This and That: A Theory of Reference for Names, Demonstratives, and Things in Between

Dissertation, Ucla (2013)
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This dissertation sets out to answer the question ''What fixes the semantic values of context-sensitive referential terms—like names, demonstratives, and pronouns—in context?'' I argue that it is the speaker's intentions that play this role, as constrained by the conventions governing the use of particular sorts of referential terms. These conventions serve to filter the speaker's intentions for just those which meet these constraints on use, leaving only these filtered-for intentions as semantically relevant. By considering a wide range of cases, including many involving confused and deceptive speakers, I argue that this 'constraint theory' provides a better account of linguistic reference than does any extant alternative, whether intentionalist or non-intentionalist. Along the way, I argue that semantics cannot depend on the reactions of idealized listeners, that speaker meaning is far less clear, and helpful, a notion than it is standardly taken to be, and that speakers needn't aim to be cooperative in order to fix the meaning of their terms in context.

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Eliot Michaelson
King's College London


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