Event Detail

Mon Dec 8, 2014
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Graduate Research Colloquium
Ethan Nowak (UC Berkeley)
Demonstratives are Definite Descriptions

Philosophers’ focus on the way demonstratives are most frequently used—to pick out objects from the context of utterance—has led many to treat them as devices of direct reference. Direct reference theories, however, fail to explain that important category of uses on which demonstratives are interpreted like definite descriptions. While recent alternatives to direct reference offer a way of generating description-type readings for demonstratives that admit them, they also generate such readings for demonstratives that do not. I present and explain data that undermine the leading proposals from both camps, and I argue that those data show that the basic semantic operation performed by the word “that" is the same as the one performed by the ordinary definite article.