Understanding as knowledge of meaning

Barber, Alex (2013). Understanding as knowledge of meaning. Philosophy Compass, 8(10) pp. 964–977.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/phc3.12075


Testimony, the transmission of knowledge through communication, requires a shared understanding of linguistic expressions and utterances of them. Is this understanding itself a kind of knowledge, knowledge of meaning? The intuitive answer is ‘yes’, but the nature of such knowledge is controversial, as is the assumption that understanding is a kind of knowledge at all. This article is a critical examination of recent work on the nature and role of semantic knowledge in the generation of the linguistic understanding needed for testimony. After describing a default view – that linguistic understanding partially consists in the possession and application of knowledge of a compositional theory of truth conditions – it scrutinizes two recent charges against this view: that linguistic understanding and knowledge of meaning are conceptually distinct, and that semantic ‘knowledge’ is knowledge without an object.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions