Linguistic Meaning: Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics

The Queen's College, University of Oxford, in collaboration with ConceptLab, University of Oslo

25th-27th April, 2019

About The Conference

The Queen's College, in collaboration with the University of Oslo's ConceptLab, are holding a conference on three facets of linguistic meaning:

1. Metaphysics of meaning and metasemantics

2. Epistemology of meaning and linguistic understanding

3. Ethical and ideological dimensions of meaning, and conceptual engineering.

This conference aims to bring new work in the metaphysics, epistemology and ethics of meaning into dialogue, revisiting some long-standing and foundational questions in light of the resurgence and development of the idea that a philosopher’s task is to modify aspects of her language for social or theoretical ends, not merely to describe it. An overarching theme of the conference is the question how speakers are related, practically and epistemically, to the languages at their command, and in particular to facts about meaning and conceptual content. Invited and submitted papers may address the following or related questions:

  • What is linguistic meaning? How is it determined? Can individuals or communities of speakers change it at will?
  • How does semantic change occur, and what does it entail?
  • What is the relationship between meaning and social or natural kinds? Are these amenable to deliberate reform? If so, how?
  • Is a speaker’s language independent of her linguistic competence?
  • Is meaning in any sense mind-dependent? How does linguistic meaning relate to thought and mental representation?
  • In what sense, if any, do speakers have knowledge of language?
  • In what sense, if any, is linguistic knowledge or understanding required for communication?
  • Is linguistic competence intrinsically or distinctively rational? If so, how?
  • Is linguistic understanding knowledge-that or knowledge-how? If the latter, might it nevertheless be propositional knowledge, as intellectualists contend?
  • Is linguistic/conceptual ethics well motivated, theoretically and/or practically?
  • Is the viability of linguistic/conceptual ethics compatible with semantic externalism?
  • What makes one meaning/concept better than another? Are certain meanings/concepts more eligible, or fitting for use, than others?


The program and schedule for the conference can be found here, and the abstracts here. You can view the nice poster we made here.


The conference will take place on 25th-27th April 2019. The venue is:

The Queen’s College (Shulman Auditorium)

High Street

Oxford OX1 4AW

Accessibility information is here:

Registration at the conference is free of charge but space is limited; to register email with the subject title ‘REGISTER MEANING CONFERENCE’, listing your name, affiliation, and any dietary requirements. Registration closes on Friday 12th April. Please email with any other questions about the conference.

All speakers will be awarded up to £300 towards expenses, and invited to a conference dinner at The Queen’s College.

The conference is organized by Herman Cappelen (Oslo/St Andrews), Natalia Waights Hickman (Oxford), Andrew Peet (Oslo) and Joey Pollock (Oslo).