Consider the following object, where, depending on how you are viewing this paper, the object may be a series of ink markings, a portion of a matrix of pixels through or from which light is emitted, etc.,
Let’s call the object ‘Shape’. Is Shape a word token? If so, what word type is it a token of? Given how words are traditionally individuated (at least lexicographically), the Spanish, “auge”—meaning, apogee or peak—the French, “auge”—meaning, basin or bowl—and the German, “auge”—meaning, eye, are different words. So, if Shape is a word token (which we’ve yet to establish), is it a token of the Spanish, “auge”, the French, “auge”, the German, “auge”, or some combination of the three? Generalizing beyond Shape and ink markings/matrices of pixels as a potential medium for word tokens, (Central Question) when does something, f—e.g., some utterance, inscription, manual gesture, etc.—constitute a token of a word type, w, as opposed to some other word type, w * , or no word at all? In this paper, I motivate and place Central Question in the nascent and burgeoning subfield of the metaphysics of words. I argue that what makes something, f, a token of a word type, w, is that the process of generating f is explained and guided by one’s (tacit) knowledge of w (or the morphologic structure of w), e.g., one’s semantic, syntactic, morphophonological/orthographic, knowledge of w stored in one’s mental lexicon.