Meaning shift and the purity of 'I'

Philosophical Studies 164 (1):263-288 (2013)
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In this paper I defend the “Standard View” of the semantics of ‘I’—according to which ‘I’ is a pure, automatic indexical—from a challenge posed by “deferred reference” cases, in which occurrences of ‘I’ are (allegedly) not speaker-referential, and thus non-automatic. In reply, I offer an alternative account of the cases in question, which I call the “Description Analysis” (DA). According to DA, seemingly deferred-referential occurrences of the first person pronoun are interpreted as constituents of a definite description, whose operator scopes over an open sentence Rxy—where R is a contextually selected relation ranging over pairs of people and objects. The role of intentions is thus limited to the determination of R, which is posterior to the fixation of the reference of ‘I’. In support of the DA I present evidence that, in the cases in question, the (Determiner) phrase containing ‘I’ behaves in relevant ways like a description. I show that the DA can account for the problematic examples, while preserving the simplicity of the standard semantics of ‘I’. Finally, I examine a rival account of the data, offered by Nunberg (Linguist Philos 16:1–43, 1993), and argue for the superiority of the DA
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First archival date: 2012-08-22
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