Sunday, September 18, 2011


Today I saw the headline: "How 'Star Wars' Got Made". And of course what that made me think is the question was how the linguistic type 'Star Wars' got made. And that was an odd question.

So, here is a question. Does "'Star Wars'" refer literally to the title, and then by synecdoche to the contents, or is there simply an orthographic convention whereby we put titles in italics or quotation marks, but the quotation marks here are not an instance of the quote functor? I am thinking it's just orthographic rather than a case of synecdoche, especially since there are no corresponding markers in speech.


L2Philosophy said...

All I know is, I'm glad to have found one of the most underrated Philosophers in the World right now and just a brilliant man all together.

I never knew you had a blog lol

Anyways, I would say refers to an orthographic. The are many wars, and different plots at once.

Heath White said...

I have to go orthographic. The authors surely didn't *intend* to refer to the title, and the single-quotes-as-use/mention-identifier is only widespread (and well-understood) among philosophers.

DL said...

“It's long,” said the Knight, “but it's very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it — either it brings the tears to their eyes, or else—”

“Or else what?” said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.

“Or else it doesn't, you know. The name of the song is called Haddocks' Eyes.

“Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?" Alice said, trying to feel interested.

“No, you don't understand,” the Knight said, looking a little vexed. “That's what the name is called. The name really is The Aged Aged Man.

“Then I ought to have said ‘That's what the song is called’?” Alice corrected herself.

“No, you oughtn't: that's quite another thing! The song is called Ways And Means: but that's only what it's called, you know!”

“Well, what is the song, then?” said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.

“I was coming to that,” the Knight said. “The song really is A-sitting On A Gate: and the tune's my own invention.”

Alexander R Pruss said...


It might be synecdoche, though, if we were in a habit of using the first few words of a text to name the text, as is Jewish custom.

So, what is a title anyway? The Alice text makes that puzzling. It's not just a name for the text. After all, anybody can name anything, so I can name Alice in Wonderland "Sam in Greenland", but while that will then be a name for it, it won't be its title.

I am not even sure that a title always has to function as a name. It seems we could pry the use of the title as a title from its use as a name. We could very easily have had linguistic customs on which one could only refer to War and Peace with a phrase like "The novel entitled War and peace", and then "War and Peace
" would consistently refer to "War and Peace". And this wouldn't, I think, significantly change the role of titles.