Enduring Senses

Synthese 200 (291):1-21 (2022)


The meanings of words seem to change over time. But while there is a growing body of literature in linguistics and philosophy about meaning change, there has been little discussion about the metaphysical underpinnings of meaning change. The central aim of this paper is to push this discussion forward by surveying the terrain and advocating for a particular metaphysical picture. In so doing, we hope to clarify various aspects of the nature of meaning change, as well as prompt future philosophical investigation into this topic. More specifically, this paper has two parts. The first, broadly exploratory, part surveys various metaphysical accounts of meaning change. The goal here is to lay out the terrain, thereby highlighting some key choice points. Then, in the second part, after critiquing Prosser’s (Philosophy Phenomenol Res 100(3):657–676, 2020) exdurantism about ‘mental files’, we sketch and defend the enduring senses view of meaning change.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,766

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

9 (#958,625)

6 months
9 (#81,223)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Graeme A. Forbes
University of Kent
Nathan Wildman
Tilburg University

References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and Other Indexicals.David Kaplan - 1989 - In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes From Kaplan. Oxford University Press. pp. 481-563.
The Meaning of 'Meaning'.Hillary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.

View all 74 references / Add more references

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

A Unified Theory of Names.John Justice - 1998 - The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 32:41-47.
Practical Senses.Carlotta Pavese - 2015 - Philosophers' Imprint 15.
The Number of Senses.Kevin C. Klement - 2003 - Erkenntnis 58 (3):303 - 323.
Meaning, Expression, and Thought.Wayne A. Davis - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 137 (3):417-426.
The Ontology of Meanings. [REVIEW]Mark Siebel - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 137 (3):417 - 426.
The Problem(s) of Change Revisited.Tobias Hansson - 2007 - Dialectica 61 (2):265–274.
The Hierarchy of Fregean Senses.Ori Simchen - 2018 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 7 (4):255-261.