Pronouns as Demonstratives

Philosophers' Imprint 21 (35) (2021)
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Abstract
In this paper, I outline a novel approach to the semantics of natural language pronouns. On this account, which I call 'demonstrativism', pronouns are semantically equivalent to demonstratives. I begin by presenting some contrasts that provide support for demonstrativism. Then I try to explain these contrasts by developing a particular demonstrativist proposal. I build on the "hidden argument" theory of demonstratives. On this theory, demonstratives are semantically similar to definite descriptions, with one important difference: demonstratives take two arguments, rather than one. Using these ideas, I propose that pronouns also take two (covert) arguments, and that the second argument needs to be sufficiently salient to members of the conversation in order for the use of a pronoun to be felicitous. As for the first argument, I maintain that its content is constrained by the process of noun-phrase deletion. Taken together, I argue that these constraints provide us with a satisfying account of the uses to which pronouns are put.
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First archival date: 2021-09-07
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2021-09-07

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