Semantic Extensions

In any of several studies that treat the use of signs — for example, in linguistics, logic, mathematics, semantics, and semiotics — the extension of a concept, idea, or sign consists of the things to which it applies, in contrast with its comprehension or intension, which consists very roughly of the ideas, properties, or corresponding signs that are implied or suggested by the concept in question.

In philosophical semantics or the philosophy of language, the 'extension' of a concept or expression is the set of things it extends to, or applies to, if it is the sort of concept or expression that a single object by itself can satisfy. Concepts and expressions of this sort are monadic or "one-place" concepts and expressions.

So the extension of the word "dog" is the set of all (past, present and future) dogs in the world: the set includes Fido, Rover, Lassie, Rex, and so on. The extension of the phrase "Wikipedia reader" includes each person who has ever read Wikipedia, including you.

The extension of a whole statement, as opposed to a word or phrase, is defined (since Frege 1892) as its truth value. So the extension of "Lassie is famous" is the logical value 'true', since Lassie is famous.

Some concepts and expressions are such that they don't apply to objects individually, but rather serve to relate objects to objects. For example, the words "before" and "after" do not apply to objects individually — it makes no sense to say "Jim is before" or "Jim is after" — but to one thing in relation to another, as in "The wedding is before the reception" and "The reception is after the wedding". Such "relational" or "polyadic" ("many-place") concepts and expressions have, for their extension, the set of all sequences of objects that satisfy the concept or expression in question. So the extension of "before" is the set of all (ordered) pairs of objects such that the first one is before the second one.


In mathematics, the 'extension' of a mathematical concept is the set that is specified by that concept.

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