Pragmatism is strongly associated with anti-realism, the view that words are meaningful not because they represent a reality independent of the word itself but because of how they are used in a given environment.
As to the question of how words have specific meaning, pragmatists typically refer to the normativity of word usage, which in turn is determined by society's use of the word. So the individual adapts a behavior that is prevalent in a society. There is some normative use of a word by other people under different conditions and the individual by some relation to these people and the conditions of word usage in the society come to use words in a like manner.
If the pragmatist is to hold on to the anti-realist view however, it seems that they must answer in what sense they distinguish between word, individual and society and how these predications are not contradictory to the anti-realism thesis that words do not represent or refer to a reality existent beyond them.
If we should understand how words come to have meaning by the environment in which they are used and the people who use them, it is difficult to see how this answer is not in some way referential to things that are taken to be existent independent of words (i.e, individuals and environments).