Phil 445.001: Advanced Philosophy of Language

Listed as both Philosophy 445 and Linguistics 445 (also as Linguistics 410 — not sure why they give it two numbers)

Fall 2021, Mondays 3-5:30 pm, Caldwell 213, 3 credits

Professor Jim Pryor (he/him)

Sakai Site

UNC students enrolled in the course (or otherwise authorized by the instructor) can access the Sakai webpages for this course at

Those pages include the Zoom links for the course meetings and for Professor Pryor’s office hours. (These can also be retrieved from this restricted page.)

There’s not much else there. I’m still learning how to work within and around Sakai’s constraints. Currently, most of the course’s content is published here, outside of that system, and can also be viewed by people not enrolled in the course.

This front web page won’t be updated frequently. Regular announcements, readings, and lecture notes will be posted here instead.

Catalog Listing

PHIL 445. Advanced Philosophy of Language. 3 Credits.
At least two courses in philosophy other than PHIL 155, including PHIL 345, strongly recommended. A study of important contemporary contributions in philosophy of language. Topics include meaning, reference, and truth.
Repeat rules: May be repeated for credit. 6 total credits. 2 total completions.
Grading status: Letter grade
Same as: LING 410, LING 445.

Course Description

We’ll work through major landmarks in the semantics of descriptions and demonstratives, culminating with Kripke’s Naming and Necessity and Kaplan’s “Demonstratives.” Details will be tailored to the interests and backgrounds of the participants (we might, for example, explore connections to the metaphysics of origins and composition). Along the way, participants should expect to learn some formal semantics, and major development in 20th century analytic philosophy.

Target Audience and Course Goals

This seminar is aimed at grads and undergrads in Philosophy and Linguistics.

As stated in the catalog listing, it’s strongly recommended that you have taken Phil 345 (Philosophy of Language) or its equivalent, and at least one other regular course in philosophy (not counting formal courses like Logic). Familiarity with formal languages, for example from Phil 155 (Logic) will also be helpful in this course.

Students who aren’t philosophy grads should discuss their preparation with the instructor and need his permission to enroll.

I’ll expect that all students have prior experience writing philosophical papers, reading texts critically, analyzing and responding to philosophical arguments, and so on. This will be necessary in order to adequately understand and engage with the readings, and to participate effectively in our class discussions.

For Philosophy grads, this course counts towards the “Metaphysics and Epistemology” distribution requirement. See below for what’s required if you elect to take this course in “participation-only” mode.

Goals for the course include:


The course is offered by Professor Jim Pryor (he/him).

Professor Pryor’s office is Caldwell 108A. He can best be reached by email, at

Professor Pryor’s office hours are on Mondays and Wednesdays 11:30-12:30. If you’re unable to meet in person, we can also meet by Zoom. The Zoom link for office hours can be found on this restricted page.


This text is available in the bookstore. You can also buy it online.

That link is to the orange-covered edition published in 2003 by Wiley-Blackwell. The Harvard edition from the early 1980s is also fine.

Additional readings will be provided by web links. Some of these are in a restricted section of the course website. The username and password for these will be announced in class.

Course Requirements

It is essential that you attend the class meetings regularly. Some material not in the readings will be presented there, and useful background and framing for the readings will also be provided. The University’s policy on class attendance can be found here. In brief, they authorize absences only for some University activities, religious observances, disabilities, significant health conditions including pregnancy, and personal or family emergencies. If these include your situation, then see the link about how to get your absence approved. If you need to miss class meetings for other kinds of reasons (like a job interview or to attend your mother’s wedding), ask me about it well in advance. Since we only meet once a week, and the class aims to be structured around group discussion, there isn’t much room for absences. If you do miss a class, you will be responsible for catching up with missed content; and permission to miss a class doesn’t excuse you from turning in weekly assignments or papers due before the class.

Though this is an in-person class, attending a meeting doesn’t necessarily mean being bodily present in the room. As the carolinatogether website says:

Each time prior to coming to campus, all members of the Carolina community should self-assess whether you are experiencing any symptoms using the COVID-19 symptom list on the Carolina Together website. If you have any of these symptoms, you should stay home. You should not enter any campus building, attend any class or report to work.

More information about quarantining and isolation is available here.

If you need to stay home during any of our class meetings, try to attend the meeting by Zoom instead.

When you join the class meetings, you are expected to have read any material assigned for that day, and to be ready to discuss it and/or ask questions about it. To encourage this, you will have to submit discussion questions before most of our meetings. More on this below.

It is essential that you ask questions when things in the readings or my presentations or our group discussion are unclear, and be ready to actively participate in the discussions. Talking about philosophy is one of the best ways of learning how to do it. Your overall participation will make up 10% of your grade for the course. See this page on participation for more details (though this class won’t have separate “discussion sections” as that page assumes; we’ll integrate discussion into the main meetings). If you don’t plan to participate earnestly, you should not take this course.

See the Policies section below about wearing masks and using laptops or other devices in class.

There will be reading assignments for most class meetings. These readings are sometimes short, but they all require close study. You should read them carefully before we discuss them in class, and you’ll need to read them more than once. For most of the readings, you won’t understand the material sufficiently with just a single reading. A good strategy would be to read the assignment once before we discuss it, and then go back and read it again after we’ve discussed it. If you don’t plan to do this, you should not take this course.

Here is a detailed explanation of how you’ll be expected to read philosophy papers.

As mentioned above, before most class meetings you’ll have to submit discussion questions and a brief analytic summary of the readings. These will be due by 5 pm on the Sunday before class. No late submissions are allowed. I will often cut and paste from your submissions and distribute a sampling when we meet, to guide our group discussion of the text. I’ll also give you marks on your submissions, and these will make up 15% of your final grade for the course. (Your weakest two submissions, inclusing missed submissions, won’t negatively affect your grade.)

No weekly submissions will be expected until Sunday Sept 12, before our third meeting; and none will be expected on Oct 10, when your midterm papers are due. Your submissions should give a brief, high-level overview of what’s going on in the assigned article (5-10 sentences should usually suffice); and you should formulate 3-4 questions for discussion or exploration. To give you an example, of the kind of questions I’m looking for, here are some questions about the Russell readings for week 2. (I give more questions there than I’d expect you to formulate.) Your questions need to focus on important issues in the text (or on especially interesting tangents).

In addition to structuring our discussion, these weekly questions may also help you choose a paper topic. Students will be required to submit one short midterm paper (5-7 pages) due on Sunday Oct 10. They’ll then be required to submit a final paper due by 4 pm on Friday Dec 10 (in place of a final exam). The final paper could either be another 5-7 page paper on a new topic, or a 10-12 page development of the first paper, guided by my feedback and discussion with each other, in and outside of the classroom.

Here is a detailed explanation of how you’ll be expected to write philosophy papers. That page includes a section “How you’ll be graded”; here is more information on how I understand different grades for written work.

See below about missing or requesting extensions for paper deadlines.

Philosophy grads who elect to take this course in “participation-only” mode will be expected to submit the weekly assignments, but not to write the midterm or final paper.

The University Honor Code applies to all course assignments, and petitions for absences or rescheduling. For more information, see and The Instrument of Student Judicial Governance.

What constitutes academic “lying, cheating, or stealing” can vary between different activities.

Your grades for the different components of the course will be weighted as follows:

10% for participation
15% weekly discussion questions and/or summaries
30% midterm paper
45% final paper

If you think you have been given an incorrect grade for any part of the course, we can review together how I applied the announced standards. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you have the right to discuss with our department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (currently Professor Markus Kohl), or to appeal through a formal University process. You’ll be expected to make a case that the grade reflects an arithmetic/clerical error, arbitrariness, discrimination, harassment, or personal malice. To learn more, go to the Academic Advising Program website, or this summary of University policies.

Most requests that I and other professors hear for changing grades are based on how good/bad it would be for a student to get a given grade; but it would be unfair and inappropriate for justifications like that to succeed.


This lists due dates for assignments and the rough order of our topics. See this page for announcements, readings, lecture notes, and any minor tweaks to the schedule. Check that page frequently.

Meeting 1 / Mon Aug 23
Introduction and Frege
Meeting 2 / Mon Aug 30
Mon Sept 6
No classes (Labor Day)
Meeting 3 / Mon Sept 13
Meeting 4 / Mon Sept 20
Donnellan on referential descriptions
Meeting 5 / Mon Sept 27
Quine on de re reports
Meeting 6 / Mon Oct 4
Kaplan, Quantifying In
Meeting 7 / Mon Oct 11
Midterm papers due on Sunday preceding this class
Hawthorne and Manley
Meeting 8 / Mon Oct 18
Kripke on Speakers Reference
Meeting 9 / Mon Oct 25
Naming and Necessity
Meeting 10 / Mon Nov 1
More Naming and Necessity
Meeting 11 / Mon Nov 8
More Naming and Necessity
Meeting 12 / Mon Nov 15
Meeting 13 / Mon Nov 22
Kaplan on Demonstratives
Meeting 14 / Mon Nov 29
Last normal class
More Kaplan
Fri Dec 10
Final exam would have been scheduled for 4-6 pm. Instead, your final papers will be due by 4 pm, and we’ll meet from 4-6 pm for review and reflection on the seminar.

Other Information

If you wish to be in the class, but aren’t yet enrolled

(Whether or not you’re on the waitlist, the procedure is the same.) Come to the first week of classes and be in touch with me asap about your interest in the class, how it fits into your larger educational plans, and what your background in other philosophy courses is.

Rescheduling/missing deadlines

The weekly assignments will be due at 5 pm on Sundays beginning Sept 12, and won’t be accepted late. (That said, your weakest two submissions, including missed submissions, won’t negatively affect your grade.)

The deadline for the final paper is when our course’s final exam would have taken place, and can be extended only in the special circumstances that you could be excused from an exam. These must be documented and approved by an academic dean. See the final exam regulations and fall schedule for more details.

The deadline for the midterm paper, due Sunday Oct 10, is somewhat more flexible.

If you know in advance you’ll have good reason for being unable to submit a paper for that deadline:

What if it turns out that you can’t turn the midterm paper in, but now it’s only days or hours before (or even after 😮) the deadline?

Policies and Resources


The instructor reserves the right to make changes to the syllabus, including paper due dates. These changes will be announced as early as possible so that students can adjust their schedules.


I welcome your input about the class at any time. You are welcome to approach me directly. I’ll also provide opportunities for anonymous evaluation and feedback during the term.