Misleading indexicals

Analysis 62 (4):308–310 (2002)
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In “Now the French are invading England” (Analysis 62, 2002, pp. 34-41), Komarine Romdenh-Romluc offers a new theory of the relationship between recorded indexicals and their content. Romdenh-Romluc’s proposes that Kaplan’s basic idea, that reference is determined by applying a rule to a context, is correct, but we have to be careful about what the context is, since it is not always the context of utterance. A few well known examples illustrate this. The “here” and “now” in “I am not here now” on an answering machine do not refer to the time and place of the original utterance, but to the time the message is played back, and the place its attached telephone is located. Any occurrence of “today” in a newspaper or magazine refers not to the day the story in which it appears was written, nor to the day the newspaper or magazine was printed, but to the cover date of that publication. Still, it is plausible that for each (token of an) indexical there is a salient context, and that “today” refers to the day of its context, “here” to the place of its context, and soon. Romdenh-Romluc takes this to be true, and then makes a proposal about what the salient context is. It is “the context that Ac would identify on the basis of cues that she would reasonably take U to be exploiting.” (39) Ac is the relevant audience, “the individual who it is reasonable to take the speaker to be addressing”, and who is assumed to be linguistically competent and attentive. (So Ac might not be the person U intends to address. This will not matter for what follows.) The proposal seems to suggest that it is impossible to trick a reasonably attentive hearer about what the referent of a particular indexical is. Since such trickery does seem possible, Romdenh-Romluc’s theory needs (at least) supplementation. I present two examples of such tricks.
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