Jerrold J. Katz
Grammar encompasses three areas of linguistics: phonology, syntax, and semantics. Phonology concerns the pronunciation of sentences. Syntax concerns the way they are built up out of their constituents. Semantics concerns the literal meaning of sentences and their constituents.
For phonology and syntax, nothing more specific has to be said to indicate, at the outset, what subjects we are talking about. Theory construction has proceeded far enough in these areas, and has become familiar enough, at least in general terms, for us to have a fairly clear idea of the subjects. However, the uncontroversial characterization that semantics concerns meaning is uninformative. There are too many theories of meaning, each talking about something different, and none sufficiently articulate to make clear to which aspect of language it is addressed. So, instead of having a semantic theory to which we can appeal for clarification of the subject, we must seek clarification first in order to get a theory.
If semantics concerns meaning, its big question must be "What is meaning?" How do we go about trying to answer so big a question? In the past, linguists, psychologists, and philosophers have attempted to answer this question directly. We find, historically, a variety of direct answers, including Plato's answer that meanings are eternal archetypes, John Locke's answer that meanings are the mental ideas for which words stand as ex-
This work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, under Grant 5 PO1 MH 13390-07.