Complex demonstratives, hidden arguments, and presupposition

Synthese 198 (4):2865-2900 (2019)
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Standard semantic theories predict that non-deictic readings for complex demonstratives should be much more widely available than they in fact are. If such readings are the result of a lexical ambiguity, as Kaplan (in: Almog, Perry, Wettstein (eds) Themes from Kaplan, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977) and others suggest, we should expect them to be available wherever a definite description can be used. The same prediction follows from ‘hidden argument’ theories like the ones described by King (Complex Demonstratives: a Quantificational Account, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2001) and Elbourne (Situations and Individuals, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2005). Wolter (That’s That; the Semantics and Pragmatics of Demonstrative Noun Phrases. Ph.D. thesis, University of California at Santa Cruz, 2006), however, has shown that complex demonstratives admit non-deictic interpretations only when a precise set of structural constrains are met. In this paper, I argue that Wolter’s results, properly understood, upend the philosophical status quo. They fatally undermine the ambiguity theory and demand a fundamental rethinking of the hidden argument approach.



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Ethan Nowak
Umeå University

Citations of this work

No context, no content, no problem.Ethan Nowak - 2020 - Mind and Language 36 (2):189-220.
A monstrous account of non-deictic readings of complex demonstratives.Joan Gimeno-Simó - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

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