European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Languages and Language Use

Project description

A novel approach to studying language in communication

In the philosophy of language, the field of metasemantics posits that a population uses language as communication based on sound in a particular convention of syntax and grammar rather than on the actual meaning of words. The Language Use project will depart from this approach to study the relationship of language to the actions and mental state of its users, bringing in empirical research from linguistics and evolutionary psychology, metaphysics and the philosophy of mind. The project will advance the early career of the researcher, who will also provide as part of her research a novel ontology of language and expressions.


The ER (Jessica Keiser) is an early career researcher. The focus of her research to this point has been the philosophy of language, specifically metasemantics. The research goal of the project is to develop an account of the nature of language and language use (explained below) which reduces these phenomena to facts about the actions and mental states of language users. This project builds on the ER’s existing research expertise, but with the support of the host institution (University of Leeds) and the supervisor (Professor Robert Williams), the project will broaden the purview of her research by integrating it with empirical research in linguistics and evolutionary psychology, as well as core areas of philosophy such as metaphysics and the philosophy of mind. It will advance her career at a crucial early stage by making a mark with a large scale project which offers offering novel and viable solutions to recalcitrant problems, and position her at the cutting edge of contemporary discussion.

The project has two main objectives: (1) to provide a novel metasemantic proposal, i.e. an account of what makes it the case that a community of speakers share a given language and (2) to provide a novel ontology of linguistic entities such as languages and expressions. The metasemantic proposal claims that populations speak the languages they do in virtue of conventions of locutionary action (using an utterance to direct attention). This proposal departs from the traditional conception of language as grounded in illocutionary action (using an utterance to elicit a propositional attitude), and overcomes problems concerning indeterminacy and nonliteral speech that were problematic for traditional accounts. The metaphysical proposal uses the tools and framework from metasemantic account to provide an ontology of the linguistic entities it is committed to. It moves away from standard approaches by using communicative actions (rather than the products of those actions e.g. sound


Net EU contribution
€ 212 933,76
LS2 9JT Leeds
United Kingdom

See on map

Yorkshire and the Humber West Yorkshire Leeds
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 212 933,76