Against the Quotational Theory of Meaning Ascriptions


meaning ascriptions
use/mention distinction
pure quotation
variant spellings



According to the quotational theory of meaning ascriptions, sentences like “‘Bruder (in German) means brother” are abbreviated synonymy claims, such as “‘Bruder (in German) means the same as ‘brother’”. After discussing a problem with Harman’s (1999) version of the quotational theory, I present an amended version defended by Field (2001; 2017). Then, I address Field’s responses to two arguments against the theory that revolve around translation and the understanding of foreign expressions. Afterwards, I formulate two original arguments against both Harman’s and Field’s versions of the theory. One of them targets the hyperintensionality of quotations and the other raises a problem pertaining to variant spellings of words.



Abbott, B. (2003). Some Notes on Quotation. Belgian Journal of Linguistics, 17(1), 13–26.

Alston, W. P. (1963a). The Quest for Meanings. Mind, 72(285), 79–87.

Alston, W. P. (1963b). Meaning and Use. The Philosophical Quarterly, 13(51), 107–124.

Black, M. (1962). Models and Metaphors. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Cappelen, H., Lepore, E. (1997). On an Alleged Distinction Between Semantic Theory and Indirect Quotation. Mind and Language, 12(3–4), 278–296.

Cappelen, H., Lepore, E. (2007). Language Turned on Itself: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Metalinguistic Discourse. New York: Oxford University Press.

Christensen, N. E. (1967). The Alleged Distinction Between Use and Mention. The Philosophical Review, 76(3), 358–367.

Clark, H. H., Gerrig, R. J. (1990). Quotations as Demonstrations. Language, 66(4), 764–805.

Davidson, D. (1963). Actions, Reasons, and Causes. The Journal of Philosophy, 60(23), 685–700.

Davidson, D. (1968). On Saying That. Synthese, 19(1/2), 130–46.

Davidson, D. (1973). Radical Interpretation. Dialectica, 27(1), 314–28.

Davidson, D. (1979). Quotation. Theory and Decision, 11(1), 27–40.

De Brabanter, P. (2010). The Semantics and Pragmatics of Hybrid Quotations. Language and Linguistics Compass, 4(2), 107–120.

Ebert, S., Hoot, B. (2018). That-trace Effects in Spanish-English Code-Switching. In L. López (Ed.), Code-Switching—Experimental Answers to Theoretical Questions: In Honor of Kay González-Vibazo (Vol. 19: Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, pp. 101–145). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Field, H. (2001). Attributions of Meaning and Content. In H. Field (Ed.), Truth and the Absence of Fact (pp. 157–174). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Field, H. (2017). Egocentric Content. Nôus, 51(3), 1–26.

Fine, K., Jago, M. (2019). Logic for Exact Entailment. The Review of Symbolic Logic, 12(3), 536–556.

García-Carpintero, M. (2004). The Deferred Ostension Theory of Quotation. Noûs, 38(4), 674–692.

García-Carpintero, M. (2017). Reference and Reference-Fixing in Pure Quotation. In P. Saka, M. Johnson (Eds.), The Semantics and Pragmatics of Quotation (pp. 169–194). Dordrecht: Springer.

García-Carpintero, M. (2018). Pure Quotation Is Demonstrative Reference. The Journal of Philosophy, 115(7), 361–381.

Garver, N. (1965). Varieties of Use and Mention. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 26(2), 230–238.

Glüer, K., Wikforss, Å. (2015). Meaning Normativism: Against the Simple Argument. Organon F, 22(Supplementary Issue), 63–73.

Gómez-Torrente, M. (2005). Remarks on Impure Quotation. In: P. De Brabanter, (Ed.), Hybrid Quotations (Belgian Journal of Linguistics 2003 Yearbook, Vol. 17, pp. 129–151). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Gómez-Torrente, M. (2017). Semantics vs. Pragmatics in Impure Quotation. In P. Saka, M. Johnson (Eds.), The Semantics and Pragmatics of Quotation (pp. 135–167). Dordrecht: Springer.

González-Vilbazo, K. (2005). Die Syntax des Code-Switching. Esplugisch: Sprachwechsel an der Deutschen Schule Barcelona. (Unpublished Ph.D. thesis). University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.

Harman, G. (1999). Immanent and Transcendent Approaches to Meaning and Mind. In G. Harman (Ed.), Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind (pp. 262–276). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hoot, B. (2011). Complementizer Asymmetry in Spanish/English Code-Switching [Presentation at International Symposium on Bilingualism 8]. Oslo, Norway.

Johnson, M. (2018). Pure Quotation and Natural Naming. The Journal of Philosophy, 115(10), 550–566.

Johnson, W. E. (1921). Logic. Part 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kaplan, D. (1969). Quantifying In. Synthese, 19(1/2), 178–214.

Kaplan, D. (1989) Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and other Indexicals. In J. Almog, J. Perry, H. Wettstein H (Eds.), Themes From Kaplan (pp. 481–563). New York: Oxford University Press.

Kaplan, D. (2004). The Meaning of Ouch and Oops. Retrieved from:

Kneale, W., Kneale, M. (1962). The Development of Logic. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Kripke, S. (1982). Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. An Elementary Exposition. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

Langford, C. H. (1937). Review: Bertrand Russell, The Limits of Empiricism. Journal of Symbolic Logic, 2(1), 61.

Lewy, C. (1946). Truth and Significance. Analysis, 8(2), 24–27.

Maier, E. (2017). The Pragmatics of Attraction. Explaining Unquotation in Direct and Free Indirect Discourse. In P. Saka, M. Johnson (Eds.), The Semantics and Pragmatics of Quotation (pp. 259–302). Dordrecht: Springer.

Mates, B. (1950). Synonymity. In L. Linsky (Ed.), Semantics and the Philosophy of Language (pp. 136–167). Urbana: The University of Illinois Press.

McCullagh, M. (2017). Scare-Quoting and Incorporation. In P. Saka, M. Johnson (Eds.), The Semantics and Pragmatics of Quotation (pp. 3–34). Dordrecht: Springer.

Moore, G. E. (1966). Lectures on Philosophy. London: Routledge.

Neale, S. (2018). Means Means Means [Talk given at the University of London, 26th Nov. 2018]. Retrieved from:

Pagin, P., Westerståhl, D. (2010). Pure Quotation and General Compositionality. Linguistics and Philosophy, 33(5), 381–415.

Perry, J. (2001). Reference and Reflexivity. Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information.

Predelli, S. (2013). Meaning Without Truth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Putnam, H. (1953). Synonymity, and the Analysis of Belief Sentences. Analysis, 14(5), 114–122.

Quine, W. V. O. (1960). Words and Object. Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press.

Recanati, F. (2001). Open Quotation. Mind, 110(439), 637–687.

Richard, M. (1983). Direct Reference and Ascriptions of Belief. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 12(4), 425–452.

Richard, M. (1990). Propositional Attitudes: An Essay on Thoughts and How We Ascribe Them. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richard, M. (1997). Attitudes in Context. Linguistics and Philosophy, 16(2), 123–148.

Saka, P. (1998). Quotation and the Use-Mention Distinction. Mind, 107(425), 113–135.

Saka, P. (2006). The Demonstrative and Identity Theories of Quotation. The Journal of Philosophy, 103(9), 452–471.

Salmon, N. (1986). Frege’s Puzzle. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Salmon, N. (2001). The Very Possibility of a Language. In C. A. Anderson, M. Zeleny (Eds.), Logic, Meaning and Computation: Essays in Memory of Alonzo Church (pp. 573–595). Boston: Kluver.

Sande Piñeiro, A. (2018). C Plus T as a Necessary Condition for Pro-Drop: Evidence From Code-Switching. (Unpublished Ph.D. thesis). University of Illinois, Chicago, USA.

Schiffer, S. (1987). Remnants of Meaning. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Schiffer, S. (2003). The Things We Mean. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Schiffer, N. (2008). Propositional Content. In E. Lepore, B. C. Smith (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language (pp. 267–294). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Sellars, W. S. (1956). Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 1, 253–329.

Sellars, W. S. (1963). Abstract Entities. Review of Metaphysics, 16(4), 627–671.

Sellars, W. S. (1974). Meaning as Functional Classification (A Perspective on the Relation Between Syntax and Semantics). Synthese, 27(3–4), 417–37.

Strawson, P. F. (1949). Truth. Analysis, 9(6), 83–97.

Tarski, A. (1983). The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages. In A. Tarski, Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics (pp. 152–278). Indianapolis: Hackett.

Washington, C. (1992). The Identity Theory of Quotation. The Journal of Philosophy, 115(10), 582–605.

Whiting, D. (2013). What Is the Normativity of Meaning? Inquiry, 56(2), 219–238.