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A Different Story about Indexicals

Abstract : The received view about indexicals holds that they are directly referential expressions, and that the semantic contribution of an indexical consists of that thing or individual to which the indexical refers in the context of its utterance. The aim of this paper is to put forward a different picture. I argue that direct reference and indexicality are distinct and separate phenomena, even if they cooccur often. Still, it is the speaker who directly refers to the things that she is talking about, and those things matter for the truth of her utterance. Indexicals, on the other hand, merely help the interpreter identify the speaker's intended reference. Typically, indexicals encode descriptive conditions that the context must meet to make the utterance true. For example, the demonstrative 'this' encodes the condition that the subject matter, ie that about which one is talking, should be salient and proximal to the speaker. The semantic contribution of an indexical, I suggest, consists precisely of such descriptive conditions. I will offer a formal account, dubbed contextual update semantics, and show how it captures the main conceptual motivation and how it handles embedded indexicals, which may seem problematic at a first glance.
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Contributor : Isidora Stojanovic <>
Submitted on : Friday, February 25, 2005 - 5:20:53 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 5, 2021 - 3:40:16 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, April 3, 2010 - 8:42:59 PM


  • HAL Id : ijn_00000582, version 1



Isidora Stojanovic. A Different Story about Indexicals. 2005. ⟨ijn_00000582⟩



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