The article deals with the fundamental problem of hermeneutics and the whole study of language as a means of communication - the ability of language to reflect reality.The study begins with an overview of the problem and the authors who dealt with it. This is followed by a detailed review of referential theory as the main and oldest theory in the study of language functions. The next part of the article discusses one of the modern theories in philosophy – the theory of dictionaries by Richard Rorty. It is concluded that the referential theory, although useful and fundamental, is very far from a full and comprehensive explanation of the functioning of language. It is correct in its basis, but does not explain most cases of language use, when the meanings of words and expressions are variable, ambiguous and contextually adaptive. Instead, Richard Rorty's theory of dictionaries is more flexible, broad, and explains those aspects of language use that are not covered by reference theory. The theory of dictionaries is essentially a pragmatic theory. It reflects the attempts of postmodern philosophers to free all spheres of human activity (including speech) from authoritarianism and the fixation of more traditional approaches.
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