Wittgenstein and Indexing Theory


  • Jack Andersen
  • Frank Sejer Christensen




The paper considers indexing an activity which deals with linguistic entities. It rests on the assumption that a theory of indexing should be based on a philosophy of language, because indexing is concerned with the linguistic representation of meaning. The paper consists of four sections: It begins with some basic considerations on the nature of indexing and the requirements of a theory on this. It is followed by a short review of the use of Wittgenstein' s philosophy in LIS-literature. Next is an analysis ofWittgenstein's work Philosophical Investigations. Finally, we deduce a theory of indexing from this philosophy. Considering an indexing theory a theory of meaning entails that, for the purpose of retrieval, indexing is a representation of meaning. Therefore an indexing theory is concerned with how words are used in the linguistic context. Furthermore, the indexing process is a communicative process containing an interpretative element. Through the philosophy of the later Wittgenstein, it is shown that language and meaning are publicly constituted entities. Since they form the basis of indexing, a theory hereof must take into account that no single actor can defme the meaning of documents. Rather this is decided by the social, historical and linguistic context in which the document is produced, distributed, and exchanged. Indexing must clarify and reflect these contexts.