Which propositions are considered meaningful and on what grounds? In other words, when is it correct to predicate 'meaningfulness' of the propositions?

  • All propositions have meaning, by definition. They are actually bearers of a specific kind of meaning. May 11, 2015 at 21:03
  • I'm asking what 'meaning' is. Also, 'all propositions have meaning' is a false claim. 'Red triangular squares are passionate' is prima facie meaningless.
    – duskn
    May 11, 2015 at 21:58
  • Well, thats not technically a proposition, which is not the same thing as a sentence. And the definition of meaning is encyclopedic. May 11, 2015 at 22:12
  • I am thinking of a dictionary. This is the source mapping meaning to words. Insofar as a proposition signifies a useful idea or concept, it has meaning whereas if I say "Why does blue smell like vanilla" that is meaningless as it is useless gibberish. May 12, 2015 at 3:11
  • Yeah, I guess you're correct, Andre
    – duskn
    May 13, 2015 at 22:32

2 Answers 2


The meaning of a sentence seems to me to be a relation between the sentence and something which is beyond the sentence. A senseless sentence is just a sentence, a mere sentence . A meaningful sentence is somehow more than a mere sentence. It is so by being related, in a way that a senseless sentence is not. A meaningful sentence is related to "the external world". The "world" is "external" to the related sentence, it is beyond the sentence.

The above raw definition covers both semantic meaning, where one uses terms like 'refer' or 'denote' to express the relation of words to the world; and pragmatic meaning, where the word-world relation is thought to be practical ("meaning is use").


I agree with one commenter, that all propositions must have meaning. However, the commenter didn't explain why, so I thought I'd elaborate.

A proposition must be true or false. You can't argue either of these if the proposition is "meaningless".


You can redefine propositions more broadly if you like, and consider "meaningful" ones to be those that can be proven or refuted. However, there is no simple way to tell if a proposition is "meaningful" in this case.

  • Why would we need to redefine 'proposition'? As I understand the regular definition, unprovable expressions that are either true or false are also propositions.
    – user2953
    May 12, 2015 at 21:40
  • This "regular" definition, can you give us some source that uses it? May 13, 2015 at 0:53
  • @Keelan Yes, an artifact of the proposed definition is that an unprovable expression won't be considered "meaningful". The broadening is referring to allowing nonsense sentences to be valid propositions.
    – Atsby
    May 13, 2015 at 1:05
  • But a proposition is not just an utterance, it is not even necessarily a linguistic artifact, that could be said to have necessarily definite syntactical features of any kind. It is bound to some meaning, in that quality.. May 13, 2015 at 1:15
  • We are talking about linguistics, right? May 13, 2015 at 1:33

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