Fictional names in psychologistic semantics

Theoretical Linguistics 43 (1-2):1-46 (2017)
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Abstract

Fictional names pose a difficult puzzle for semantics. We can truthfully maintain that Frodo is a hobbit, while at the same time admitting that Frodo does not exist. To reconcile this paradox I propose a way to formalize the interpretation of fiction as ‘prescriptions to imagine’ (Walton 1990) within an asymmetric semantic framework in the style of Kamp (1990). In my proposal, fictional statements are analyzed as dynamic updates on an imagination component of the interpreter’s mental state, while plain assertions are updates on a belief component. Proper names – regular, empty, or fictional – are uniformly analyzed as presupposition triggers. The possibility of different attitude components referentially depending on each other is what ultimately allows us to account for the central paradox mentioned above.

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Emar Maier
University of Groningen

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