The claim, then, is that a in virtue of its imposition, a given vocal sound becomes a word by acquiring its meaning as an intrinsic property, and b the meaning belongs to the vocal sound just as a substantial form belongs to a specific matter. Pseudo-Kilwardby, writing around the middle of the 13 th century, as well as two unidentified modists i. Contrary to speculative grammarians, these authors defend that linguistic meanings cannot be explained as substantial forms encapsulated in a vocal sound upon its imposition.
Meaning must instead be explained in terms of the actual use of words in concrete situations of communication. Thus, it is not the presence of a form-meaning significatio in the matter-spoken sound vox that vouchsafes the meaningfulness of a word, but the relation between the spoken sound and the speaker herself.
Hence, if one asks whether the meaning is the substantial form of a vocal sound, taken as the other part of the composite, I say that it is not the case; but if one asks whether it is the substantial form of a vocal sound, taken as the [entire] word, I say that it is the case. Taken for itself— i. The substantial form is a lasting property of the word itself, taken—just like any compound of matter and form—as an autonomous and independent entity. For the substantial form, in very general terms, is that which organizes matter and makes turns it into an autonomous and intelligible entity.
Therefore, we encounter the following situation:. This author distinguishes between essential and accidental determinations of a vocal sound vox and of a word dictio :. On the other hand, what is essential for a dictio is precisely not the fact of its being uttered, but the ratio significandi , i. The ratio significandi , however, is accidental with respect to the vox , since what turns a mere vocal sound into a part of speech is an accidental addition to the sound, although an essential part of the resulting complex. Thus spoken sounds and words are treated on a par, not according to a part-whole relation, but as full-fledged entities having each its own essential form.
Just like the stone, receiving the form of the statue by the artisan, the spoken sound receives the form of the word in the performance of its first imposition. The significatio is what comes along with a vocal sound and turns it into a part of speech.
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It can thus be described by virtue of the same terms used to describe what turns a chunk of matter into a statue or a saw. In fact, as already mentioned, speculative grammar transcends the idiomatic level of language. As Boethius of Denmark, a modist of the first generation, explains:. But the natures of things are specifically and essentially the same for all, and thus, the same holds of their properties, which are modes of being from which modes of understanding are taken, and, as a consequence, modes of signifying, and further, modes of constructing Now, turning back to the question of what bestows a determinate meaning on a determinate vocal sound, it strikes as evident that even if one maintains—like the two anonymous speculative grammarians—that meaning is the substantial form of a word, one still must explain i how the unity of vocal sound and its meaning is established in the first place, and ii what exactly is the substantial form or ratio significandi of a word.
In the first part of the passage he attributes to the authority of Augustine dicit Augustinus the thesis that the soul is united with the body in the same way as sicut the meaning sensus, significatio is united with the spoken sound vox ; in the second part, where he presents his own position quantum ad hoc , he reverses the order and explains the holistic nature of meaning significatio est totius dictionis on the basis of the presence of the soul in the whole body and not in its parts anima est totius corporis actus. In other words, while in Augustine the more complex case of the relationship between body and soul is illustrated by means of the apparently simpler relation between meaning and spoken sound, pseudo-Kilwardby explains the relation between meaning and spoken sound by virtue of the conceptual distinctions used in the Scholastic tradition to interpret the relation between soul and body.
Hence, the mental step of the imposition additionally contains a fourth moment:. The intentio of the vox is the means of which the signifiable intentio is the end, or, leaving the Latin terminology aside, the concept of the vocal sound appears as the means whose end is to signify a certain mental content by being associated with it. In fact, the act of imposing a vocal sound on a thing cannot be conflated with the external action of uttering a sound in the presence of the thing. What we call the thing is something existing outside the soul and apprehended by the soul through its species, like a man or a stone.
What we call the concept of the thing is the idea or likeness of the thing which exists in the soul […]; the utterance is that which is put forward along with the concept of the thing; in this case a signification is united with the utterance, and the utterance is rendered significant. The first imposition, then, provides something like the internal model for the second, external one , and appears as endowing the word with its form , vouchsafing its external imposition to the thing.
Hence the following dual relation where the twofold resemblance between c and a , and between a and d vouchsafes the constant reference of the word to the thing:. Accordingly, the spoken word is like a human being: the form of the latter being the soul, that of the former the concept on which an acoustic image is imposed, thus yielding the mental word which the actually spoken word resembles, although only partially.
Before we move on and investigate a second account of meaning, defended by some anti-modists, one last point needs to be considered. In his description of the role played by the concept or intentio significabilis within the complex process of imposition, pseudo-Kilwardby brings together the two notions of substantial form and final cause. Qua signification, the concept is the form of the word; qua end, it is the final cause of its formation in mente and its production in voce. Shifting from the point of view of the producer to that of the receiver, pseudo-Kilwardby now suggests the following analogy: in perceiving a spoken sound, the hearer apprehends the concept affectum existing in the mind of the speaker and of which the spoken sound is the image in the same way in which, in perceiving an artefact , one apprehends the species species existing in the mind of the artisan and of which the produced artefact is the image.
For it also seems to suggest that in the same way in which the artisan uses her hand in order to shape a chunk of matter while having in mind the species which the final product of the action is supposed to resemble, the speaker uses her organs of phonation to impress into the vocal matter a species similar to the one she has in mind. Similarly, in the same manner in which by seeing the shape of an artefact one apprehends the species which it resembles as it was in the mind of the artisan, the hearer apprehends from the sounds the species the latter are meant to signify.
The view, according to which words have their semantic power in virtue of some intrinsic determination comparable to a substantial form, may now be understood as an analogy: the imposition of a name is like the production of an artefact, i. The actual production of the speech-artefact is thus preceded by a mental compound of matter and form, that is, by the compound of the intentio of the physical object to be produced i. As for the nature of this teleological activity, it can only be accounted for in terms of a more primitive form of intentionality: that of the speech-act, occurring entirely on a mental level and subordinating an intentio that of a vocal sound to another one that of a thing.
In fact, after the labour of the artisan, her work stands in front of her, autonomously, as already provided with intrinsic features; in the same vein, after the imposition, the words appear as objective speech-works having intrinsic features as well. In contemplating the external form of different artefacts, one perceives their forms as they were conceived by and in the intellect of the artisan.
Accordingly, and in order to examine a different version of the AP, we should move to a different conceptual framework. Notwithstanding its explanatory value, an account, such as the one given by pseudo-Kilwardby, was far from being unanimously accepted.
In fact, one could easily argue, for instance, that a saw, although crafted to perform a certain task, does not saw by itself, but only as long as it is used by an agent in the appropriate way. In the same vein, it is not difficult to object that a word does not signify by itself or in virtue or something like its substantial form, but only as long as it is used by a speaker in the appropriate way. It is on the basis of concerns such as these that Johannes Aurifaber launches a serious attack against the principles of modism, in a text containing the proceedings of a disputation held in Erfurt around the Determinatio de modis significandi.
One of its main theses is the folloing:. Thus, the fact that certain things are said to be significant in the secondary sense depends on their being somehow related to the things said to be significant in the primary sense.
By contrast, a spoken sound signifies not as an activity, but as the property or the disposition of something that is somehow related to an activity in a fashion which the passage leaves undetermined and still needs to be explored. Again, while an agent intellect, human being signifies by performing an activity, a spoken sound signifies only in its being related to the activity of signifying performed by an agent. Hence, the distinction between a principal and a secondary meaning ultimately entails that the meaning of a word depends on the meaning- activity of a speaker qua agent.
A speaker signifies something for or to someone alicui by acting in a certain way, i.
We now shift to the domain of the derived sense secundario where something means not qua agent—principal or not—but qua that by means of which tamquam quo the agent does what she does. Aurifaber succinctly summarizes this view as follows:. In fact, as the next text passage will show, what he has in mind is rather the ratio significandi i. Just as his opponents, he insists on the connection between the activity of the intellect and the lexical meaning of words. However, he maintains that such an activity is structurally subject-dependent, for it does not leave anything like a form or an intrinsic property in the words themselves.
Accordingly, the activity of the intellect responsible for the meaningfulness of spoken sounds is not the original activity of the institutor, accomplished once and for all, and leaving behind as its product an achieved speech-work: it is rather the repeated and constant activity of the speakers persistently bestowing meanings to vocal sounds by use and practice ex usu et exercitio.
Both have their place within an AP, although the artefactual features mobilized are definitely not the same. Accordingly, Aurifaber is more aware of the role of the intellect speech-act as intervening in pragmatically oriented performances of human beings speech-actions than of the semantic properties of words as such speech-works. However, there is yet another reply to speculative grammar with its exclusive focus on meanings qua meanings of speech-works and its corresponding account of speech-acts in terms of imposition , a reply which does not reduce the theory of meaning to speech-actions alone and thus leave somewhat undetermined the speech-act of the intellect involved in the practical use of spoken sounds.
Hence, one is the mode of imposition in the form of an imposition vocally expressed and assigned to a thing, just like names are imposed on children and other things. And it is obvious that this is possible, because imposition is at our pleasure; therefore, according what pleases a man, he can give a name to a thing in his mind, or express the imposition vocally. And he can do the same for all other things about which he thinks or which he wants. The first is a kind of baptism and corresponds to the public performance of assigning, expressis verbis , a certain word to a certain thing.
And although his terminology may sound closer to the one employed by the speculative grammarians, this first imposition is clearly not an event happening in mente , but, so to speak, in mundo , in the public space of things and actions. As for the second way of imposing words on things, Bacon describes it as tacit and occurring only on the level of the intellect. While the first mode of imposition brings about the standard meaning of a word, the second is responsible for all deviations from the norm, understood by Bacon as renewals of signification.
Strictly speaking, Bacon does not distinguish two types of imposition, for there is only one type of imposition, i. However, he certainly distinguishes between two different ways or modes of performing the act of imposition modi imponendi : the one expressed vocally vocaliter expressa and the other one occurring in the mind only apud intellectum.
This distinction contrasts with the theory of the double imposition developed by the modists. But there is yet a further distinction, related this time to the idea of re- imposition. According to Bacon, a speaker has the power to silently impose new meanings on old words anytime , thereby producing meaning-shifts and ambiguities of all sorts.
However, although wordless and fully mental, the second imposition is not speechless insofar as it is always speech-related. Moreover, the peculiarity that such a re-imposition occurs in speech although not explicitly is also one of the four reasons enumerated by Bacon to explain why the renewal of signification often remains hidden or unnoticed:.
This must be observed with respect to all the letters of the alphabet, so that one may discover all the primitive words, all of which must be monosyllables by nature, because principles are of minimal quantity, and these would perhaps suffice. Then he would form derivatives and make them disyllabic, which perhaps would suffice, if they are multiplied as much as possible. Then, having produced an unlimited amount of vocal sounds, the first ones must be imposed on primary things, and the second ones, namely the derivatives, have to be imposed on secondary things, which are attached to the primary ones, and such a language construction does not fall to just anyone, but to the expert.
Moreover, if ordinary speakers impose vocal sounds on things in order to name them according to the analogy between imposition and baptism , skilled experts impose an order to the constituents of articulated vocal sounds themselves in order to make them usable to name things re-establishing on a different level of the analogy between imposition and in-formation. According to one sense, she imposes an order to non-meaningful spoken sounds by arranging them in a way suitable for linguistic and communicative purposes and eventually faithful to the order of things; in another sense, she imposes certain arrangement of spoken sounds on the things to be named, according to the first mode of imposition indicated above the assignation vocaliter expressa.
Now, it is only in the first sense that imposition is synonym to fabrication. In fact, according to Bacon, the artisan is nothing but the maker of phonetic items having a certain form in virtue of which they are, for instance, easily pronounceable and harmoniously combinable with each other and therefore susceptible to be introduced into usage. Still, none of these features is in any way responsible for the meaning which these vocal sounds will acquire, once assigned to things.
It is only in the second step of her work, which may be described as the non-artefactual one, that the expert imposes the crafted arrangement of vocal sounds on something, thus instituting their standard meanings.