We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

On the individuation of words.

Miller, J. T. M. (2020) 'On the individuation of words.', Inquiry., 63 (8). pp. 875-884.


The idea that two words can be instances of the same word is a central intuition in our conception of language. This fact underlies many of the claims that we make about how we communicate, and how we understand each other. Given this, irrespective of what we think words are, it is common to think that any putative ontology of words, must be able to explain this feature of language. That is, we need to provide criteria of identity for word-types which allow us to individuate words such that it can be the case that two particular word-instances are instances of the same word-type (on the assumption that there are such types). One solution, recently further developed by Irmak (2018. “An Ontology of Words.” Erkenntnis. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s10670-018-0001-0), holds that words are individuated by their history. In this paper, I argue that this view either fails to account for our intuitions about word identity, or is too vague to be a plausible answer to the problem of word individuation.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Inquiry on 6 January 2019, available online:
Date accepted:13 December 2018
Date deposited:30 July 2020
Date of first online publication:06 January 2019
Date first made open access:30 July 2020

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar