W. V. QUINE : The Roots of Reference

Publication Information : Book Title : The Roots of Reference. Contributors : W. V. Quine – author. Publisher : Open Court Publishing. Place of Publication : LaSalle, Ill.. Publication Year : 1973.


Relatively little mystery enshrouds the ways in which we learn to utter observation sentences, and to assent to them or dissent from them when asked. Speaking of objects, however–abstract objects, physical objects, or even sensory objects–is neither so quickly achieved nor so readily accounted for. To speak of objects beyond peradventure the child must master a considerable apparatus of linguistic particles–‘same’, ‘another’, ‘that’, ‘it’, and the plural « -s’, and more–that are inaccessible at the level of observation sentences. In Word and Object (p. 93) I wrote that :

the contextual learning of these various particles goes on simultaneously, we may suppose, so that they are gradually adjusted to one another and a coherent pattern of usage is evolved matching that of society. The child scrambles up an intellectual chimney, supporting himself against each side by pressure against the others.

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