Wittgenstein's language game concept holds that the meaning of a word can only be derived from its usage. However, some philosophers contend that some words have meanings other than that implied by their usage. What evidence is there to this effect? Wittgenstein, however, repudiated the idea that language is separate from reality. Language and action are interwoven.
Meanings of words are attributed to them by humans. One consequence is that you can never be sure whether the meaning of a word intended by the person who utters or writes it is the same as the meaning assumed by a person who reads or hears it. A case in point is the word usage which appears in your question. I cannot be sure whether you intended it 1) simply as a synonym for use, or 2) in the narrower sense to denote the way in which words are normally used. Another is the word meaning itself- are you limiting its scope to indicate 3) the kind of meaning that is defined in dictionaries, or are you including 4) the wider significance a word might have? For example, 'Birkenhead' might be taken to mean the name of a town in Merseyside, but the word could have all kinds of connotations to a person raised there. The word 'askmplet' found carved on a tree might have no dictionary meaning, but it would still convey the meaning 'someone carved this'.
If you meant 2) and 3), then clearly words can have meanings that are not the same as their dictionary meanings. On the other hand, if you meant 1), 3) and 4) then the answer is no- words have no meaning outside the meanings attributed to them by people.
Every word at some point had to acquire its current meanings. But the question is which came first? Did meaning come first and then we apply a word to it so we can refer to the meaning. Or did we just notice that a sound we randomly babbled happened to be correlated with some external object or some concept that was near the speaker at the time? Clearly the former makes more sense but linguists would probably know for sure.
I don't understand how we can know a word can has a meaning if it has never been used that way. How would you establish that such a word has acquired that meaning?
Even saying "Term X now has a new meaning Y" would count as a usage of the word, hence go back to the usual definition.
An argument for "hidden meaning agnosticism" could be structured as such:
- [Premise] A word X has meaning Y iff such a mapping between X and Y has existed at some point in time.
- [Premise] Not all mappings between words and meanings are externalized via writing or speaking.
- [Premise] People cannot know each others mappings between words and meanings unless they are externalized.
Therefore, if there are meanings other than those expressed in written or spoken language for a given word X, we cannot know it.