Linguistics and Philosophy 38 (5):377-435 (2015)

Authors
David Beaver
University of Texas at Austin
Abstract
This paper distinguishes between definiteness and determinacy. Definiteness is seen as a morphological category which, in English, marks a uniqueness presupposition, while determinacy consists in denoting an individual. Definite descriptions are argued to be fundamentally predicative, presupposing uniqueness but not existence, and to acquire existential import through general type-shifting operations that apply not only to definites, but also indefinites and possessives. Through these shifts, argumental definite descriptions may become either determinate or indeterminate. The latter option is observed in examples like ‘Anna didn’t give the only invited talk at the conference’, which, on its indeterminate reading, implies that there is nothing in the extension of ‘only invited talk at the conference’. The paper also offers a resolution of the issue of whether possessives are inherently indefinite or definite, suggesting that, like indefinites, they do not mark definiteness lexically, but like definites, they typically yield determinate readings due to a general preference for the shifting operation that produces them.
Keywords Definiteness  Descriptions  Possessives  Predicates  Type-shifting
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DOI 10.1007/s10988-015-9178-8
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References found in this work BETA

Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and Other Indexicals.David Kaplan - 1989 - In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes From Kaplan. Oxford University Press. pp. 481-563.
On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 1905 - Mind 14 (56):479-493.
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Citations of this work BETA

Descriptions, pronouns, and uniqueness.Karen S. Lewis - 2022 - Linguistics and Philosophy 45 (3):559-617.
Generalized Update Semantics.Simon Goldstein - 2019 - Mind 128 (511):795-835.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

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