation is translated today by the distinction between significance and reference
The indirect speechIn normal situation, it direction of a proposal is a thought, and its denotation a value of truth. But there exist certain contexts where the denotation changes object. In the indirect speech, when we want to speak about the speech of others, to say that he believes something, that he thinks something etc, when we want to speak about our expressions themselves, or when an expression is subordinated to a first, we are in a context which is not usual. The denotation becomes according to Frege indirect, or oblique. Instead of indicating its value of truth, the proposal indicates the direction of another proposal. While putting between quotation marks " Kepler died in the misère" , we do not speak any more Kepler, our proposal do not indicate any more truth, but indicate the direction of this proposal. This is why the substitution of an ordinary expression having even denotation (" the man who discovered the elliptic form of the orbits planétaires") with " Kepler" is not possible, because we change feel thought indicated by " Kepler died in the misère". So that a substitution is possible, it would be necessary that the exchanged expressions have the same indirect denotation.
- Frege, Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob (1892). Über Sinn und Bedeutung. Zeitschrift für Philosophy und philosophische Kritik , 100 (pp. 22-50). Transl. france Claude Imbert, “Directions and denotation”, in Written logical and philosophical (pp. 102-126), Paris: Threshold, 1971.
- Frege, Gottlob, Precise details on direction and significance , transl. by Jacques Bouveresse, in Written posthumous , ED. Jacqueline Chambon.
- propositional Attitude
- Conditions of truth
- Denotation and Semantic connotation
Über Sinn und Bedeutung
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