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Descriptive pronouns revisited: the semantics and pragmatics of identification-based descriptive interpretations

Galery, T.N.; (2012) Descriptive pronouns revisited: the semantics and pragmatics of identification-based descriptive interpretations. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis confronts the semantic/pragmatic issues raised by identification - based descriptive uses of pronouns. The phenomenon, also known as deferred uses (Nunberg, 1993), arises when the correct understanding of a pronoun is dependent on the identification of a specific individual in the context that provides it with a descriptive (as opposed to a singular) interpretation. Moreover, the identification of the salient individual makes the interpretation available in a rather indirect way. For example, by pointing at a huge footprint in the sand and uttering ‘He must be a giant’, the speaker can convey the proposition that the footprint maker must be a giant, where the mental representation footprint (necessary for identification) and the representation the footprintmaker (the pronoun’s interpretation) are not identical. These uses also display interesting properties when it comes to their ability to provide antecedents for other pronouns. As such, they are at the cross-road of many topics in philosophy of language and linguistics, including indexicality, anaphora, and figurative uses of language (metonymy). In this thesis, I propose that the data is best accounted for by a combination of relevance-theoretic pragmatics (Sperber and Wilson 1995, Carston 2002), certain motivated assumptions about visual information processing, and the grammar formalism of Dynamic Syntax (Kempson et al 2001; Cann et al 2005). DS models pronouns as encoding procedures that introduce a variable-like entity (e.g. a metavariable), which needs to be replaced by a semantic value (of the appropriate type), allowing for descriptive constituents, which emerge as a result of relevance-driven processes of identification and inference, to provide the pronoun with the relevant descriptive interpretation. Alternatively, the pronoun can be replaced by a singular value that communicates a descriptive proposition as an implicature. The context and the pronominal form used determine which of these approaches is the best suited.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Descriptive pronouns revisited: the semantics and pragmatics of identification-based descriptive interpretations
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Psychology and Language Sciences (Division of) > Linguistics

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