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Language and Meaning in the Age of Modernism

C.K. Ogden and His Contemporaries

James McElvenny

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Explores the origins of key concepts in semantics and semiotics

This book explores the influential currents in the philosophy of language and linguistics of the first half of the twentieth century, from the perspective of the English scholar C. K. Ogden (1889–1957). Ogden was connected to several of the most significant figures of the modernist period, including Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Victoria Lady Welby, Otto Neurath and Rudolf Carnap. In investigating these connections, this book reveals links between early analytic philosophy, semiotics and linguistics in a crucial period of their respective histories and in turn sheds light on the intellectual history of the early twentieth century.

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1: Introduction
2: The Meaning of Meaning
3: Basic English
4: Ogden and the Vienna Circle
5: Epilogue

About the Author

James McElvenny is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the Department of Romance Studies, University of Potsdam.


This work meets the highest standards of scholarship by any measure. It is masterly in combining succinct and broad-ranging coverage. The treatment of the initial galaxy of thinkers and its lead-in to later chapters stands as a model for interdisciplinary scholarship. Without exception, the topics treated are carefully reasoned and clearly expressed in every detail. The writing is lively and engaging, infected, one suspects, in places by Ogden’s whimsical approach to style, where McElvenny invents phrases such as "referential hygiene." Splendid!

- Professor W. Terrence Gordon, Dalhousie University, Halifax

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