In Situations and Individuals, Paul Elbourne argues that the natural language expressions that have been taken to refer to individuals — pronouns, proper names, and definite descriptions — have a common syntax and semantics, roughly that of definite descriptions as construed in the tradition of Frege. In the course of his argument, Elbourne shows that proper names have previously undetected donkey anaphoric readings.This is contrary to previous theorizing and, if true, would undermine what philosophers call the direct reference theory (which (...) holds that the sole contribution of a proper name to the truth conditions of a sentence is an individual) as well as the related doctrine that proper names are rigid designators. Elbourne begins by addressing donkey anaphora, relating other concerns about pronouns to the solution of this notorious problem. His subsequent argumentation provides a unified semantics for the donkey anaphoric and bound and referential uses of pronouns and discusses the prospect of unifying the syntax and semantics of pronouns with the syntax and semantics of normal definite descriptions. Elbourne's aim is not only to advance his proposal of a unified syntax and semantics but also to urge linguists and philosophers dealing with pronoun interpretation to consider a wider range of theories than they do at present, and to test the competing claims of description-based theories and dynamic semantics against the data. (shrink)
Paul Elbourne defends the Fregean view that definite descriptions ('the table', 'the King of France') refer to individuals, and offers a new and radical account of the semantics of pronouns. He draws on a wide range of work, from Frege, Peano, and Russell to the latest findings in linguistics, philosophy of language, and psycholinguistics.
Paul Elbourne explores the complex nature of meaning in crystal clear language. He draws on approaches developed in linguistics, philosophy, and psychology - assuming a knowledge of none of them - in a manner that will appeal to everyone interested in this essential element of human psychology and culture.
Contrary to a claim made by Kaplan (Mind 114:933–1003, 2005) and Neale (Mind 114:809–871, 2005), the readings available to sentences containing definite descriptions embedded under propositional attitude verbs and conditionals do pose a significant problem for the Russellian theory of definite descriptions. The Fregean theory of descriptions, on the other hand, deals easily with the relevant data.
This paper argues that donkey pronouns should be construed as definite articles, followed by an NP sister which has undergone deletion in the phonology. So Every man who owns a donkey beats it is claimed to share a Logical Form with Every man who owns a donkey beats the donkey, which means the same. There is independent evidence for assimilating pronouns to determiners, and for NP-deletion; so this theory explains E-type anaphora without postulating any special entity (`E-type pronoun') for the (...) purpose. Since NP-deletion, like other ellipsis, requires an antecedent, this theory also explains the requirement for a "formal link" between donkey pronoun and antecedent, which standard E-type theories find difficult to account for. Other empirical advantages of this theory include its ability to explain the pattern of strict and sloppy identity displayed by donkey sentences with phonologically reduced continuations. It is shown that Bach-Peters sentences, quantificational subordination, and paycheck sentences can also be dealt with on the present approach. (shrink)
The implicit content associated with incomplete definite descriptions is contributed in the form of definite descriptions of situations. A definite description of this kind is contributed by a small structure in the syntax, which is interpreted, in general terms, as ‘the situation that bears R to s’.
Previous theorists have claimed that Russell’s theory of definite descriptions gives the wrong truth conditions to sentences in which definite descriptions are embedded under certain other operators; but the other operators used, such as conditionals and propositional attitude verbs, have introduced intensional and hyperintensional complications that might be thought to obscure the point against Russell. This paper shows that the same kind of problem arises when the operator in question allows the context to be extensional. It is further argued that (...) presuppositional theories of definite descriptions give intuitively satisfying analyses of the novel data. (shrink)
In some utterances, some material does not seem to be explicitly expressed in words, but nevertheless seems to be part of the literal content of the utterance rather than an implicature. I will call material of this kind implicit content. The following are some relevant examples from the literature. (1) Everyone was sick. (2) I haven’t eaten. (3) It’s raining. In the case of (1), we are supposed to have asked Stephen Neale how his dinner party went last night (Neale, (...) 1990, pp. 94–95) and received this as the reply. Obviously, we do not take Neale to be saying that everyone in the world was sick; we interpret him as saying that everyone who attended his dinner party was sick. How, then, do we come to incorporate the property of attending Neale’s dinner party into the proposition expressed, when it does not seem to be the denotation of any overt lexical items in the utterance? In uttering (2), I might be asserting that I have not eaten dinner today (Bach 1994, pp. 135–136), even though I do not use any audible words meaning ‘dinner’ or ‘today’. (I might thereby intend to create an implicature to the effect that we should go to a restaurant.) And in saying (3), I might be claiming that it is raining at 11.59pm on Halloween 2008 in Arkham, Massachusetts, even though I do not appear to mention any time or place (Perry 1986; Stanley 2000; Recanati 2002, 2004, 2007; Mart´ı 2006; Neale 2007). (shrink)
The implicit content indicating location associated with “raining” and other weather predicates is a definite description meaning “the location occupied by x,” where the individual variable “x” can be referential or bound. This position has deleterious consequences for certain varieties of radical contextualism.
Soames (Philos Top 15:44–87, 1987 , J Philos Logic 37:267–276, 2008 ) has argued that propositions cannot be sets of truth-supporting circumstances. This argument is criticized for assuming that various singular terms are directly referential when in fact there are good grounds to doubt this.
In recent work on the semantics of definite descriptions, some theorists :496–533, 2013) have advocated broadly Fregean accounts, whereby a definite description ‘the F’ introduces a presupposition to the effect that there is exactly one F and refers to it if there is, while other theorists Reference: Interdisciplinary perspectives, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 61–72, 2008; Hawthorne and Manley in The reference book, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012) have advocated accounts whereby ‘the F’ introduces a presupposition to the effect that (...) there is exactly one F but otherwise has the semantics of ‘an F’, introducing existential quantification. It is argued that the latter theories, since they have definite descriptions encode assertoric content to the effect that there is an F, have difficulty accounting for the felicity of ‘The F is G’ when it is already presupposed that there is an F. (shrink)
The English pronoun _it_ can anaphorically take on the meaning of a salient generalized quantifier when it occurs in subject position followed by an elided Verb Phrase and (optionally) a VP-level operator. The extent to which theories of pronoun interpretation will have to be altered to take account of this finding will depend on whether the phenomenon is unique to English or part of a crosslinguistic pattern.
Magidor argued that category mistakes are infelicitous due to presupposition failure. The case for this position is strengthened by the consideration of a previously unnoted category of data, namely multi-sentence discourses in which category mistake phenomenology arises at the end of the last sentence, but arguably due to content contained in a previous sentence. This phenomenon is analysed in terms of the previous sentence giving rise to a presupposition that is shown to be false only in the last sentence.
This seminar will investigate the semantics of complex demonstratives, that is phrases like that dog with a blue collar and this table where this or that is followed by an NP. There has been much debate recently on the overall semantic shape of these items, with some theorists (e.g. Braun) claiming that they are directly referential in the sense of Kaplan, some (e.g. King) claiming that they are quantiﬁcational, some (e.g. Roberts) claiming that they are to be treated as deﬁnites (...) in a dynamic semantics, and some (e.g. Elbourne) claiming that this and that are basically Fregean deﬁnite articles. Some of the discussion will involve presupposition and possible worlds semantics: does a sentence of the form That F is G (with speaker demonstration) express a proposition if the object demonstrated is not F ? and does the object demonstrated have to be F at an arbitrary world w in order for the proposition expressed by such a sentence to be true at w? Attention will also be paid to the nature of the proximal and distal features on this and that and their translation equivalents in other languages. (shrink)