Language, Discourse, and Ostension: Selected Passages

19 Pages Posted: 14 May 2019 Last revised: 20 May 2019

See all articles by Daniel B. Klein

Daniel B. Klein

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: May 9, 2019


Ostension is the act or process of showing, as in showing a child a fossil while saying “fossil.” Here collected are 59 quotations about language, discourse, ostension, and semantics. A theme is the “facts are theory-laden” spiral between language and discourse, between explananda and explanation – the philosophy-of-science problem (and the pervasive political problem) of justifying our judgment in favor of one over against another outlook. The collection highlights individual personage – and hence history, or historicity – as conditioning the content of a theory (or the complex that spans explanandum and explanation). The individual personage infuses meaning into words or signs in showing his own doings including speech acts (discourse, parole). Multiple quotations are authored by Thomas Kuhn, J.G.A. Pocock, Karl Kraus, Adam Smith, Josep Pieper, Friedrich Hayek, Oliver Wendall Holmes, Sr., Otto Jespersen, Iain McGilchrist, and Steven Mithen. A single quotation is authored by John Milton, Edmund Burke, Gershom Carmichael, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Søren Kierkegaard, Kenneth Burke, Michael Polanyi, Thomas Schelling, Wayne Booth, and William Graham Sumner.

Keywords: language, discourse, ostension, semantics, langue, parole, philosophy of science

JEL Classification: B4, A12, A13

Suggested Citation

Klein, Daniel B., Language, Discourse, and Ostension: Selected Passages (May 9, 2019). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 19-15, Forthcoming, SOCIETY, Available at SSRN:

Daniel B. Klein (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Fairfax, VA 22030
United States


George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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